FIA begins the early stages of F1 grid expansion

Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has given the biggest indicator yet that the FIA wants to expand the Formula 1 grid.

In a tweet on Monday, Ben Sulayem said he had asked his team at the FIA to “look at launching an Expressions of Interest process” to join the F1 World Championship.

The news is positive for the Andretti Autosport group, who have been making noises about joining F1 for several months.

And while it is a step in the right direction with regard to opening up the grid, there is still a long way to go before any formal applications can be made and even then, there is still the $200m “buy-in” to be paid to the current competitors.

Andretti, who attempted to buy into the Alfa Romeo-Sauber team, has been steadfast in their claims that they are ready to join the F1 grid, with double F1 World Champion Mario Andretti, and father of Andretti Autosport owner Michael, going as far as to say the team is ready to pay the $200m.

It is believed however that F1’s stakeholders are chasing the names of manufacturers following the announcement of Audi joining in 2026.

Avoiding the 2010 mistakes

F1 and the FIA will be keen to avoid a repeat of 2010, when three new teams joined the grid, Virgin Racing, Lotus and HRT, which took the grid up to 24 cars, after Toyota had pulled out in 2009.

All three teams were woefully uncompetitive and struggled financially, with the trio all defunct by 2017.

Since Manor’s demise at the end of 2016, the F1 grid has consisted of 20 cars.

The last team to join the F1 grid was Haas, who debuted in 2016 but have yet to score a podium, though the team did claim their first pole in Brazil with Kevin Magnussen in 2022.

In 2020 the prize money allocation was reworked to give a more even spread of the prize money, which should help all teams remain competitive.

However, were an 11th or 12th team join the grid, that spread would become more diluted, which is why the $200m fee for new entries has been put in place and a waiver would require all 10 teams to agree.

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