Formula 1’s owners Liberty Media are open to expanding the current grid, with CEO Greg Maffei believing an American manufacturer like General Motors would be a positive addition to the sport.
The FIA is currently analyzing the submissions from potential teams wanting to join the sport in future and will make its recommendations to F1 if it feels any are suitable. With confirmed entries from Andretti Cadillac, Hitech Grand Prix and Formula Equal – among other rumored interested parties – F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has previously given his opinion that 10 teams is the right number, but Maffei told the Walker Webcast that the Las Vegas circuit construction is taking place with expansion in mind and that he can see an agreement being reached with the right new entrant.
“Yes, we have accommodated and that will not be a problem in Vegas,” Maffei said. “The real problem is the way the structure works today, there are probably four or five garages and paddock areas that would be difficult to put in an 11th bay. Maybe that’s solvable with money and time, but it’s not something that you snap your fingers and solve.
“The other issue is that the ten teams are splitting the profits that go to the teams, and dividing it 11 ways is not something they’re particularly enthused about. There is a mechanism where there’s a franchise fee where a new entrant would pay, we put that in place with the new Concorde Agreement, and frankly that was a huge change because historically there was no such thing as a franchise fee.
“In fact, the teams were not franchises. F1 had the right – with the (agreement) of the FIA – to add as many new teams as we wanted. But we really wanted to create value in those franchises, we wanted to make the teams worth money so that people would invest and create, hopefully, parity on the track.
“Now the teams are looking and saying ‘Wait a minute, we don’t want to divide 11 ways, we are very happy’ and whatever’s being proposed to pay as a franchise fee doesn’t compensate them enough for the dilution that they’re going to take for the 11the team.
“So I think in the right set of circumstances we would work to get the 11th team. Somebody who could bring a lot of value to the sport, a lot of value to the fans, because of their position in technology, their position as an OEM, their position in marketing – some combination of all that – you could imagine coming to some kind of an agreement. But it’s not without controversy, certainly among the ten teams.”
The anti-dilution fee currently stands at $200 million but RACER understands any new Concorde Agreement would be effective immediately and increase that number of create a clear buy-in point, a move partly strengthened by this week’s valuation of Alpine at just over $900m. While there have been questions over GM’s level of commitment as a partner to Andretti, Maffei believes the interest for a larger investment exists.
“Ford is invested in the Red Bull engine process and it’s not inconceivable Ford could get a bigger role. There was certainly talk that General Motors were interested around the Andretti bid for an 11th team, and I think there’s reasons to think that could come about.
“We’ve had other OEMs who could be very interesting as well. Porsche tried very hard to enter with Red Bull, BMW used to be in the sport – left in ’09 – so I think OEMs, we’re lucky that we have so many OEMs, as many as we’ve ever had, but having more OEMs and particularly an American one would certainly be a positive.”