Have you ever gone for a job interview and then the screen time on your phone or laptop has gone through the roof from endlessly refreshing email inboxes, or checking to make sure a message or call hasn’t been missed? Especially as there’s rarely a hard deadline for when you hear back. The wait can be torture.
Well, there must be a really strange waiting game going on at various motorsport facilities around the world in a similar vein at the moment, as the FIA deliberates on whether it deems any of the applicants to join the Formula 1 grid to be worthy of its approval.
I suppose at this stage it’s more like waiting to find out if you’ve got a second interview rather than the job itself, because even if the FIA approves a team, F1 then has to then make its own decision from a commercial standpoint. And that second interview is sounding more and more like it will be with a boss who doesn’t want to hire anyone in the first place.
But at this point of proceedings, that actually bodes well for the wannabe constructors.
As I’ve written in the past, Michael Andretti was not winning many friends in the paddock (of the kind he needed to win over, anyway) by voicing his frustration at the opposition he felt he was facing with the Andretti Cadillac entry. He’s been heeding F1’s advice to limit his comments in recent months, but he doesn’t appear to be the only one doing so.
Of the other teams that have made their intentions to join the grid known – Hitech, Panthera, Formula Equal and Lky Sunz – there is very little meat on the bones from a public point of view. But you just hear whispers and learn bits of knowledge here and there that lead to it being possible to make an educated guess regarding who’s well-placed and who isn’t.
And as the teams wait for the FIA to pass judgement, it’s certainly feeling like Andretti Cadillac and Hitech are the most likely to be successful with their applications.
That’s not to say there’s no chance for the others, or that there aren’t unknown names that had thrown their hats in the ring too, but the existing infrastructures, significant hires and investments already made have shown the commitment and ability of those two. Those are far from the only requirements of course, but both are understood to have delivered significant dossiers of their plans (and by significant, we’re talking hundreds of pages).
Hitech is believed to be further ahead in terms of aerodynamic development, but there have been some interested queries within F1 itself as to the origin of the main body of funding for the project, given Dmitry Mazepin’s previous involvement.
There’s no such concern when it comes to Andretti – a team that is preparing to put a car in the wind tunnel in the very near future – and General Motors’ involvement is expected to be on the chassis side as well as potential interest in a future power unit.
With huge amounts of detail required from each applicant it would be of limited value to pick out too many more points without knowing the counterarguments from all teams. Plus there’s a much more simple reason why at least one of Andretti and Hitech are likely to get the FIA’s seal of approval: Public opinion.
It’s not a reason to allow a team to join, but F1 has made clear for some time that it’s far from guaranteed that it would agree to expansion. Liberty Media – through recent remarks by Greg Maffei – appears to have softened a little, but F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali maintains his personal opinion that 10 teams is the right number. And the existing teams are generally protective of their current positions.
So it may well turn out that whatever the FIA says has little impact, because the next stage after any approval from the governing body is for F1 to potentially negotiate or decline the interest.
But given the way the FIA and F1 have fought over certain issues in recent years, why would Mohammed Ben Sulayem want to make Domenicali and co’s lives easier by rejecting all of the interested entrants?
Some might be lacking in substance, but Andretti and Hitech have plenty in the way of existing facilities and motorsport involvement to suggest it wouldn’t be unrealistic of the FIA to put them forward as acceptable additions.
And then it’s down to F1 to be the bad guy if it really doesn’t want to expand the grid.