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American team Andretti have been approved for entry to Formula One by the governing FIA – but that’s not the end of the story by a long way.
Their entry, run by Michael, son of the great 1978 world champion Michael, now faces opposition from the teams and the sport’s owners, Liberty Media.
Andretti are backed by General Motors and consequently possess the necessarily financial clout – a fact that swayed the FIA to endorse them ahead of four other candidates who made it to the second phase of vetting.
But the teams are reluctant to see outsiders thinning their earnings, and certainly not for as little as the £165million joining fee that is a stipulated requirement of any new competitor – the amount would be split between the existing grid as compensation for prize money going 11 ways rather than the current 10.
They are particularly sensitive about this because the fee was set before Formula One’s success over recent seasons saw team values soar to between £600m to £1billion.
Indications at the moment are that Stefano Domenicali, who acts as F1 chief executive for Liberty, is minded to side with the teams to thwart Andretti’s entry, whatever the FIA may have decided yesterday. Officially, F1 are evaluating the bid on a commercial basis.
Whether a closed shop is good for the long-term health of the sport, no matter the teams’ immediate interests, is a moot point.
Michael Andretti, left, talks with FIA president Mohammed bin Sulayem at Miami Grand Prix
American group currently has teams in various series, including Formula E (pictured above)