Why F1 needs more teams

With drivers from the junior categories now facing an even steeper climb to the pinnacle of motor racing, perhaps it is time for Formula 1 to introduce a new set of teams

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Sometimes quality is better than quantity, a phrase that has applied to some of the teams that have come and gone from Formula 1 during the last 72 years.

Teams like Pacific, Forti, HRT, Maki and the ever-embarrassing Life outfit came into Formula 1 with the right brand of credit card and a dream of becoming the next Ferrari or Wiliams, only for their plans to lay in ridicule once their cars spluttered out of the garage.

The last time a new wave of entries arrived in Formula 1 was 2009 when Max Mosley, keen to leave a legacy behind, opened up the application to new entries featuring the cream of the junior racing crop and historic names such as Brabham and March, hoping to gain entry to the exclusive Formula 1 club.

In the end, four entries were chosen from the 12 that applied, yet despite the odd flash of brilliance, all four managed at most seven years in the sport, with USF1 not even making it to the start line.

A Lotus F1 car during the 2011 pre-season test in Jerez by Gil Abrantes/Wikicommons

Since Haas’s addition to the grid in 2016, only ten teams have featured on the grid, but with drivers getting younger and staying longer, it is time for a new team to join the grid to help ease the backlog.

Why a new team is needed

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Formula 1 teams have had to tighten their belts, and with a budget cap being introduced in 2021, the teams have had their spending cut, forcing them to use more of their loaves.

With spending now restricted, it meant that the field could be brought closer together, raising the prospect, no matter how unrealistic it may seem in reality, of an Alfa Romeo or a Williams lapping on par with a Red Bull if they perfected their package.

The budget cap also clears the way for new teams to join the sport without needing to spend a ridiculous amount of money.

This gives them more time to expand and grow, something which didn’t happen with the 2010 quartet, who were promised a budget cap only for the idea to be phased out during the FIA/FOCA war of 2009, which on a sidenote almost put the sport on the brink of being split in two.

Another issue solved by a new entry would be the driver backlog that has been created in part due to the limited spaces on the grid and the fact that older drivers are staying in Formula 1 longer, and junior drivers are rising through the ranks at a much younger age.

Felipe Drugovich leads Jack Doohan during the Round 12 Zandvoort Feature race of the Formula 2 Championship at Circuit Zandvoort Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Having one or two more teams would mean the likes of Mick Schumacher and Daniel Ricciardo could keep their spots on the Formula 1 grid, whilst Robert Shwartzman and Felipe Drugovich would also have more opportunities to move up from Formula 2.

How many should join the grid?

Deciding on how many entries should be accepted is a challenge. Finding the right balance between not overcrowding the paddock and filling the gaps needed to ease the driver and engine supplier backlog is tricky.

This was demonstrated by the halcyon days during the pre-qualifying era, too many cars would clog up the paddock and dilute the quality of the field and the sport’s professionalism.

Provided the appetite exists, 26-28 cars should be sufficient to ease the backlog whilst keeping the quality intact.

There will be some teething problems regarding extra paddock space and garages, but still, it’s nothing that can’t be solved by a sport that crisscrosses continents in the space of nine months and if circuits can’t accommodate the expanded Formula 1 circus, then their place on the calendar must be questioned.

But, there is the added headache of convincing the current teams, who have consistently harped on about how much a new team would affect their revenue, that this is a good idea. Their argument centers around the fact that gaining a new whilst losing another is a bit of an own goal.

Ideally, one or two privateer teams could join the grid, followed by a factory outfit such as Honda or Porsche. This would serve the twin purpose of adding to the sport’s prestige and creating another driver academy to help the next generation of drivers.

Who should join, and what engines could they use

Obvious candidates for the 11th,12th, and 13th teams are difficult to assess, but arguably, the first candidate is the one who has been making the most noise about a Formula 1 entry, Andretti Global.

Run by CART champion Michael Andretti and backed by his father, 1978 world champion Mario, Andretti’s motorsport empire has won races in every championship it’s entered, which ranges from IndyCar to the Supercars series in Australia.

Better still, Andretti has already started work on an ultra-modern facility that most teams could only dream of, and an engine deal with Renault; Colton Herta is one of its drivers and has announced that the team will enter Formula 2 and Formula 3 as well, which will help the team create a ladder for itself.

A factory entry is also needed, so what better candidate than Porsche, who still plans to enter Formula 1 when the new engine regulations arrive in 2025, despite a potential tie-up with Red Bull going south.

Porsche has a rich track record in motorsport, winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans 19 times, and have previously competed in Grand Prix racing in the 1960s, winning a race with Dan Gurney in 1962 before going on to power McLaren to three world titles with the TAG engine.

As for the third and final entry, the return of Honda if a reunion with Red Bull Racing fails to materialise would be welcome. Considering their success with the Milton Keynes-based outfit as an engine supplier this seems less likely with the Japanese behemoths already confirming that they would play a more active role with Red Bull in 2023.

Sergio Perez during practice for the F1 2021 Grand Prix of Brazil Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images

PREMA would be the most likely of the Formula 2 teams to graduate to the top table due to their continued success in the junior ranks and their expansion into WEC, which has seen them become this year’s European Le Mans Series champions.

Ed Spencer
Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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