Track Torque podcast: The cold, hard reality undermining F1 expansion beyond 10 teams
Formula One is growing at a rapid rate, with new fans, new races and no shortage of interest in teams joining the grid. But as Times correspondent BEC CLANCY explains, expansion isn’t a simple conversation.
Formula One is expanding at a rapid rate.
New fans, new races, but what about new teams?
Current rules limit the number of cars on a Formula One grid to 26 cars, or 13 teams.
At the moment, there are 10 teams. With the Drive to Survive era resulting in an explosion of F1 interest, and new races like this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix, could there be a day when the world’s biggest motor racing category has a system like football, with promotion and relegation?
The question was raised on Code Sports’ Track Torque Podcast, and the answer, pardon the pun, is ‘not so fast’.
“The (existing) ten teams have to vote to allow you in, which they are not going to, and dilute their share of the revenue,” Rebecca Clancy, The Times motor racing correspondent, says.
“It’s one of the only sports in the world in which teams have so much power in the running of the sport.”
Another factor is finance. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff recently estimated the cost of a new team would tip towards an eye-watering US$1 billion.
“It’s incredibly expensive to start a brand-new team,” Clancy says.
“Not least because in the first two years you (wouldn’t) get a share of the revenue. Then you have to spend hundreds of millions building facilities and the factory. It’s almost an unrealistic task. “
Still, some of the biggest brands in car manufacturing want in, with German giants Volkswagen this week stating intention to jump into F1.
Just don’t expect to see hotted up VW Beetles on the grid. They’ll use other famous brands in their stable to partner up with existing teams and provide engines.
“This week we had the boss of Volkswagen confirm Audi and Porsche will be looking to enter F1 in 2026,” Clancy says, referencing the interest of Andretti Autosport, owned by American legend Michael Andretti, as well.
“We pretty much know Porsche will team up with Red Bull. The question will be Audi. Who will they team up with?
“They are clear, they want to team up with someone on the grid. Initially it was McLaren, then Williams, perhaps Sauber (now Alfa Romeo).
“Andretti (Autosport) wants to join up with the team (in the future). I wouldn’t be surprised if the name Williams disappears off the grid, and they take their money and sell on.”
There is no greater example of F1’s growth than in the US. Tickets for this week’s Miami Grand Prix sold out within minutes. Celebrities will descend on the party city, and once the engines die down for the day, some of the biggest names in music will hit various stages around the track, which is based around the Hard Rock Stadium, where the NFL’s Miami Dolphins play.
And next year, the Las Vegas GP will appear on the calendar, making it three races in the US.
”Volkswagen have said they want to come into F1 because of the expansion into the US, and the younger audience as well,” Clancy says.
“F1 is doing everything right at the moment.”