Formula 1 has seen more than 170 teams come and go over the years, with Ferrari being the only permanent fixture on the starting grid since the first Grand Prix in 1950. With the lineup of the grid regularly changing, it can leave many fans wondering how new teams go about entering F1.
To enter F1, new teams must apply to the FIA for a license and pay an entry fee of $200 million. They must then build a car that adheres to the FIA’s guidelines before nominating two drivers to represent them. Once this has all been finalized, teams will be allowed to compete in the championship.
The process is long and expensive and has proved to be too much for some teams to handle in the past. In this article, we will discuss the full process of entering a team into F1, why the initial fee is so high, and whether F1 is likely to be adding more teams in the future.
How Do New Teams Enter F1?
If a new team has the resources and the finances to enter Formula 1, they must send an application, along with $200 million, to the FIA in order to begin the entry process. There is a very brief window from October 21 to November 1 in which teams can send their applications if they want to have a chance of competing in the following year’s Championship.
Applications for new F1 teams must include:
- A team name, including the name of the chassis
- The make of the car and its engine
- An agreement that the team will take part in each event on the F1 calendar
- Two nominated drivers to represent the team
- Confirmation that the applicant has read and agrees with the terms and conditions set by the FIA
The FIA will then do their due diligence, performing background checks on the team and its owners to make sure they have the right finances, resources, and experience in place to mount a sustainable future in the sport. Once this process is complete, the team must create their car in accordance with FIA regulations.
It is more common for an existing F1 team to be bought and rebranded by new owners rather than entered as a brand-new team. This is because it is far cheaper than building up a new team from the ground up, as pre-existing teams will already have the garages, staff, and infrastructures in place to compete. Team Haas is the only completely new team to join F1 for several years.
Can Any New Team Join F1?
If a team has all the correct infrastructure in place, as well as a very large bank balance, they can apply to enter F1. This doesn’t mean that they are guaranteed to be accepted, however, as the power is well and truly within the hands of the FIA. Should the FIA decide that they are happy with the current number of teams, then they will be rejected, no matter their credentials.
Ultimately, there are very few prospective teams that can cough up the required amount of cash to mount any serious challenge in Formula 1. Gone are the days when an unknown team based out of a ramshackle garage in the middle of nowhere could enter. F1 has come into criticism in recent years for being too elitist, but alas, that is a story for a different day.
Why Does It Cost $200 Million For New Teams To Enter F1?
It costs $200 million for new teams to enter F1 to account for the prize money the other teams lose out on when there is an extra team. Known as the anti-dilution fund, it was introduced to make sure teams can prove that they are financially viable for F1 participation, and in it for the long haul.
Due to the way the money is then handed out, it offers protection for the independent teams in the F1 roster. The $200 million is shared between the teams currently competing in F1, serving as a replacement for the money in F1 benefits that they would lose from another team joining the grid.
It is hoped that the entry fee will also serve as a deterrent to teams that are thinking of entering with no long-term plan or vision, such as the USF1 team in 2009. The team was admitted into F1 for the 2010 season, however, before the season had even begun, a lack of funds forced them to withdraw from the grid.
Mismanagement and a gross underestimation of the costs of Formula 1 were cited as causing the team’s demise and they were subsequently fined $321,000 by the FIA for failing to make the starting grid. The UK High Court even auctioned off their transportation trailers to pay off their creditors.
How Many Teams Can There Be In F1?
There is a limit of 13 teams, and therefore 26 cars, allowed to enter F1 in a single season, as set out by the Concorde Agreement. The number of teams entered into F1 is currently only 10 and has been since 2017, but it is possible that there could be 11 teams on the Formula 1 grid in the future.
The number of teams has fluctuated in recent years, but since the 2010 season, there have been no more than 12 teams competing simultaneously. The number of teams has been hovering between 10 to 11 since 2015, after the bankruptcy of the Caterham team in 2015, the addition of Haas in 2016, and the retirement of Marussia in 2017.
Does F1 Need More Teams?
F1 doesn’t necessarily need more teams. From a commercial standpoint, F1 won’t be desperate for new teams to join anytime soon. However, many fans believe the sport needs new teams in order to foster more competition, but evidence from the past shows this isn’t a guarantee.
The Commercial Appeal
The success of Netflix’s Drive to Survive series, which chronicles the ups and downs of being involved in Formula 1, has provided a great deal of familiarity between the current existing teams and the wider fanbase that has been introduced to the sport from the show. This means there is a real connection between many new (and old of course) fans and the existing grid.
The exclusivity of F1 also backs up the selling point that the sport is a demonstration of engineering mastery, with the very best drivers driving the very best cars. Having a smaller grid also creates more free-flowing races as less congestion means less contact, and less contact means fewer safety cars being deployed.
It is unlikely that the teams themselves will encourage newcomers, as regardless of their share of the $200 million, they will end up losing a share of the prize money should another team join the party.
An argument for the addition of new teams would be the limited seats available for the huge amount of talent in the lower divisions of single-seater racing. There is very little room to break in new talent when there are only 20 seats available, meaning we are potentially missing out on seeing some great drivers coming through.
The Recent Struggles Of New F1 Teams
The difficulties that new F1 teams have faced in the past couple of decades may be the strongest argument against Formula 1 needing new teams. New teams have consistently found it difficult to really cement themselves into F1 because of the sheer amount of money it costs to enter a team week in, week out.
Lotus Racing, HRT, and Virgin Racing all joined the grid in 2010, but by the end of the decade, all ceased to exist with their original names due to financial hardships and changes of ownership. Add the failed USF1 team to this list and it was a disastrous era for newcomers.
Since joining F1 in 2016, Haas has bucked the trend slightly, doing well early on, but has since struggled to find adequate sponsors to run the team sustainably, especially after parting company with main sponsor Uralkali in 2022.
Starting a new F1 team in the modern era seems to be a guaranteed path to failure, as the gap between the bottom and the top is so wide. This may change after 2022 though, with a budget cap put in place to try and even the playing field.
Will F1 Add New Teams In The Future?
F1 will likely add new teams in the future, but when that will happen is uncertain. There have been many rumors surrounding the addition of new teams into F1, with high-profile names such as Audi, Porsche, Bugatti, and Lamborghini being bandied around as potential new teams.
Audi and Porsche are known for competing in endurance races, but Formula 1 is a different animal, one which they may not feel inclined to fight. Another potential newbie is Michael Andretti’s ‘Andretti Global’ team, who have been bidding for 2024 entry for some time now.
Andretti claims that he has the support of half the teams in F1 as well as FIA chief Mohammed Ben Sulayem, but Liberty Media has stated there is not a ‘pressing need’ to rush through the application process. It will remain to be seen whether Andretti’s dream will come true, but his application is currently the highest profile bid on the table.
As it stands, it looks unlikely that there will be any teams added to F1 in the near future, pending any shock bankruptcies from any of the current teams. It appears that those at the top of F1 want to focus on the current teams, making sure the sport remains a sustainable business for the many years to come.
Entering a new team into F1 is a long and expensive process. Costing $200 million just to enter, as well as the costs of paying staff and drivers, building the car, and getting the infrastructure in place to run a successful team, it takes dedication just to get a car onto the starting grid.