Williams boss James Vowles said his team is categorically against Andretti joining the Formula One grid as an 11th team.
Racing’s governing body, the FIA, approved Andretti’s application to join the grid in future this week, although for that to happen F1’s commercial rights holder, Liberty Media, must accept.
An entry would likely be for 2026, although there is no clear timeline for when F1 will make a decision. Sources have told ESPN that process could stretch into early next year.
F1 teams are strongly opposed at worst or skeptical at best, with Williams falling into the former category due to concerns over revenues being diluted by another entity taking a share of F1’s prize money.
Despite an illustrious history, Williams remains one of F1’s smallest teams and has hit hard times on track over the past decade — its past five championship finishes have been 10th, 10th, 10th, 8th, 10th.
“My thoughts are very clear. Williams is against the addition of an eleventh team, and very strongly against, but I’ll explain the reasons behind that and why,” Vowles said on Andretti, speaking ahead of the weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix.
“My responsibility is to 900 employees, if you go to Companies House you can go and look up Williams, who have submitted it now, you can go and see the losses, 2021 to 2022. It is losses in the 10s of millions and more, compared to 2023 which you won’t see but I’ll guarantee you, it’s multiples above that.
“The reasons why is we’re investing in this sport to become better, we believe in the way in which the sport is going and the direction of travel.”
Williams reported a revenue of £142.8 million in 2022, up from £96.4 million in 2021 and £48.6 million in 2020.
Its loss after tax in 2022 was £17.9 million, compared to £11.9 million in 2021 and £58.5 million in 2020. F1’s 2020 season started late and was significantly shortened by the pandemic.
The first mention of Andretti’s F1 bid, which includes a partnership with General Motors and Cadillac, came earlier this year, when it became clear how teams felt about it.
Michael Andretti, son of 1978 world champion Michael and owner of the team looking to enter, responded to that by labelling F1’s 10 teams “greedy”.
Vowles said it is not about greed, but about F1 making sure it is in a healthy place before accepting new entrants.
“We actually have I think a sustainable entity for once. Teams are working more and more together, we have closer racing, but it should be known it is not just us that are not financially stable, I’d say probably half the grid aren’t.
“I’d say the addition of an eleventh team is a sensible thing but only at the point where the tenth team on the grid is financially stable.
“We believe in what we’re doing to invest in what we’re doing, but we need to take care as a sport to look after that, and everyone says we’re in a good place – we are in some regards, but now those facts down the line actually it’s tens of millions, or hundreds of millions you’ll see shortly, being invested to make the sport better, it becomes therefore clear why we’re very careful about diluting what we’ve already got.
“More than happy to bring in new entities but the pie has to grow as a result of it, not shrink.”
Perhaps slightly antagonistically, Vowles suggested Williams would be open to working with an engine manufacturer like General Motors if the company decided to enter F1 without Andretti — he later clarified no such discussions have taken place.
“For clarity, [the team’s stance] is not against Andretti or GM, quite the opposite. I welcome GM with open arms, Williams welcomes GM with open arms and I hope to forge a relationship with them should things not work out.
“They are incredible entity who I think would make the sport better so it’s not we’re closed minded to people coming to the sport, but what we’re very careful on is protecting the sport we have right now.”