Motorsport's governing body has called on prospective F1 teams to tender 'expressions of interest' with a view to joining the grid in 2015 or 2016.

The surprise announcement from FIA headquarters in paris comes at a time when even established F1 teams appear to be struggling financially, with reports that both Sauber and Lotus failed to keep up with drivers' salary payments in 2013, but follows an earlier confirmation that competing teams will be subject to a cost cap from the start of the 2015 season.

The F1 field last expanded ahead of the 2010 campaign, when Lotus Racing (now Caterham), Virgin Racing (now Marussia) and Hispania Racing (now defunct) were accepted into the fold, bringing the grid to a dozen teams. Hispania, which became HRT early in its troubled - and short - history, folded at the end of 2012 and has yet to be replaced.

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With teams struggling financially, and neither Caterham or Marussia having scored a point in their first three seasons, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has even suggested that the field needs to be reduced to a permanent ten team capacity, but it appears that the FIA has other ideas.

A note on its official website confirmed that a new selection process would be opened, with potential entrants having just three weeks to notify the body of their interest.

"The FIA has decided to open a new selection process to identify a candidate team to participate at a competitive level in the FIA F1 World Championship from the start of the 2015 or the 2016 season up to 2020 inclusive," the announcement revealed, "The overall long-term interests of the Championship will determine which candidates are selected.

"The precise terms of this selection process, together with the applicable selection criteria, deadlines, legal requirements and other conditions, will be communicated to candidates who have registered a formal expression of interest with the FIA's Secretariat before 5pm CET Friday 3 January 2014."

Interested parties are instructed to include an administration fee of $5000 along with the expression of interest, which the FIA expects to include details of ultimate ownership, certificate of incorporation, CVs of all directors and officers and details of 'relevant experience and capabilities' from a technical, engineering and racing point of view. The 'total application fee' from those progressing to full applications to join the grid has been set at $130,000.

Due diligence will be carried out on all applicants, with particular focus on 'technical ability and resources', the ability to 'raise and maintain sufficient funding to allow participation in the championship at a competitive level', 'experience and human resources' and the FIA's assessment of the 'value that the candidate may bring to the championship'.

The FIA says that it expects applications to be lodged by 10 February, with a decision on potential new entrants to come at the end of that month. The governing body has said, however, that it will not expand the field at all costs, and that 'in the event that no applicant is considered suitable by both the FIA and the commercial rights holder, no additional team will be selected'.