World

Andrettis Keep Fighting to Enter F1

Andretti is a storied name in motorsport, as drivers and owners in open-wheel racing.

Mario won most of the world’s major races in his career and took the Formula 1 drivers’ championship in 1978, only the second American to claim the title. His son Michael also raced in Formula 1, as Ayrton Senna’s teammate at McLaren in 1993. And as owners, Andretti teams have won the Indianapolis 500 six times.

But that history hasn’t helped the family in its bid to become owners of a Formula 1 team, although it keeps trying.

Andretti Formula Racing expressed an interest to the F.I.A., the governing body of Formula 1, in 2023 to form the sport’s 11th team. The F.I.A. approved the bid in October, but four months later Formula 1 rejected the proposal.

“We do not believe the applicant would be a competitive participant,” it said in a statement.

Michael Andretti, who is the force behind the proposal, is refusing to accept the decision. He is intent on competing in 2026, admitting it is the biggest challenge he has faced in his decades in motorsport. “Oh God, yes, no question about it,” he said in an interview.

“It’s a fight that I never thought we’d have to fight, to beg to get into the series. Hopefully, the effort’s going to be worth it, and when we finally do, it’s going to feel that much more satisfying and gratifying.”

“We’re in the business of racing, and for us, the top of the ladder is Formula 1,” Michael Andretti said. “For our brand, it would be awesome.”Credit…Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire, via Getty Images

Mario Andretti said he was devastated by the rejection.

“I don’t think we deserved that, to be honest with you,” he told The Associated Press last month. “It’s a big investment in the series, and you’d think they’d welcome that.”

It is Michael Andretti’s third attempt to enter Formula 1. In 2018, he tried to buy Force India, the team now known as Aston Martin, which Lawrence Stroll, a Canadian billionaire, bought.

Then three years ago, he was “two days away,” he said, from taking over Sauber. A deal to buy the majority of the team fell through when the owners “threw terms at us that were unacceptable.”

Andretti Global owns teams in IndyCar, Formula E, Extreme E and Australian Supercars. “We’re in the business of racing, and for us, the top of the ladder is Formula 1,” Andretti said. “For our brand, it would be awesome.”

In January last year, to strengthen its bid, Andretti joined forces with General Motors, which would provide the power unit. G.M. would be represented in Formula 1 by its brand Cadillac, and the team known as Andretti Cadillac.

“We were initially told by Formula 1 that it would be hard for us to gain an entry, but that if we brought in an O.E.M. (original equipment manufacturer), then we’re basically in,” Andretti said.

Andretti Global owns teams in Formula E, above, as well as IndyCar, Extreme E and Australian Supercar.Credit…Warren Little/Getty Images

The team went through a “very rigorous process,” he said, initiated by the F.I.A., that amounted to a 600-page document detailing why it warranted a place on the grid.

When Formula 1 assessed the bid, “unfortunately, the goal posts started moving a bit, and I think it was because of pressure from the teams,” Andretti said. “When the teams started complaining, I think that was the big thing. Then it put F.O.M. [Formula One Management] in a bad position.”

The teams were concerned that an 11th team would reduce their share of prize money, allocated depending on their finishing position in the constructors’ championship. A new team would have to pay what is called an anti-dilution fee of $200 million that would be divided among the current teams.

“Money makes the world go round,” Christian Horner, the Red Bull team principal, said last fall after the F.I.A. approved the Andretti bid. “That’s what every team will be acutely sensitive to, and the franchise value being diluted. Suddenly you go from 10 to 11. So, the shareholders of each team will have a concern about that.”

In an interview in April, Horner said Andretti should follow in the steps of Audi, which will enter Formula 1 in 2026 after buying Sauber, and “find a deal with an existing team.”

“That’s their only route to entry,” he said. “They’re a great name, a great brand, and they’d be a welcome addition to Formula 1, but an entry would have to be within the existing 10 franchises, otherwise I can’t see there being an appetite. It’s like all things in this paddock. It comes down to who is going to pay.”

In rejecting Andretti’s bid, Formula 1 said in January that it recognized that “while the Andretti name carries some recognition for F1 fans,” the statement said, “our research indicates that F1 would bring value to the Andretti brand rather than the other way around.”

Mario, left, and Michael Andretti at the Indianapolis 500 in 1981.Credit…Paul Kennedy/Sports Illustrated, via Getty Images

Michael and Mario Andretti, and Eric Warren, executive director of GM Motorsports Competition, met in London in April with Stefano Domenicali, chief executive of Formula 1, for the first time since the rejection. A further meeting is planned this weekend in Miami.

“It’s been our job since to show we’re going to bring a lot more to the party than the piece of pie that we’re going to take,” Andretti said. “I don’t think people realize the effort that’s being put in here, and that’s what we’re working on showing, that this is a huge effort.

“It’s going to be as big an effort as any of the big O.E.M.s that are in the series today because this is a true partnership with G.M.”

Formula 1 expressed concern Andretti would require a power unit from one of the series’ existing manufacturers until G.M. is ready to produce a unit in 2028.

Andretti said the verdict of Formula 1 had “created even more resolve that we want to get this done.” G.M. is equally committed.

“When we read that response, it was clear we disagree with it,” Warren said in an interview in April. “I think everyone in the world disagrees with it.

“One of the exciting things for me when this was announced was the outpouring of support we received from motorsports, and we race globally in so many series and compete against virtually every other organization, even those in F1. That support has driven us to continue this.”

“I always separate challenges into technical and political, and this is certainly both, heavier towards the political,” he said. “We like to get on with the racing part of it.”

Warren is concerned that with new technical regulations coming in 2026, which will change how power units will be made, G.M. will be two years behind other teams. “To win in motorsports, you have to wake up every day and be scared of being two years behind,” he said.

After opening a new facility for its Formula 1 operation in Silverstone, England, in April, to complement its headquarters near Indianapolis, Andretti is seeking an answer from Formula 1 “the sooner the better, hopefully in the next couple of months.”

Andretti still has to build up the infrastructure, hire employees, which at present number about 130, run scale models in a wind tunnel and begin the crash testing of parts.

“We are rolling the dice a bit, but it shows how confident we are because our partners would not be spending the money they are spending right now if they didn’t feel confident that we’re going to be able to show the world, and the teams, that we should be welcome, because it’s only going to help raise the tide for all boats,” he said.

The worst case for Andretti and G.M. will be if they have to wait until 2028 to enter Formula 1, a possibility he does not want to consider.

“We’re not letting ourselves think that way,” he said. “We’re just full force ahead on preparing for ’26. That’s our mind-set, and that’s the way it’s going to be.

“If there comes a time we have to think about it, then we will, but we feel very strongly we won’t have to.”

Related Articles

Back to top button