When the FIA approved Andretti Formula Racing LLC as the only team that could move forward to the next phase of the process to try and join the Formula 1 grid back in October, it quickly became apparent there wouldn’t be a quick decision from F1 itself.
Formula One Management (FOM) still had to make a decision on whether it wanted to add an 11th team to the series, which would mean paying more out in prize funds, but potentially bringing more funds into the sport in other ways.
By the end of the final race of the season, F1 CEO Stefano Domencali stated there was no need to rush and that a thorough analysis of the pros and cons of Andretti’s project would take place.
It all added up the growing sense from those involved with the Andretti F1 team that the matter was being dragged out for as long as possible to try and make the program less viable. And given we’ve reached January 31 before any communication of a decision has gone between FOM and Andretti, that does stack up when it comes to next season.
2025 had been the original target that Andretti was working towards – and working flat-out with a technical team of over 100 people to try and hit – but as F1’s decision today states, that’s now a very unrealistic entry point for a new team to be fully prepared.
Even though I’m sure Andretti would give it a good go, taking at least another 12 months to enter would allow it more time to put the infrastructure and hire the personnel that would ensure it could hit the ground running.
But F1 has said no to that too, on the grounds that the team alone – without General Motors – doesn’t move the needle enough, and there would be uncertainty over power unit supply.
Renault has previously stated it had a provisional agreement in place and would gladly revisit it if Andretti was successful, but FOM claims it would be reliant on a compulsory power unit supply, and doesn’t like the optics of that. Whether that’s true or not, given GM’s announcement that it intends to enter as a power unit supplier in its own right in 2028, then Renault would only be a stop-gap.
And that has provided FOM with a very convenient excuse to question the stability and certainty of certain aspects of the Andretti project in the coming years. So it can kick the can even further down the road to 2028.
The fact that F1 felt the need to state it invited Andretti to an in-person meeting where it could present its application last year, but that the invitation was not taken up, shows this might not have been the most amicable of processes.
There’s also a swipe at Andretti’s overall approach, which had been targeting a 2025 entry before also having to build a car to a brand-new set of regulations a year later.
“We do not believe that there is a basis for any new applicant to be admitted in 2025 given that this would involve a novice entrant building two completely different cars in its first two years of existence,” F1 stated. “The fact that the applicant proposes to do so gives us reason to question their understanding of the scope of the challenge involved.”
Don’t take it all as bad news though, because it isn’t.
Sources insist there was nothing personal against the Andretti bid – even if certain criticisms in the F1 statement suggest that might not be strictly accurate – and it’s the GM connection that is actually what has kept the door open for in 2028. It’s understood that GM had previously made clear it is Andretti or nothing where its F1 interest is concerned, and FOM knows what a valuable addition GM could be.
So to turn down Andretti completely would be to turn down GM, and there’s just too much that’s attractive about what the full-strength partnership could look like in four years’ time.
But the goalposts will also move by then, because by pushing back a potential entry point until 2028, F1 has also ensured it has plenty of time for aspects that would be both good and bad for the Andretti bid.
The good part is it allows the problematic issues of revenue splits, logistics and garage space at certain circuits on the calendar to be addressed – all mentioned as reasons against expanding sooner – with enough lead time to find compromises that wouldn’t overly upset the existing teams (who have largely all voiced opposition to an 11th entrant).
The bad comes in the form of the Concorde Agreement. Under the current terms, Andretti would be required to pay $200 million to the rest of the teams as what is described as an anti-dilution fee. That was a figure that was agreed upon back in 2020 – running from 2021 to 2025 – and at a time where there was less certainty surrounding the series.
It’s understandable that teams and FOM view a spot on the grid as worth far more than that now, and by giving Andretti a 2028 target that means there would likely be a new Concorde Agreement in place that would involve a much higher figure.
Whether that’s a figure that still makes sense from a business perspective for both Andretti and GM remains to be seen, but is likely to become the central battleground over whether the project eventually makes it onto the grid or not.
If a new fee is agreed upon and met, and GM pushes ahead with its power unit manufacturing plans, then the door truly is open for Andretti to be the 11th Formula 1 team, albeit with 2028 being far later than both it and fans would have wanted.
But if any of those aspects fall down, or the open questioning of Andretti’s ability to be competitive makes a potential future relationship untenable, then even that door is going to close very quickly.