Son of the most recent American Formula 1 champion, 1991 CART champion, and former Celebrity Apprentice contestant Michael Andretti has been making a case for his team to join the Formula 1 grid for the last 18 months with backing from the fifth-largest automaker in the world. Earlier this month the newly-renamed Andretti Global team was granted an official bid to become the 11th team in F1 by the FIA, but there are still further hurdles to clear, and it’s not yet firm that the sport will even allow a 21st and 22nd driver to race. What’s next for Andretti, and what more does it need to do?
A lot has happened since Andretti first raised the proposal. There has been a lot of back and forth about the bid, whether it’s even a worthwhile bid, and how much other teams might stand to lose if another team is allowed into the big boys club. It has recently become clear that Formula 1 wants General Motors on the grid, but is less willing to have Andretti there with them. Let’s dig in, from the beginning.
Second-generation racer Michael is the fourth-most successful American open wheel racer of all time, racking up 42 CART victories between 1983 and his retirement from driving in 2007. In 1993 he tried to follow his father’s Formula 1 successes with a season at McLaren alongside Ayrton Senna. Only one podium and seven points to show for his efforts (against Senna’s five wins in the same car), Michael departed the team before the season ended and returned stateside to a more familiar style of racing. In 2003 Michael purchased a share of Team Green to form Andretti Green Racing, abandoning CART for IndyCar.
Michael’s son Marco tried his hand at IndyCar to much less success, grabbing two wins over 18 seasons of racing. Marco did win the 2022 World SRX Series championship, however. John Andretti, son of Mario’s brother Aldo, found two wins in NASCAR’s cup championship and one victory in Champ Car at Surfer’s Paradise, plus some success in sports cars with an overall win at the 24 Hours of Daytona in a Porsche 962. Michael’s brother Jeff Andretti found a couple of wins in the series now called Indy Lights, and qualified for Indy a number of times, but never scored particularly well.
What Is Andretti Global?
Founded as Forsythe/Green Racing in 1993 by Gerald Forsythe, Barry Green, and Kim Green, to compete in the CART World Series. With Canadian star Jacques Villeneuve driving, the team found its first championship in 1995. A few years later the team signed Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti, racking up further series victories. Team Green never won another championship, but it was certainly a contender for much of its existence.
In 2001 Michael Andretti purchased a stake in the team, re-naming the concern Andretti Green Racing, and switching to the Indy Racing League for the 2003 season, at the same time signing Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, and Bryan Herta to drive. The next season Kanaan won a championship for the team, followed by Wheldon in 2005 and Dario Franchitti in 2007. After a tough year or two Andretti bought out the rest of the team, renaming it Andretti Autosport in 2009.
Since that rebrand fourteen seasons ago, the team has only won one championship (2012 with Ryan Hunter-Reay) and three Indy 500s (Hunter-Reay in 2014, Alex Rossi in 2016, and Takuma Sato in 2017). It has, however, significantly diversified its racing beyond the IndyCar series.
Currently the Andretti Autosport team fields entries in IndyCar, Indy NXT, IMSA, Formula E, Extreme E, and the Australian Supercars Championship. Earlier this year the Andretti team pushed driver Jake Dennis to the Formula E World Championship, beating the Porsche factory team, despite running the Porsche customer 99X Electrics. Team driver Hunter McElrea raced to runner up in Indy NXT. Pairing with Wayne Taylor Racing, the team pushed very close to winning the championship, falling short with a crash at Petit Le Mans. It’s obvious this is an extremely competitive team.
With the announcement of a partnership with Cadillac and a bid to enter the Formula 1 paddock, Andretti Autosport also announced a name change to Andretti Global and a brand new chassis manufacturing facility. This comes with a huge cash injection from partner and businessman Dan Towriss. Towriss owns Andretti sponsor Gainbridge, and recently purchased an ownership stake in the Andretti team. Towriss and Andretti were interested in buying a stake (allegedly 10-20 percent) in the Alfa Romeo Sauber team, but the deal ended up falling through. Since then the pair have been all-in on forming a new team for the F1 effort.
What Do We Know So Far?
Since 2020 Michael Andretti has been pushing for an Andretti presence on the F1 grid again for the first time since he left the sport himself in the back half of 1993. Across the 2021 season rumors expanded about the deal, and everything from a complete team buyout to a sponsorship interest were on the board getting darts thrown at them. When the deal fell apart at the 11th hour, the F1 media went wild with speculation that Andretti didn’t have the finances in order to make it happen. Michael refuted that during a press conference late in 2021.
“I’d just like to put an end to some of these rumors that the deal fell through because of financial reasons. That couldn’t be further from the truth. It had nothing to do with that.
“It basically came down to control issues in the final hours of the negotiations. That’s what killed the deal.
“I’ve always said if the deal is not right, we’re not going to do it, and in the end it wasn’t right. So we continue to look for other opportunities.”
According to Michael, the buyout was expected to be in finances only, and he wouldn’t have any control over how the team was run. That seems quite similar to the recent failed buyout of Red Bull by Porsche, honestly.
During the 2022 season Michael was seen in the F1 paddock frequently, speaking with other racing team owners. At the same time, Andretti driver Colton Herta was on the verge of getting an F1 drive with Alpha Tauri, and he and the team were looking for ways to get the kid a Super License before the 2023 team. That didn’t happen, and Herta stayed in IndyCar. Surely some of Michael’s conversations were about open wheel star Herta, and some other conversations were likely manufacturing consent from other team bosses, warming them up to the idea of another team on the F1 roster.
In January of 2023, Andretti Global was one of four teams putting a bid in to the FIA for approval to enter F1. Alongside Rodin, Hitech, and LKY SUNZ, Andretti’s case was pled to the FIA. This was the first major hurdle, as the FIA has to grant approval for any new teams. It’s been a while since a new team was added to the grid, and some of the previous applicants have been half-assed at best. Just since 2007 the series has seen the failure of Super Aguri, Spyker, Virgin Racing, Hispania Racing Team, Lotus, the other Lotus, Force India, Caterham, Marussia, Manor, Racing Point, and twice the departure of Honda. These failures likely account for why the FIA has been so diligent.
Only Haas has had a mildly successful effort to join the series since its first entry in 2016. And according to LKY SUNZ CEO Benjamin Durand, Haas probably wouldn’t be accepted into the grid today based on their bid back then. The grid has become much more restricted to newcomers in a post-COVID recession world.
“Andretti is coming to a level that is much higher because he wants to compete for winning etc, so he has a better bid. OK, but if Haas had been in with the bid with us, I think they wouldn’t have passed the bid.
“The bar is so high this time that probably Haas, if you compared to their bid a few years ago, wouldn’t have got over the bar either,” says Durand .
With Cadillac backing, Andretti’s bid was accepted by the FIA, but that’s not the final say in the matter. After seven months of due diligence, the FIA has passed the matter along to Formula 1 Management, F1's commercial rights holder, owned by Liberty Media. FOM has to keep the current ten teams already on the grid as happy as possible, and many of these teams are disgusted at the idea of diluting the grid, and thus their prize and licensing money, with another team. More teams means more competition for sponsors, cash prizes, on-screen time, and potentially victories. Red Bull, Mercedes, and Ferrari know that Andretti can build a world-class team with backing from General Motors, and that’s what they’re afraid of.
Why Don’t The Other Teams Want Andretti In F1?
The current prize pool in F1 is around one billion dollars, and an 11th team means that each team’s slice of the pie shrinks a little. The current Concorde Agreement, the document that governs F1's commercial contract, demands that new teams pony up 200 million dollars to help teams ease the pain of eating a smaller pie slice, but many don’t think that’s enough (despite having signed the agreement previously).
This all seems short-sighted, as the series continues training its focus on the U.S. market. With three Grands Prix on the calendar taking place in the U.S. it would stand to reason that increased attention from this market would help grow the overall pie much more than Andretti would reduce it by joining. An American team with an American OEM backing it, and potentially bringing American drivers to the grid, could be just what the series needs right now.
FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem has been vocally supportive of the Andretti effort and formalized that by sending it to the next stage.
“Andretti Formula Racing LLC was the only entity which fulfills the selection criteria that was set in all material respects,” he said. “I congratulate Michael Andretti and his team on a thorough submission.”
“It’s about the money. It’s only about the money,” Ben Sulayem insisted to AP. “That’s what’s personal. They don’t want to share the money.”
In public the other F1 team bosses have said their opposition to Andretti on the grid isn’t personal. According to reporting by the Associated Press, however, the vendetta is more personal than financial:
But this drawn-out saga with Andretti flies in the face of any American commitment. F1 and Liberty publicly treat his application as scrap paper, giving it little to no recognition.
Andretti can make a case that keeping him out of F1 is indeed personal: Three different people with direct knowledge of the conversations confirmed to AP that F1 asked General Motors if it would partner with someone other than Andretti.
Meanwhile Williams team boss James Vowles has publicly stated the team is “very strongly against” the addition of an 11th Formula 1 team. But he would love to have General Motors on board. He’s angling for a failure of the Andretti bid, and wants to scoop up GM when the breakup happens.
“I welcome GM open armed… and I hope to forge a relationship with them should things not work out. They are an incredible entity that I think will make the sport better.”
An incredible entity, indeed.
When Will Andretti Join F1?
Michael has expressed his seriousness to Formula 1, as the team already has a 2023-spec chassis built and has spent time testing it in a wind tunnel. The team wants to be completely up to speed when it is granted a bid to enter the grid. The series is scheduled for a rules revamp and aero change for the 2026 season, which would make then a perfect spot for Andretti Global to jump in. Andretti wants to join sooner, however, accepting 2025 as an appropriate time to enter. That’s just one season away, and would give the team plenty of time to develop a 2025-spec car before wadding it in a ball and throwing it away to develop a clean-sheet 2026 car. Seems expensive, but it also seems he has the financial backing to make it happen.
“I don’t know, that’s a mystery to me in some ways why they’re pushing back,” Michael said when asked about the opposition from other teams.
“They say we’re slicing the pie but I think the point is hopefully we bring in more than what we’re taking away and we really believe that.
“I think that if you look at the fan support on all the surveys that have been done and things, we think we are going to add to it, not take away.”
From the outside, it makes no sense that Formula 1 would spurn an opportunity to have General Motors join the grid. With Ford already joining forces with Red Bull, and Volkswagen’s Audi division onboard as well, there’s a case to be made that Formula 1 is the ring in which the world’s greatest automakers will duke it out. Who doesn’t want to see that?
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