Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to email@example.com. We can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.
Q: Not sure if you ever watched “The Office” but doesn’t IndyCar remind you of the episode where Michael says he has a really big surprise that is going to be great to the staff, and it ends up being ice cream sandwiches? Kind of reminds me of all the drivers saying something really big is coming after their dinner.
MARSHALL PRUETT: Watched “The Office” from the start and it’s on a few times each week when I need to kick my brain into neutral. It’s worth noting that ice cream is Penske’s favorite thing, so you’re onto something here.
Kidding aside, yes, as I think I’ve written here, the series has nothing in the works that anyone is aware of that’s earth-shattering, but let’s see if the EVERYTHING IS GONNA BE SUPER GREAT IN THE FUTURE BUT WE CAN’T TELL YOU ABOUT IT sleight-of-hand routine it’s currently doing buys the series time to come up with some big new things.
Q: I went to a Milwaukee Admirals minor league hockey game last week, and during an intermission the Jumbotron played a commercial for Penske truck rental. Why wasn’t that an ad for the Road America race coming up in a few months or the return to Milwaukee Mile later this year? If I wasn’t already an IndyCar fan I’d have no idea they raced here.
MP: I’m guessing it was an ad by a local Penske truck rental location rather than the big Penske corporate arm choosing to promote its truck rentals at a regional minor league hockey game? That would be my guess, and if that’s the case, there would be no reason for the local owner/operator to spend their money to promote a race they aren’t involved in.
Q: Regarding your answer to Terry from Maryland last week, the end of the Daytona 24, a “bit of a nothing burger”? Like Abu Dhabi in 2021 that resulted in the wrong man being named world champion? Like the Indy 500 in 2022 that resulted in the wrong man winning? You never know what can happen on the last lap (pressure, back marker, car failure, etc.). That’s why races have specific end points. F1, IndyCar, now IMSA, they all screwed up. Race officials have got to get it right! You Marshall, of all people, should understand that.
MP: Right. If you’ve followed my work for the last 18 years, I get out the knife when it’s warranted, give applause when it’s deserved, and when I see it, call a non-issue a non-issue. And since this was a non-issue in my eyes, I won’t fall into manufacturing outrage over a 24-hour race, which lasted 791 laps, being errantly called to stop before 792 laps were completed.
Sure, if the race was 792 instead of 791, aliens could have also landed and taken over the planet. Bigfoot and Elvis could have also re-appeared and put on an amazing concert in the infield that distracted all four class leaders, caused them to crash, and produced four different winners… if only the race went one more lap.
The amount of imaginary things we can come up with is endless, which is why I won’t join you in fantasy land. And are we seriously summoning F1’s worst-ever officiating call here? Because the Rolex 24 turned out to be the Rolex 23h58m? C’mon, man.
IMSA should turn this into a marketing opportunity: “Our GTP cars are so fast they can cover 24 hours in 23 hours, 58 minutes” Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images)
Q: With the recent IndyCar hybrid test, you reported that one of the car’s drivers successfully used the on-board starter. While that will be a great feature to avoid lengthy yellows for a stalled car, I can imagine a scenario where a car hits hard enough that the driver is injured or concussed, and the driver simply continues to drive in the race. I can also imagine a scenario where the car is restarted and as it makes its way back to the pits, a bunch of carbon fiber parts are littering the track. Without an on-board starter, at least the driver and/or car gets checked out by the safety team before restarting the engine. Is there any report from IndyCar how either of these scenarios will be addressed?
Andy, Farmington Hills, MI
MP: I reached out to the series for answers, and didn’t get them in time before filing the Mailbag, but if they did respond, I’d imagine they would have said things about having the ability to monitor G-forces and threshholds through telemetry and being able to determine if a crash exceeded that limit.
The series also has the ability to speak directly to its teams and relay instructions to give a driver to stay in place and wait for the safety team to arrive and provide medical assistance.
And if it’s a decent crash that falls below the concussion alarm threshold and we have a driver trying to drive back to the pits dragging and shedding broken bits, which we see in other forms of racing — more of the sports car and stock car variety — the race director can make the same call via radio for the driver to stop or to allow them to continue if the trail of Dallara DW12 parts is minimal.
Q: After Nigel Mansell won the 1993 PPG IndyCar World Series, is my memory correct that in his post race/championship interview from victory lane he gave a shoutout to sponsor Dirt Devil by saying if you need the best “hoover” (“vacuum cleaner” to Brits) to buy Dirt Devil? If so, what was Dirt Devil’s response? I’ve been unable to find that interview online.
Bob Crosby, Charlotte, NC
MP: Great question for Mailbag readers, Bob. What one driver said about one sponsor in one post-race interview 31 years ago is a mystery to me. I would have been in the paddock at the time, likely with my hands full towards the end of breaking down the awning and helping to load Atlantic cars and equipment into the transporter.
Q: I have three random thoughts that I have been chewing on for a few weeks.
1. As I watched Roger Penske celebrate the Daytona 24-hour win with Porsche, I had a vision. I saw Roger celebrating another Indy 500 win, this time with Porsche. Mr. Penske has a long, happy history with Porsche, from his first race drives to the Can-Am 917Ks, through the Porsche Spider in the ALMS and the Riley in Grand Am to the new GTPs. Could he convince them to redirect their technology and efforts to provide an engine for IndyCar? It might use elements of the stillborn 2026 F1 engine, or be a badge-engineered Ilmor. Porsche would bring huge attention to IndyCar, and it would be competing in the top-level open-wheel series in its largest market. It would be Big News.
2. IndyCar should put a bright strobe light on the rollbar of the Dallara, which would flash when the driver activates the electric “push to pass” of the hybrid powerplant. It would be obviously visible to fans both at the track and on TV, and would allow fans to appreciate the drivers’ strategic use of the power boost. And it would be a very visible demonstration of IndyCar’s use of hybrid technology, which is not very visible in other racing series like IMSA GTP or F1.
3. When Honda joins Aston Martin as an F1 power plant supplier, it could/should/will take Alex Palou along. He has a Super License and is a super race driver.
I wish RACER magazine had an archive. I somehow missed your coverage of the Daytona 24-hour race and wish I could go back and find it.
MP: Thanks, Bruce. In reverse order, just go to the categories atop the home page and follow the IMSA link, which has everything we produced waiting for your perusal.
3: Alex is indeed super. If he’s no longer under contract to Chip Ganassi, and assuming he hasn’t tried to bail on that contract by then, he’d be an interesting candidate for Honda to consider.
2: It should. I’ve said the same thing to the series about a dozen times. I don’t expect it to happen in 2024.
1: Porsche looked at IndyCar just prior to Penske’s purchase of the series and wasn’t compelled to move forward. I hear what you’re saying, but since then, Porsche has commissioned a big hybrid racing program that started in the U.S. in 2023 with the 963 GTP that also races internationally in the WEC and at Le Mans, so the brand is getting all it needs from hybrid racing promotions here, plus it has its factory Porsche Formula E team, so there’s no obvious reason for it to spend a fortune on doing yet another hybrid racing program. The F1 engine rules are nothing like what we have in IndyCar, so unfortunately, there’s nothing to borrow from that side to make IndyCar motors. Great idea, but no reasoning or fit for them at the moment.
We must be able to squeeze this into a DW12 somehow. Motorsport Images
Q: Can you please explain to me how the whole Andretti-WTR thing works and the Jarett Andretti IMSA car? It is very confusing to me.
MP: Two separate teams from within the same house. Andretti Global bought most (or all, depending on who’s talking) of WTR and gained a factory GTP program overnight with Acura, and it supports Jarett’s IMSA racing in whatever class or car he chooses out of love for the late John Andretti, Michael’s cousin and Jarett’s father.
Q: I have attended Detroit and Long Beach (obtained Lauda’s autograph ) F1 events back in the day. If Andretti Cadillac want global attention, WEC/Le Mans/IMSA would be a better choice. The F1 car parade will get old quick with U.S. fans.
Mark, Springfield, OH
MP: Agreed. Michael has been open about his interest in taking the team to Le Mans, so I’d expect to see it happen as soon as 2025.
Q: As the offseason drags on and IndyCar fans continue to fret over the aging of the venerable Dallara chassis, but no one can agree on a way forward, I wondered if the answer might be a carefully modified version of “how it used to be.” (I know, that’s a dangerous statement!). The core of this concept would be to allow new chassis but keep the current chassis eligible.
The framework of rules for building a new chassis would be:
Must fit either of the current power plants (so not an engine-specific chassis)
Must use the current stock Dallara front and rear wings (eliminates both a huge cost in development and lessens potential for differing aero turbulence)
Must have at least five cars available for purchase by customers in year one, at a cost limit to be predetermined by series management
Must have at least 10 cars available in year two, and so on
Obvious rules: must have a safety cell that can pass the same FIA impact tests as the current car, must accommodate the standard aeroscreen, etc.
By stating these are the conditions, then the series can openly allow for new chassis without forcing the entire field to buy new cars all at once, which seems to be the central fear holding back an update. Maybe no one will bite, but I’d wager someone gives it a go. It would not require anyone to build anything, but it at least allows for dreaming: ORECA building a challenger to Dallara, McLaren or Andretti constructing their own IndyCar weapon, or dreaming of attracting (insert favorite F1 or WEC manufacturer) by allowing them to build their own chassis.
And if their car happens to be superior? Well then, mission accomplished, as long as the cost limits and customer availability are upheld by the series.
Also, it allows the fallback that if, say, Penske builds a new IndyCar but it turns out to be woefully insufficient, then they and their customers can fall back on their current Dallara tubs without suffering all season long.
Your thoughts? Holes in my logic?
MP: Your passion for this is remarkable, Nick! Couple of takes:
The issues that plagued the DW12 in its early years where it missed most of its performance targets came from it being designed by committee. So many people wanted it to be some many things that it was damn near impossible for Dallara to hit most of the competing targets.
Making a new chassis supplier use wings or other items from the old car is how we repeat that committee mistake and miss targets. If a new chassis is going to come to life, it needs to do so as a brand-new concept born in 2024 or whenever, not rooted in whatever Dallara did from 2012-2023.
If IndyCar is going to do a new car, it can’t compromise on it. It needs to be a clean start.
Q: Following up on Formula Fox’s follow-up on my follow up on Formula Fox’s follow-up…. About IndyCar, Super Formula, and F2:
There’s some very notable examples of people racing in IndyCar and then moving (or moving back) to F1 in the ’90s and ’00s. I’ve also noticed that when a driver wins an F2 championship and has to leave the series, but can’t go directly into F1, they tend to do a year in Super Formula.
My question is, if IndyCar started going one-two seconds a lap faster on road courses, making them clearly faster than F2 and Super Formula, would international interest and investment in IndyCar increase along with IndyCar/F1 crossover?
MP: The follow-up to the follow-up of the follow-up is making my head hurt.
I don’t think road course speed increases would do anything to change anything. Those in European open-wheel know we do 240mph at Indy, and we’re plenty quick everywhere else.
We’re a domestic championship, so that’s why IndyCar is dominated by domestic teams. F1’s asshattery on closing its paddock to new teams is why IndyCar is drawing new interest from those at the F2 team level and, increasingly, among F2-level drivers who have years of evidence that winning a title is nearly meaningless when it comes to landing a race seat the following year. We’re the land of opportunity in more ways than one.
Q: My question is about TV coverage for the upcoming WEC season. I have contacted Motor Trend+ and they have confirmed that they will be streaming this year’s races and the 24 Hour of Le Mans, but they are owned by Warner Brothers/Discovery and its streaming service Max will also be streaming the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
My questions are, if you are in the know, will Max also be streaming the entire 2024 WEC season, and when they stream the 24 Hours of Le Mans, whose feed will they use? If you can answer or provide a resource that will answer my questions, thank you in advance.
MP: The WEC haven’t announced their U.S. TV plans for the year, but I continue to hear Max will be a place where all rounds are aired. If we’re lucky, they’ll use the official WEC commentator feed, but I don’t know if that will be the case, or if Eurosport’s dumpster fire will continue as the chosen LM24 feed.
Q: I was listening to Speed Street this morning. During the discussion, Conor was talking about sponsorship, as Conor usually does, which got me thinking: Could you imagine a scenario where one of the other pro sports leagues would be interested in sponsoring a car/team? Imagine Ferrucci flying around in a car with the NHL logo on it, or Jack Harvey in an MLS-branded car? Rahal in an NFL car? Conor himself in a WWE car?
I realize it’s an utterly preposterous idea, but it seems like relatively cheap advertising for that league, and who knows, maybe more folks wind up watching those sports as a result.
MP: Fairly confident we had some WWE-themed NASCAR Cup stuff back in the day. My first Indy 500 in 1997 featured sponsorship from MLB and the new Arizona Diamondbacks team, which was cool.
I also thought back to Long Beach in 2006 or ’07 when I was running a car in the World Challenge GT race and Toyo Tires (I think it was Toyo) had a booth inside the big vendor auditorium right next to where we were paddocked. The UFC, which had only just started to take off, but was by no means mainstream, had future HoF fighter Georges St. Pierre and another fighter I’ve forgotten — I was a huge UFC fan, so seeing GSP was surreal — in a random corner of the Long Beach Convention Center signing the occasional autograph at the Toyo booth. Back then, the UFC would have gotten real value from partnering with a Champ Car to raise its awareness, but today, IndyCar would need to pay a fortune to the UFC to have its name associated with a much bigger sport.
A decade before we had Superleague Formula and an entire grid of cars painted up in the colors of international soccer powerhouses, Greg Ray was representing the D-backs at the Brickyard. IMS Photo
Q: I stumbled a YouTube video about Laguna Seca. Is the information in the video accurate?
MP: Hi, Doug. Watching other people’s videos and reporting on the accuracy of the information isn’t a thing I do, but I did share the original story on the topic right after it was published by a respected media outlet, the SF Gate, which I think was then picked up by all the other outlets and YouTubers who used the info from the story to make their versions of it. For accuracy, I’d go to the source.
Q: While I appreciate the existence of “100 Days To Indy,” I feel IndyCar management (once again) is missing the boat. The show should be 365 Days to Indy. Start with the post-race and go through the off season leading in the 100 days till the race. It could air monthly in the off-season. Not only would it keep IndyCar somewhat relevant during the long off-season, it would also provide better opportunities to showcase the human side a bit more through the off-season activities and certainly the driver/team dramas that seem to pop up every year. Any thoughts?
Vincent Martinez, South Pasadena, CA
MP: I’ve offered the same sentiment — something longer than the lead-in to the 500 — and have been told this is exactly what the series wants.
Q: My girlfriend and I have been to the Milwaukee Mile several times in the past, and enjoyed it. Being old, I appreciate the history, and it’s pretty cool that you can see the whole track while the race is on. But I’m a bit puzzled by its resurrection. It struggled to get a crowd for the last several years it ran, and now they’re going to run two? And it didn’t have to contend with a Road America IndyCar race back then. I’ve heard it said this area of the country can only support one IndyCar event a year. We will probably go to one of the Milwaukee Mile races and RA, but if we had to choose, it’s RA, hands down. Your thoughts?
Angelo Mantas, Skokie, IL
MP: In the absence of new ideas, going back to the ones that once worked is a pretty common thing; seems like a lot of what I see advertised on TV or in the theaters falls into the category “Night Court,” “Mean Girls,” “Mr. & Mrs. Smith,” etc. — so trying to revive an event that’s died a few times isn’t totally unexpected.
Like most who’ve been there, I love the place and region, so from a viewpoint of nostalgia, I love that it’s back. What we’ll know later this year is if all the reasons we heard or came up with for the event’s most recent failures were valid. The marketing was terrible or nonexistent. The event went up against major local sports or trade shows that drew the crowds away and soaked up all of the good hotels, and so on.
I’d rather go someplace new in the hope of attracting new fans in an underserved region — hello, Louisville! — but IndyCar, which is centrally involved in putting on the Milwaukee race, has chosen to try and re-ignite something with an old flame. If it succeeds, we hail Penske Entertainment for greenlighting The Mile. If it fails — and a failure could be something as simple as half-full grandstands — we’ll hope Penske learns from the misstep.
And yes, given the choice between Road America and any other non-Indy 500 race, it’s always Road America.
Q: I am not going to complain about the Dallara chassis, the lack of a third engine supplier, etc. The racing is excellent, and the drivers are superb. I went to my first IndyCar race in October, 1968 at the first race at MIS. It was a great race and Ronnie Bucknum won when Bobby Unser’s turbo Offy exploded in spectacular fashion on the front straight. I have lost count of how many races I have seen since then, and I am still a devoted fan.
Hang on. Here come the complaints.
NASCAR now has a series on Netflix. Are you kidding me? I have been a lifelong Penske fan, and he and I come from the same area in suburban Cleveland — although I was born on the other side of the tracks. How can this brilliant man not see that his media/promotion people are inept? For crying out loud, the IndyCar website is weak beyond words.
The offseason is six months long. No other sport has a downtime that long. In six months, a lot of diehard fans in my age group (I’m 75) will have passed on.
I would hate to see IndyCar devolve into a once-a-year spectacle like Le Mans.
Wake up, Roger!
Bob Isabella, Mentor, OH
MP: I dream of a day where Netflix would want to do something with IndyCar, Bob. But that time isn’t now because IndyCar is, when positioned next to NASCAR or F1, too small of a series to care about. I’m not saying we believe it’s unworthy of Netflix-level love, but a giant streamer like that isn’t going to spend money on a super-niche series. If IndyCar becomes bigger, that would hopefully change.
The NFL has an offseason that spans February-September, but point taken. I don’t envy IndyCar’s owners and the tasks they face to make the series more popular. The racing is great. The fans are great. The field is large. Just not enough people know or care about its existence.
Q: Dear Mailbag: Please help me be a better IndyCar fan. I’ve been an IndyCar fan for several decades and have lived around Indy my whole life. Over the off-season there’s been chatter about non-points races at Thermal Club and maybe Argentina. As someone who enjoys seeing IndyCars on track, this gave me a smile. And apparently these non-points races are likely to come with a decent payday for the teams to make it worth their while. So, even better?
But according to the internet, as an IndyCar fan I should be angry about this because they would be non-points races. I guess if there are no points on offer, then get those IndyCars off my TV? Seems counter-intuitive, but I’m trying to learn to be a better IndyCar fan. Can you help? I’ll hang up and listen to your answer.
MP: Zero reasons I can come up with to crap on non-points races as a concept, Brandon. I’ve pined for a modern version of the old Marlboro Challenge all-star races to return where the winners and polesitters from the season get to do a race among themselves for a significant prize money payout. IndyCar’s doing something close in concept at Thermal, but it’s weird in a few ways where few fans will be there and the price of admission is crazy. And it’s after the first race of the year, so there’s no way to make it a proper all-star deal because we’ll only have one winner/polesitter at that point.
But, it will be televised on NBC, so if we overlook the weird stuff, it could generate a strong viewing audience number, and that helps teams in their sponsorship valuations. Would I prefer to hear the non-points race is being moved to a different warm SoCal location like the parking lot of Disneyland where an epic backdrop and widespread fan access could be achieved? Most definitely. But, to quote Juan Pablo Montoya, it is what it is.
As for the non-points Argentina race, yeah, it does feel odd to consider we might go really far away to put on a race that counts for nothing. Doing it as a demonstration at home is less of a production to put on. Shipping everything to Argentina to hold a pretend race? That doesn’t sit well with any hardcore racer. But if it puts serious dollars in the paddocks’ pocket, there’s a value to consider.
Some of us bark at IndyCar on a regular basis to think big and/or try new things, and that’s precisely what they’re doing here. Are there flaws? Of course, but let’s see how things play out before shooting them down.
A weird new race is still better than no new race. Chris Jones/Penske Entertainment
Q: Being from Washington state, I was curious about whether IndyCar is interested in the new road course being built in Bremerton. It appears to be a world-class facility on par with other major circuits in North America. I attend all of the West Coast IndyCar and IMSA events and I confess the Portland race is looking tired. The track itself is not modern by any standard, and the city of Portland itself is not a place that fans or sponsors warm up to. I miss the race in Vancouver, which was a major CART race for years. Any chance of IndyCar ever going back there? The Northwest needs an IndyCar presence here.
I bought the James Herbert Harrison book you folks advertised in your newsletter, which I enjoyed very much. As it was quite a plug for IndyCar generally, were the folks at IMS behind that? Also, he referenced quite a few media personalities like Leigh Diffey but paid you no mention. Just an observation.
Fred Barnham, Tacoma, WA
MP: I need to admit that anything I see or hear the name Bremerton mentioned, my mind plays Sir Mix-A-Lot’s song Bremelo, the only time I’ve heard the city referenced in music. Yes, the PNW is a region of interest and any new track that meets FIA Grade 2 standards is on the list.
No clue about the book or author, but mentioning me wasn’t going to increase sales, so that was a wise decision.
Q: Will IMSA rename LMP2 into GTP Lights or GTP Lites and abbreviate it on the broadcast ticker as GTP-L? The LMP2 nameplate is eyesore to rest of the classes as it makes it not cohesive. Plus, it goes with reviving the GTP names by bringing back Lights name. Thoughts?
MP: First, big fan of your music and apparent reincarnation. Your Danger Doom album with Danger Mouse is a gem.
IMSA has no plans that I know of to rename LMP2.
Q: The last time you mentioned Thermal, you said that you had asked about ticket sales and no one responded. Is there any update?
I am contemplating going to Milwaukee to see the return! However, there isn’t much info on the website. Any rumblings about hospitality areas for the weekend? I did that for the first time at Laguna Seca and it was a very enjoyable experience. It might even be more appreciated for Milwaukee in the summertime.
Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA
MP: Yessir. The interview went up in December, I believe.
I spoke with the folks involved in putting on the Milwaukee event and here’s what they provided for you:
“Thank you for the question and we hope to see you August 30-September 1 at the Milwaukee Mile. Fans will be able to purchase daily and weekend hospitality with their Milwaukee Mile 250 tickets. We will be announcing new weekend experience options in the coming days that will include hospitality, along with camping, parking and more for the Milwaukee Mile 250 IndyCar event. We encourage you to bookmark the event website as additional ticket plans and fan experience enhancements will be featured here soon. Fans can also feel free to contact our ticket office at 414-266-7000 and we will be happy to review the options available. Thank you.”
Q: With Milwaukee returning, can you give insight on why Cleveland never seemed to return? More than most lost races, it has a lot of boxes checked.
150,000 (65,000 race day) attendees for the last race in 2007
An airport circuit as opposed to street, so easier political headwinds to manage.
An influential and pro-IndyCar promoter in Mike Lanigan along with a strong local team in RLL (albeit Mid-Ohio is closer to “home” for them).
Always had good sponsorship (U.S. Bank, Medic Drug Stores, etc.) So on the “it’s easy to spend other people’s money” position, it seems like there were a lot of parties willing to spend their money to sponsor the race.
Here is an article from almost a decade ago about how interest in the race was still high.
That had a lot of 2016 issues raised and many of them are addressed now; the Grand Prix of Boston seems like less of an issue now…
More than maybe any other race, it seems online fan interest is high for Cleveland to come back. Do you think there is a realistic chance of the race ever returning, or is almost 20 years gone by too much now?
Ron from Baltimore (formerly Cleveland)
MP: First, THANK YOU for submitting the first why-don’t-we-race-at-Cleveland letter in forever.
Yes, there was interest in bringing it back, but as I recall, the costs to do so and the hurdles to clear made the Lanigans of the world push away from the table. The main talk was of turning the airport into housing, which seemed to dampen enthusiasm as well.
Although it was often sweltering hot at the Cleveland CART/Champ Car races, I’d rather go back there than any other old school IndyCar track that comes to mind.
There was always space for Michael Andretti on the grid at Cleveland. Phillip Abbott/Motorsport Images
Q: With this year’s Indy 500 entrants rumored to total as many as 37, is there any chance we return to a qualifying format which more closely resembles the traditional format? It made little sense when we struggled to get to 33 cars, but here’s my two cents.
With the race on the road course two weekends prior to the 500, I don’t think four-day time trials are making a comeback, but the condensed two-day format used from 1998 through 2000 would slot in nicely. The stakes seem lower when 30 guaranteed places are earned on Saturday, with 12 entrants earning a safe spot pretty high up the field, even if the starting positions aren’t set in stone. It takes some of the drama away from Sunday and takes nearly all of the intrigue out of Saturday. Plus, with a full day to make attempts at pole and a full day for attempts to make the field, I think we get more opportunities for quality attempts with properly cooled engines.
And before I’m accused of being your average retirement-age IndyCar fan, I’m only a 1995 birth. But I’ll be the first to admit, growing up on a steady diet of CART/Champ Car through the split with a high dosage of Robin Miller way back on Wind Tunnel certainly taints me towards traditionalism!
Pete, Rochester, NY
MP: I love some of this, Pete. The LCQ format to complete the final row of three could be a serious nail-biter if it was the last two or three rows being up for grabs on Sunday in that LCQ session. That would open up the variables and bring some real heat. We’ll be 35-36 entries by the time everything settles down, so it will be more compelling than running through the whole process just to carve one car from the field.
Q: While listening to this week’s Q&A and the topic of push to pass, I wanted to know with the hybrid system, will teams have the ability to monitor the usage of other cars like they do now?
Vincent Martinez, South Pasadena, CA
MP: Yes. As present, it will be shown on the IndyCar app, TV broadcast, and maybe timing and scoring.
Q: How in the name of all that is good and right in this world can IndyCar not be ready to hold, or at least in deep discussions with Mexico City to hold a race there in 2025? Huge crowds for Formula E only make me think “coulda, shoulda.” Pato O’Ward is a star there. I have to figure a race in Mexico City would be huge with Pato. I’m not very smart, but this is a no-brainer. Can someone corner MM or RP or Bud and ask them why they can’t do the obvious?
Ed D., Milford, MI
MP: Pato’s the most popular driver in the series and drives for the most popular team in the series. So, naturally, we aren’t going to the place where he’s the most popular. I wonder what it would take to get Zak Brown to start McLaren Promotions and put it on for IndyCar?
Q: First off, “Gran Turismo.” I can understand your hesitation to watch. Of course, it is not “Le Mans,” it is not “Grand Prix.” It’s not even “Rush.” But it is far, far from “Driven,” or even “Days of Thunder.” With that being said, I really enjoyed the movie and I think you will, too. Watch it. I thought the dramatic crash of Jan Mardenborough at the ’Ring was very well done and far from overblown CGI.
Now… my real issue. The F1 owners just denied Andretti Cadillac. I think I’m done with that series now. I have IndyCar, IMSA, and MotoGP to watch still. And I feel I’m not the only American who is going to lose interest in the series. Sad. :( Luckily I can see the bikes and the sports cars at my local track, too.
Bill Jurasz, Austin, TX
MP I caught the movie on the flight home from Daytona. It was everything I expected, and less. Overlooking the racing stuff, I was blown away at how hollow it was. The director is a favorite and this had none of the humanity I was anticipating.
F1’s stepped on its appendage many times before, but never in as detailed or embarrassing a manner as it just did with Michael. That 20-point rejection letter will live in infamy as one of the dumbest decisions the series has made; I’m positive people were fired at FOM after that went out.
F1’s become nearly unwatchable without the middle finger to Andretti, so until it returns to a time where it isn’t the Max/Red Bull Show and actual questions exist over who will win each weekend, you have a great rotation of IndyCar/IMSA/MotoGP to love.
Q: I was discussing this with another racing fan and we understand that in F1, DRS opens the rear wing and in IndyCar Push to Pass gives you more turbo boost, but we don’t understand in F1 (and soon to be in IndyCar) what the battery does. On the broadcasts they say in F1 that the driver is “charging the batteries” but how does that energy get applied to the drive train? How does that extra energy get applied (physically) to the cars? Is there an additional electronic motor?
Jim Doyle, Hoboken, NJ
CHRIS MEDLAND: Yes there is, Jim. Put as simply as possible, you have two motors: the MGU-H that harvests energy from the exhaust’s exit gases (via the turbo spinning), and MGU-K that is linked to the crankshaft and recovers kinetic energy under braking. That energy is then stored in the battery (or Energy Store as F1 likes to call it) and then the MGU-K can switch to deployment mode to provide additional power under acceleration using that energy from the Energy Store.
The more complex MGU-H can also switch to be a motor when the driver is off-throttle to keep the turbo spinning in order to reduce lag and ensure smoother power delivery when they then get back on the throttle.
The battery can hold more than a car is allowed to deploy over a lap due to the regulations, which can make its use strategic. That power is usually utilized accelerating out of slow corners onto long straights to get a car up to top speed more quickly, and in qualifying teams will know exactly when they want to deploy it and how long for to get the most out of the available energy in the fully charged battery (which is one reason why drivers sometimes can’t just push for consecutive laps if they’ve depleted the battery).
In races, though, the drivers might play around with the deployment at different stages, using it to attack or defend. But that means when you’ve run out of energy in the battery you need to wait for it to give you some more charge, which can lead to a leading car becoming vulnerable if under pressure.
Q: F1 could have spared us the word salad and simply said the teams don’t want to dilute the revenue share by adding an 11th team.
Q: Why can’t F1 just be honest and say we don’t want to dilute the prize pool? Like the Andretti name somehow has less value than Visa Cash App Racing Bulls or Stake.
Ryan, West Michigan
CM: Not that I agree with the decision, but you could argue that’s what F1 did with its statement as it gave a number of reasons why it felt Andretti’s entry without GM as a power unit supplier wouldn’t bring more commercial revenue into the sport to outweigh the dilution of the payments it makes to the teams. Basically, it stated it wasn’t going to make more money by letting Andretti in before 2028.
I think we all agree on the value of the Andretti name compared to some others, and I’ve also seen the finger pointed at Haas for its recent form but a) we’re still talking about teams that were all within a second of each other at some circuits (someone has to be last) and b) it was never a decision based on replacing another team, so those comparisons are slightly pointless in that respect.
IMO Andretti would bring more to the table than some other teams look like they might over the next few years, but if you kicked one out to allow another in then you’d completely lose all confidence from the existing teams and the entire business would fall apart. Those existing agreements and licenses need to be honored.
F1 shutting Andretti out was strictly business, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. Sam Bloxham/Motorsport Images
Q: For all of the talk about Andretti and GM being technically eligible to apply to F1 in 2028, I have a hard time understanding how — just on the “will they be competitive” grounds alone — their follow-on bid has a much better chance of success than this submission? I’ll admit the 2025 timing did seem like a big mistake on Andretti and GM’s part, though it was what Haas did (in a pre-cost-cap era, it must be said).
However, if you’re GM now and looking at waiting until 2028 for a chance to maybe get into F1, why wouldn’t you just literally buy the entire IndyCar series from Roger Penske? I highly doubt Roger’s price for buying IndyCar would be unaffordable for GM. On the other hand, given the 2028 entry time frame to F1 and a new Concorde Agreement in 2026, GM and Andretti are looking at a $600 million dilution fee just to buy into the right to have a team — at a minimum. As F1 keeps growing, we should expect that dilution fee to continue to grow with it.
If GM bought IndyCar, though, it could morph it to serve as an outlet for the types of powertrain development it wanted to do. You could still have Dallara build a spec car — this time closer to an F1 car in terms of downforce / performance — but use the series to push the limits on powertrain (the Formula E model, basically). As I think “Drive To Survive” has established, a majority of the current F1 fan base, especially the new generation, don’t care about car development. Fans care about seeing quality driving over seeing a new front wing endplate or clever innovation that upends the field.
I completely understand the reasons that Roger Penske has for keeping the series as low-investment as it is to this date. As Mailbag writers have commented ad nauseum though, you could very easily expand the scope of it from just a national series to a truly international one. That would entail bigger bills, to be sure, but certainly from a promoters perspective, the series would be welcomed at venues like Montmelo, Estoril, Hockenheim, Le Castellet, Portimao, the Nurburgring and Sepang that have all been effectively abandoned by F1. Not to mention the driver talent.
If you can’t join em… beat em?
Or spend $2B+ to buy a deeply uncompetitive Haas, your choice…
CM: While I’m not an expert on where Penske’s interest in selling IndyCar stands, and what the price could be, I can only imagine that purchasing an entire series would be getting close to figures of paying the higher anti-dilution fee to become an F1 team. And as you point out, F1’s growth means the value of teams is so high that $600m for a team that may well be instantly worth more than $1 billion is smart business, isn’t it?
Also, expanding IndyCar in that way would also take major investment and risks trying to make it too like F1. Both series have more chance of being successful if they don’t cannibalize each other and have unique selling points.
The reason GM is more likely to be targeting F1 is the global reach that brings, and the marketing value that comes alongside the technological leanings and R&D.
I’m with you that buying Haas is a last resort, though, because all you’d want is the entry and then Andretti and GM would have its entire own set-up so far less value in the operational side of the team (although some personnel and equipment would be useful).
Q: I believe that Formula One Management’s rejection of the Andretti application was also a hedge. It appears as if the Haas team is in disarray and that Mr. Haas is starting to lose his taste for spending huge amounts of money with little or no return, especially this year. And with Chris Medland’s reports on the divergent views within Haas on the direction of the team is going, should Haas decide to pull the plug, Andretti would be well positioned to scoop up the Haas team and save the sole U.S. team in the championship.
So the way I see it, the delay until 2028 allows Haas four years to decide what it wants to be when it grows up, and if Mr. Haas decides he’s had enough, FOM has a ready-made American replacement waiting in the wings. Response?
CM: That’s not a crazy theory by any stretch, and it would solve a problem for FOM, but I think it’s more likely to be just one of many potential outcomes that remain open by FOM kicking the can so far down the road.
Clearly FOM’s ideal scenario is to have 10 very strong teams. Someone has to be weakest, and right now Haas is emerging in that spot. But as mentioned in my answer to Elliott, it could prove a very expensive purchase just for the entry given the way Andretti Cadillac wants to do things, and paying around $600m for a new team is still likely to be Andretti’s preference over more like $1b for a complex operation you’re going to break apart (and not likely make a return on).
Q: You will get lots of screaming letters about F1 turning down Andretti at this time. For those who actually read the FOM response, it was honest. They have the most successful management of the sport and huge growth. Countries begging for new races. Old venues promoters put up or get replaced with new tracks. Andretti needed more than a mocked-up car in the old Toyota wind tunnel. They are building a building and hiring a few folks. But no motor deal and trying to do two different spec cars for 2025 and then 2026 was not going to be competitive. Herta the driver has no Super License. It would bring more to Andretti than F1 until they prove themselves.
Ford, Audi and others are making 2026 engines. 2028 for GM is not a serious engine commitment. Andretti failed to meet FOM in London face to face in December to present plans. A compromise could have been reached, perhaps like 2026.
Andretti should have bought Sauber. Aston Martin and Williams also bought failing teams recently. Write a big check and buy a team so the learning curve is not so big. Spyker, Caterham, Marussia, even Super Aguri… lots of failed F1 teams. Even Honda backed Super Aguri, but that team still failed.
Go back to the drawing board and do it right, Andretti. Even Penske failed at F1. Simply being American doesn’t do it. Just ask Scott Speed. Andretti counted on an FIA versus FOM/Liberty Media fight. Hope they don’t lower themselves to sue their way in. Doesn’t speak highly of Andretti’s management or tactics. We don’t need another backmarker like Haas.
C B, Leland, NC
CM: You’re right about the angry responses! But a lot of that clearly comes from a desire to see F1 continue to be an open series where new teams can try and take on the established ones like it was in the past. They can either succeed or fail, but it was always a fascinating and exciting aspect of the sport.
It also has become clear that Andretti didn’t intentionally turn down the chance of a face-to-face meeting; it simply never received the email and FOM didn’t follow up. And 2025 was no longer the target given how long the decision-making process was taking, although it’s also true that Andretti did say it was aiming for it originally and that was still a big ask at that point.
I don’t know if Sauber had a price in mind that would have given Andretti full control, but when it nearly did that deal a few years ago it was the lack of total ownership that was the problem, but that was reflective of the price — which I believe was around $300m. That would have been an absolute steal for an F1 team, let’s be honest.
I agree that FOM was pretty honest even if some of its arguments were flimsy, because it basically said it doesn’t think Andretti globally moves the needle enough for F1 to make it worth allowing an 11th entry, and that the promise of Andretti Cadillac with a GM PU is what is most attractive. The basic answer was that 2028 sounds very good, so if GM follows through and becomes a full PU supplier for Andretti then it would look upon the entry differently, but why accept less than that beforehand?
Is F1 gambling on Haas freeing up a space for Andretti by pulling the pin on its own F1 program? Andy Hone/Motorsport Images
Q: I cannot express how angry I feel, and I’ve got to express it somewhere. I have been an F1 fan since the days of Graham Hill and Jim Clark. No longer. The treatment of Michael Andretti’s effort is appalling and unforgivable. So totally arrogant and elitist. And downright insulting. They want American money but not an American team. The wording of the rejection is unforgivably insulting. I feel so badly for Mario, who’s given so much to global racing his entire life.
You can reapply in a few years when it’ll cost a billion dollars to join our elitist club. And maybe we’ll approve you if GM wants to spend massive amounts of money. But we really only want them, not you.
The hell with them. My criticisms of IndyCar have just disappeared.
Jeffrey Brown, Bernardsville, NJ
CM: I actually responded to that same accusation of “They want American money but not an American team” from Graham Rahal a few years ago when Colton Herta’s Super License exemption request was rejected, and definitely don’t think that’s the case.
F1 absolutely wants American money, but just like it wants all money. It races in some very questionable places because it wants the money, and teams from all over the world were rejected out of hand and didn’t get anywhere near as close as Andretti Cadillac has so far.
The main reason it’s about money is if a team enters at the current anti-dilution fee of $200m, and spends $300m on infrastructure, it has an F1 team that is instantly worth a billion and could sell it. Do I think that’s Andretti’s plan? No, but that shows that the anti-dilution fee is currently not reflective of the value of an F1 team, and allowing an entry at that level would devalue the existing teams, and therefore F1 itself.
One of the main aspects of the rejection at this point is to ensure a new entrant is committed to being part of the sport and growing the sport, and forcing that commitment by contributing significant finance just like any new Major League franchise has to do. F1 made that stance clear long before Andretti was put forward as the only potential entrant that was capable of joining the grid by the FIA.
Q: I just read the article about F1 rejecting Michael Andretti’s application. It has struck me that F1 has just given Michael Andretti, Mario, and all the lifelong Andretti fans generally a huge stick in the eye.
For them to state as a major reason the fear that Andretti would not be competitive? Have half the teams in F1 been given notices that they had best finish in the top five at least once during a season or face suspension or worse? The fact is that half the cars in Formula 1 serve little purpose but to fill the grid race after race. They know they cannot win, the fans know they cannot win, and the very people who penned the report regarding concern that Andretti wouldn’t be competitive know most of their teams cannot win.
This violates the very essence of motor racing since the first race was held over a century earlier. How do they know if Andretti would be competitive? They won’t even allow them to run!
I wonder what this means to Michael Andretti and his whole corporation fiscally. Will the combined total of his enterprise support the infrastructure being built? I wonder if Mario, who has always touted Formula 1 as the pinnacle, will continue to express such sentiments when F1 has spat on his family legend.
James Harrison, Overland Park, KA
CM: Now as much as I’ve offered the balanced view of why the door isn’t just going to be left open for any new team just because of a romantic name, this I totally agree with, James.
Since when was it F1’s job to try and guess how good or bad a team might be? Sure, you’ve got to draw a line somewhere, but this is meant to be a sport first and foremost, and in that case it’s down to a team to prove its competitiveness on the track.The FIA has a 107% rule it can implement on safety grounds if ever a team is that far off, but given how prescriptive F1 rules are now, I don’t think Andretti would fall foul of that.
It’s not just Andretti, either. It’s offensive to all of the experienced F1 personnel that the team has hired. Nick Chester was the technical director of Renault and is now in the same role at Andretti — is F1 saying it thinks he’s not good enough at his job? Is it going to veto all F1 team hires from now on?
It’s a slippery slope. Commercial reasons I totally get, but the FIA is there to analyze the sporting ones and I feel like FOM overstepped its remit with that comment.
Q: I’m sure you have gotten a lot of questions and/or responses concerning F1 rejecting the Andretti GM bid. Is it possible they were rejected because Andretti has not won an IndyCar title since 2012? Is there an assumption that if they are unable to win championships in IndyCar that they are likely unable to compete with the back markers much less at the front of the grid?
CM: I don’t think so to be honest, Damion — that’s never been a reason given when I’ve asked questions of FOM or anyone linked to the Andretti project. It is a good reminder that an iconic name doesn’t automatically translate to success, but I’m not led to believe Andretti ever pointed to IndyCar performances in its submission or that FOM then focused on that.
It’s been a few years since Michael Andretti got to pose with IndyCar’s championship trophy, but the team has won the 500 a few times in the years since. Russell LaBounty/Motorsport Images
Q: I can’t say that I’m surprised about the Andretti decision. The longer this got dragged out, the slimmer the chances got, in my opinion. I am more and more convinced that this is all about money and nothing else. You mentioned the next Concorde Agreement and its timing. I’d put money on the dilution fee taking a significant jump; to the point that Andretti could get priced out. Clearly most of the teams either don’t want an 11th team or don’t want Andretti and that could be one or the other, but I would bet on both. Also, given how long this is going to get drawn out, GM may lose interest.
I think this passage in your article was interesting:
“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.”
The problem is that five out of the 10 teams are not really competitive currently. The sixth-place team mustered only two podiums all season, and there were none for the following four teams. To me, competitiveness means running at the front. Clearly that is not the case for half of the field.
Also, from my observation, the Andrettis don’t do anything by halves. They have been actively working towards 2025, but this implies that they don’t understand things:
“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.”
Seems to me that FOM should just admit that it is a closed shop. Further, if they are throwing out this BS now, I don’t see a change of perspective for 2028 as they will likely just invent something else.
Anyway, this is all very disappointing to me. Outside of FOM, what are you hearing from the general public about all this?
Don Hopings, Cathedral City, CA
CM: There’s two ways of answering that. For the real “general public” I think we saw how insignificant the Andretti bid really is when Lewis Hamilton announced he was joining Ferrari. That permeated into general conversation outside of just sports fans. But for F1 fans, it’s clear the vast majority want an 11th team, and they’re happy with it being Andretti.
The thing is, as fans we don’t have to worry about the business side. On a very basic level, if you let any team in now at $200m then you devalue a sport that has grown massively since it put that figure in place, and so your owners and bosses who want you to make it as profitable as possible are going to be unhappy.
And don’t overlook the fact that F1 is so attractive to Andretti Cadillac right now because the sport is booming both globally and in the U.S. — allowing it to secure the financial partners that want to be a part of it — and it makes sense from a business perspective for them to try and get in while there’s a lower fee in place than there really should be. Michael Andretti is not stupid, and nor are the backers for the team. If its entry had been approved right now, it would instantly have an asset worth far more than it cost to create.
On the competitive part too, I feel that’s an unfair argument. You can’t have everyone being competitive all the time. Someone has to finish last, and Haas was one of the most competitive teams to ever finish bottom of the standings in F1’s history with all of its Q3 appearances and multiple points being scored.
Having McLaren and Aston Martin join the front-runners in scoring regular podiums is what made it even harder for teams to score any points too (given five were that bit quicker and there’s only 10 point-scoring places). It’s all relative, and while it must be noted it’s in part down to the regulations, this is the most competitive grid F1 has ever had.
Q: FOM’s decisions on Andretti got me thinking this week, about not only F1’s unwillingness to expand, but also a few other issues. Recently F2 has produced champions with no realistic chance of an F1 seat the following year, which calls into question the effectiveness of the feeder series for prospective young drivers. There’s clearly interest, but a general lack of willingness from F1 to increase team participation, which also limits available seats. There’s also more interest than ever in hosting F1 globally and F1 is clearly hungry to expand well beyond Europe.
So here’s my pitch: Introduce an F1 European Championship. It would work similar to how English football works with a relegation system. The champions of F1 Europe would be promoted to the world championship the following year, with the last-placed team in the world championship being relegated to F1 Europe. Perhaps the technical regulations are simplified slightly, or teams use year-old cars, a spec engine, or similar to scale down the technical challenge to be proportional with being akin to a ‘GP1’ series.
This would solve a few problems that are currently present. 1) It would create an opportunity for new teams to enter the sport and give them a reasonable chance to move up into the big league. 2) It would create more available seats for young drivers to gain valuable seat time and race experience after graduating from F2. 3) It would create opportunities for European circuits to host F1 level machinery that may have been dropped by the world championship or are interested in hosting a world championship grand prix in the future.
Would this ever actually happen? Almost certainly no, but I’ll let my imagination entertain me.
Michael, Halifax, Canada
CM: I do like your imagination! And you could slightly tweak it to say it’s a bit like going back to the old days of Formula 2, where future F1 teams would cut their teeth and still had to design and develop cars. Perhaps in future F2 could evolve to allow development and be a real stepping stone for teams wanting to race in F1, rather than just drivers.
As much as I love the idea of promotion and relegation, you’re right that the technical regulations and lead times on cars, etc., makes that impossible, and I think the world is too advanced now to simplify the rules to try and make that feasible without damaging the actual value of F1 development and its identity as such an impressive non-spec series.
Q: So, I assume the majority of Mailbag letters are about the idiotic and self-serving decision to deny Andretti Global a seat at the table. I’m sure all the finer points have been dissected by now — like how is a new team supposed to win races from the very get-go?
Anyway, let’s go conspiracy theory instead. Day 1: Domenicali denies Andretti. Domenicali has strong ties to Ferrari.
Day 2: Word breaks that Hamilton will make “shock” switch to Ferrari, drowns out news about Andretti.
Tim, Baton Rouge, LA
CM: I asked this very question Tim, and was assured it was a coincidence and that F1 had actually promised the FIA that it would respond to Andretti by the end of January. But I’ll admit it’s such a big coincidence that I am waiting for the FIA to verify that claim…
“Quick, we need a diversion.” Mark Sutton/Motorsport Images
Q: I believe I may have finally reached my breaking point with Formula 1. I’ve been following this sport for over 40 years. The past few years I’ve asked myself, why am I wasting my time watching this garbage? The cars and tracks used to be so amazing, now they are just so soulless. And on-track competition? Forget it. I was looking forward to a real American team to root for. I hope the F1 community feels the same way I do and shows it by turning their backs. We’ll see.
Disappointed in Buffalo, NY
CM: There are clearly loads of very disappointed people at this point, but it seems to overlook the fact that 2028 remains a real possibility. The ball is actually in GM’s court on that front — if it commits to being a full PU manufacturer (for now it’s only stated its intention) then it gives the Andretti bit a huge chance of being successful at that stage. Hopefully you’re still watching if that does end up happening.
And based on the reaction, it looks like fans are more excited by the prospect of Lewis Hamilton racing for Ferrari in 2025 than they would have been by Andretti joining the grid in 2026. That’s not to belittle the impact Andretti would have in America by any stretch — or globally — but just highlighting that sports go through peaks and troughs and have different storylines that are important to different fans.
I think we’re all hoping for a far more competitive season in terms of race winners than last year, though, as remarkable an achievement as it was from Red Bull and Max Verstappen. Uncertainty over who is going to win and fights for victory are always the things that get the most people excited.
Q: I would very much like to see Andretti Global in F1. I would like to see more credible entries allowed to participate too, this is not just about Andretti.
We know they were rejected because the existing teams didn’t want to dilute their commercial interests (they have been saying this publicly for two years) and FOM’s statement was spiteful and unnecessary.
However, Michael and his leadership team should also reflect on this. They have no given right to be in F1, they have been extremely arrogant and public with their thoughts. Michael has been calling for a charter system in IndyCar for years and has called small-timers Joe Blows. Rob Edwards said something close to this recently, too.
If Michael already owned an entry, is it fair to say he would reject a new team too to protect his investment?
I say this as an American, but much of the anger is based on many seeing this as a snub to an American entry. If this was Carlos Sainz or Jody Scheckter failing to gain an entry, nobody would care.
PS: Gene Haas really needs to sell his ultra-unambitious entry to Michael and company and we can put this to bed.
CM: Really well said, John. I wrote about how Michael rubbed people up the wrong way by criticizing the teams and then going around the Miami paddock trying to get them to sign a letter of support, but it’s not about Andretti or an American team.
In fact, I genuinely believe the Andretti name and the desire to make it so American is one of the reasons why it is the only entry that has reached this stage. No other team — even pre-existing ones racing on the European ladder — got anywhere near this point.
I get accused of bias sometimes being from the UK, but given the majority of my work is for U.S. outlets I would clearly benefit from Andretti coming in, but I definitely want it to happen on a simple sporting level and the excitement a new team brings, regardless of that personal interest. And yet I’ve never felt at any stage the roadblocks put up by F1 are anti-American — this is a sport that focuses on that market more than any other and has done for a while.
Q: The way F1 has treated Michael Andretti and team has been despicable, culminating in the ridiculous and borderline libelous statement it issued to publicly reject and seemingly embarrass Andretti (although I would argue F1 just embarrassed itself). I know there has been long-standing vitriol in F1 circles against Michael Andretti despite apparent reverence for Mario. And I know that Michael did not endear himself by publicly pleading his case and arguing (rightly) that those adverse to his petition are fueled by greed.
But I have been mulling over what is behind such animus, and I would argue it is anti-Americanism. To be sure, Toto Wolff and Stefano Domenicali — two of the more overtly hostile actors — love more U.S. races resulting in more U.S. dollars lining their pockets, but they seem to view Americans as a bunch of yokels not worthy of being in their company. See, for example, the way they treated ticketholders who missed out on the first Vegas practice.
I know F1 has indicated it is still interested in Cadillac/GM providing engines in the future, but again, this just seems to be a case of them wanting the additional USD investment — not a true respect for one of the largest and longest-lived auto marques. Would F1 treat Roger Penske any better? Perhaps, but the way they have treated not only Michael, but also devastated Mario, suggests otherwise.
Boycotts don’t tend to work, but I want Liberty and F1 to know that they have turned off this American from caring about their inflated product and, more importantly, I am turning off my spending on anything F1 and hope other Americans do, too.
And I see through F1’s cynical attempt to stifle discussion of their treachery by announcing the following day Hamilton’s move to Ferrari.
If there is any justice, Gene Haas will relent and sell to Andretti so he can annoy the F1 powerbrokers with his presence for years to come.
Andrew H., Chicago, IL
CM: See the above answer for my thoughts on it being an anti-American decision, Andrew, but I’ll just add that there was a Saudi-funded team trying to put an entry together that would have likely paid any price to be on the grid, and that didn’t get anywhere near this point in the process. FOM was saying long before Andretti was put forward that it didn’t want an 11th team, it wants the value driven up of the existing teams, that includes a U.S.-owned one in Haas.
F1 takes money from all sorts of regions, not just America, and puts its own money on the line to try and grow the sport in the U.S. in the form of the Las Vegas Grand Prix. It is absolutely a decision about money — and while Michael was right about greed, he was also someone who said it was understandable that teams would protect what they have. But it’s not a decision about American money. It’s about who stands to benefit at the moment if the entry is admitted, and Andretti does far more than F1 itself does as a business.
The downside is fans lose out, because fans would benefit from an 11th team, more storylines, more drivers to support or watch, and Michael likely being great value in the paddock fighting his own corner, just like the likes of Wolff does.
To also back up the point, as much as I feel like fans were very unfairly treated in Vegas last year, I feel the same with those who went to Spa in 2021 and didn’t see a race but it was called a race behind the safety car, and were treated so badly then, too.
Between first practice at Vegas (above) and now Andretti, it’s been a rough few months for American F1 fans. Simon Galloway/Motorsport Images
Q: I’m a 35-year fan of F1 and IndyCar. Have always loved both. How should I or any American fan continue to support F1? Andretti brings no value but Haas is still on the grid? Tell me how that makes sense?
Steve, Moline, IL
CM: Because the choice isn’t between Andretti or Haas, Steve. The choice is between adding an 11th team or not. If you ranked every team that might want to enter F1 alongside the existing teams and worked out the strongest 10, you would likely end up with a different grid than we have now, and there’s no guarantee Andretti without a GM power unit would be on it.
You can’t just kick out a team that has a contract and an agreement based on another showing up and wanting to come in. It would mean the whole sport would collapse, because why would any other existing team then be able to commit if the same could happen to them?
I think Andretti should be on the grid, and I really want to see it happen, but no new team can just be allowed in at any cost. The NFL doesn’t just let any new expansion team join whenever they say they want to, just because the fans want it. It’s a business, and it makes a business decision on if it will lead to long-term growth and benefit the league, and then sets a fee to do that. F1 is following a similar pattern, and has told Andretti and GM exactly what it thinks is its best chance of joining, while also giving itself time to try and find a fee that would work for the sport. Whether it then still does for Andretti Cadillac is another matter.
Q: I’ve been an IndyCar fan for the past 40 years and was starting to follow F1 as I was excited to have Andretti in there and the races they have here in America. That statement put out by F1 was so effing arrogant, I’m just disgusted with F1.
What team could possibly come in and be as competitive as Andretti? Look how great Haas has done, and this would be a true American team. FOM also said that Andretti wouldn’t add any value to F1 — there isn’t a name in America and probably the world more known as Andretti for racing, that name is in more songs, crossed many genres than anybody else’s. I’m totally down with F1. I could care less where Hamilton is going next year, the racing has been horrible and one-sided since I can remember. I hope every American boycotts F1 and the races they are having here.
CAM in LA
CM: I’ve got to disagree that there isn’t a team in the world that is more known as Andretti for racing. In America, sure, but globally — and F1 is a global sport — it’s clear that Andretti would become far more well-known and profit from the reach of F1. That’s one of the reason Andretti, GM and the team’s backers want to come in, because it makes business sense. It’s why Haas joined, because it promoted Haas Automation all around the world and makes it a far more well-known brand.
But I agree that Andretti has every chance of being easily competitive enough as a new entrant given the resources and personnel its already hired. Plus, who decides what is competitive enough? In the past new teams would be four or five seconds off the pace, but today the team finishing bottom of the standings regularly makes it to Q3 and scores points on multiple occasions.
This is the most competitive F1 field ever, partly thanks to regulations, and the gaps are tiny between teams. That doesn’t prevent monotonous results or dominance, but they’re still all far closer than in the past as a collective.
Given the regulations, Andretti would likely be off the back but not dangerously so, and then the storyline of closing in and beating other teams over time is a great one to follow. It would also highlight how impressive it is what other teams are doing, and I actually think show Haas in a far more positive light, too. So I didn’t like those comments from F1 either.
Q: How is it that Michael Andretti did not make sure email from F1 didn’t go to his spam file? Can he really be that stupid?
Obviously, it is his arrogance. After all, he is an Andretti — he should get whatever he wants. He doesn’t deserve to be in F1. Remember the last time he was there he quit and ran home to daddy.
CM: Props to the AP’s Jenna Fryer for getting the spam folder part of the story, but I’d also argue if F1 was serious about wanting a meeting then there should have been direct contact from Stefano Domenicali to the Andretti project, or at the very least a follow-up when there was no response.
Q: Greed, hypocrisy, irrationality are the words that come to mind when describing the F1 teams who denied Andretti entry. How can F1 with a straight face come up with all these excuses for denying Andretti? Why has there been no support and communication from GM?
I think Andretti should send them to hell and try to take Acura to the WEC.
Jack Comparato, Ft. Pierce, FL
CM: Greed might be right, but it is understandable to me in the sense of teams just fighting their own corner, just like Andretti is doing by wanting to join. I don’t think it’s irrational at all, it’s just a cold business stance, but the teams also did not have a say in the process. Even if the teams don’t want an 11th team, if FOM does then it happens.
But then that actually is where I’d say it’s more rational than irrational, with FOM only looking at the bottom line and whether it commercially would benefit the most out of Andretti joining without GM as a PU supplier. It doesn’t seem to be willing to look at the longer-term gains there could be from increased interest in an extra team, more drivers and more storylines. They’re not tangible aspects, and admittedly are not certainties, but they could strengthen F1.
And hypocrisy, I agree with. All 10 teams started somewhere, and don’t have a given right to be the only 10 forever.
Q: Toto Wolff is talking “bold, someone you might not be thinking of.” Considers the “next Kimi” likely too young to jump into an F1 seat in 2025.
If Toto wants bold, how about a guy who’s young enough, yet mature enough, up to the task, and has aspirations of F1. How many points are still needed to issue a Super License to… Colton Herta?
Can Toto come up with any scenario bolder than this?
Racing Dave, St. Petersburg, FL
CM: Sadly, Dave, Colton slipped even further down the pecking order last year. He’s now only good for 10 points over the past three years (it’s not a fair system IMO and doesn’t reflect the value of IndyCar positions properly) so he would need to win the IndyCar championship or be runner-up this year. Even if you can argue that 2020 needs to count for COVID reasons, then he’s on 30 now but loses 20 after this year, so again needs that top two.
I think he is speaking about Antonelli when he talks about being bold, but then doesn’t want to say it yet in case he struggles in F2 this season. It’s a lot of pressure with so little single-seater experience.
Herta’s actually further away from a Super License than he was at this time last year. Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment
Q: Wouldn’t it be great if the actual 2024 F1 season is as dramatic as the pre-season?
Isn’t the Hamilton move, now that we have had time to reflect, one of those developments that surprise at first, then, upon reflection, be a case of “how did we ever miss that?” The rumors about Elkann’s interest surfaced last year — when the Hamilton-Mercedes negotiations seemed stalled, plus Hamilton’s recent contract negotiations have taken ridiculously long. When the tell-all books get written, I wouldn’t be surprised that Hamilton has been in a funk since Abu Dhabi 2021.
If you believe, as I do, that it’s always about the money, from the “follow the money perspective,” the linkage of the world’s most recognized driver with the most recognized marque points to Big Dollars/Euros/Pounds.
Is it not weird that F1 starts the season with two of its top seats occupied by lame ducks? Can’t immediately recall anyone being signed so early before. Has F1 ever considered setting negotiating/signing windows just like almost every other major sport?
Regarding Andretti, in following the money, there’s been a lot of focus on the dilution of prize money but not so much regarding dilution of asset values (in practical terms, what you could get in a potential sale). There are a lot of private equity and other investment firms in F1 now. Their business models are unlikely to regard even the largest possible F1 team profit to meet their criteria for rate of return. Private equity makes it big money when it sells a company. Loosing Losing a few million in F1 payouts would be dwarfed by losing potentially hundreds of million in sale prices.
Meanwhile, what FOM genius was behind clause 16: “While the Andretti name carries some recognition for F1 fans, our research indicates that F1 would bring value to the Andretti brand rather than the other way around”? Perhaps someone at FOM felt they must push back at Andretti’s very public lobbying. But to me that seems to be a gratuitous insult to one of the most respected and well-known racing families in the United States. Doesn’t seem like a smart move for a company taking a big financial risk in building a U.S. audience.
Al in Boston
CM: The signs have been there that Hamilton liked the idea of racing for Ferrari, but then I wouldn’t say to a huge degree more than every driver wants to. And the stories regularly come up around contract time and are viewed as negotiating tactics to help him get what he wants out of Mercedes.
On this occasion, it seemed like that had happened again with the deal he signed, but now we know the 1+1 was not something Hamilton was happy with and actually opened the door to him leaving.
You’re spot-on, though, about the financial aspect. Whatever Ferrari is paying him is likely to be worth it, seeing as it can now heavily increase its partnership rates with Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari together being the selling point. And sponsors will definitely pay more for that pairing, too.
Also a very good point that’s been made in other answers about the devaluation of what a team is worth if Andretti comes in at the current $200m figure. I think F1 teams might be getting a bit ahead of themselves with some figures, but then they are generally only worth what they are willing to sell for and someone is willing to pay.
I felt that was an unnecessary dig from FOM, even if it might be true. Certainly in the U.S. it’s not accurate, but globally the name and brand would become far more known and valuable thanks to the sport’s reach and standing. Why it’s unnecessary is the fact that every sponsor or entrant knows that and that is one of the reasons they’re involved in F1 — it’s a huge marketing platform! Why it was being used as a stick to beat Andretti with is a weak argument to me.
Q: One question: What will happen when Hamilton pushes Leclerc off on the outside of a turn?
Ben Malec, Buffalo Grove, IL
CM: We get great drama. But I think with where they are in their careers, and what we’ve seen in Mercedes recently too, Hamilton is generally very firm but fair, and takes responsibility if he crosses a line. I’m not saying it will be smooth, but I don’t predict enormous fireworks in terms of their relationship.
Q: I’m going to assume this question will anger some of the die-hard fans but I think it’s worth asking: Is the Andretti name really that relevant today? Specifically, do F1 fans of the younger, casual, and/or “Drive To Survive” generation really care or even know about the Andretti name? And if they don’t, what incentive do they have to care? This is with regard to the statement about Andretti benefiting more from F1 rather than vice versa.
In my opinion, I think the value of Andretti is vastly overestimated when you consider F1 has a global audience of different ethnicities and demographics, the DTS effect of newer fans, and arguably is more engaged with drivers than it is with teams. And not to disregard Andretti’s achievements, but most of those achievements came in the ’90s and before, and has few significant achievements to show in the last decade.
CM: There’s definitely an argument for that, in the sense of it not being as relevant globally to boost F1 commercially. It is clearly one of the most relevant names you can find in motorsport, but that alone doesn’t provide value and resonance in the same way that perhaps even Cadillac does more generally across the world.
There are far more road users than F1 fans, and therefore a far bigger market of people who are likely to have heard of Cadillac than they are of Andretti.
But as I’ve stated elsewhere, that still doesn’t make F1’s point a good one in my view. Mercedes is in F1 to help boost its brand, so is Red Bull, so too are McLaren and Aston Martin, and even though it tries to act differently, Ferrari’s name is synonymous with the sport too and would be impacted to some extent if it were no longer part of F1.
Every brand is using the huge marketing platform the sport and its fan base provides, and Andretti is no different. So I don’t see any reason why F1 should expect a team name to be bigger than the sport itself.
Plenty of brand power in Cadillac, even among people who don’t follow racing.
Q: I usually write in as a passionate IndyCar fan, but had to ask about the barriers to entry regarding Andretti. I have two questions — one for Chris, and another for Kelly.
Chris: Is Formula One Management (FOM) just waiting it out until the next Concorde Agreement to bilk a ridiculous sum of money from Andretti for their anti-dilution fee?
Kelly: If Andretti changes his mind about F1 and decides to jump into NASCAR (with GM as their engine supplier), what do you think NASCAR’s reaction/team reaction would be?
Rob, Rochester, NY
CM: That’s a big aspect of this. An F1 team is worth far more than the $200m anti-dilution fee suggests (even though that’s meant to be a way of compensating the existing teams so they don’t lose out financially by someone else joining), and that figure was put in place at a very different time for the sport.
As pointed out in other answers, Andretti knows that too and it’s one of the reasons why it made so much sense to the project to try and join now. A much higher number doesn’t necessarily price Andretti out at all, it just needs to still make business sense for both sides — that it shows the value of an F1 team, compensates the existing teams and doesn’t cost FOM more money, plus still leaves Andretti with an asset worth at least as much as the investment cost.
KELLY CRANDALL: I have no reason to believe the reception would be anything but positive. NASCAR and others in the industry have always spoken highly about welcoming new competition because it’s good for the sport. Hypothetically, if Andretti were to enter the sport and put forth a serious effort then it’s a win-win for everyone. And that’s before even mentioning the name attached to it, the attention it would bring, and the interest it would draw in seeing the journey.
THE FINAL WORD
From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, February 1, 2017
Q: In last week’s Mailbag, you mentioned Bill France Jr. as a ringleader among others in The Split. I’m curious to know what specific role he played? Was he simply promoting his series, or was there something more diabolical going on?
Also, as a big IndyCar and NASCAR fan, don’t you think it would be in the best interest of the two series to work together? Indy is growing but needs more exposure, and NASCAR needs to stop the bleeding. The fan bases aren’t as different as they were 20 years ago. Maybe it’s my because I’m a millennial and never understood the hatred between some of the other fans, but my family and friends are just racing fans and will watch any major motorsport. What I’d like to see is more double race weekends like Indy and the trucks at Texas. Any realistic chance they can have more doubleheaders?
Bob in Virginia
ROBIN MILLER: In the early ’90s CART was a pain in the ass to F1 and NASCAR in terms of drawing crowds, getting TV numbers and attracting sponsorship. For example, in 1993 when Nigel Mansell came over, CART and NASCAR were neck-in-neck on all fronts while Bernie was chewing his arm off when he saw the TV numbers in England for CART races. I think Bill France told Tony George to be his own man and not let car owners dictate policy, and encouraged TG’s idea to break away. And I’m sure France promised he’d be a great partner for all those IRL races.
In the final analysis, NASCAR and ISC were hardly interested in helping promote and grow Indy cars, and I think Tony figured that out a few years later. But what group benefitted most from The Split? That would be Mr. France’s stock car series. I congratulated him one day during the Brickyard for helping start the war and he didn’t find it funny. But Jay Frye has opened the door to ISC again at Phoenix and Watkins Glen and it seems to have some potential. As far as doubleheaders, I would think Iowa might consider it, although it’s not working at Texas anymore.