Formula 1 could be set to run up against European Commission laws that would effectively force the sport to open the door to the Michael Andretti-led Andretti-Cadillac F1 bid.
Andretti's U.S.-based racing empire made waves this week by unveiling its full rebranding from Andretti Autosport to Andretti Global. It's appears to be another sign that the FIA has effectively green-lit the entry's bid to enter F1 beginning in 2025, with Andretti having met the governing body's set of outlined conditions.
The case would then be handed over to commercial rights holder Liberty Media, whose F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali—and plenty of the existing ten teams—have already signaled their clear opposition to Andretti joining the F1 grid. But according to European media outlet Auto Motor und Sport, Liberty "can't simply reject" Andretti.
On the one hand, F1 might have a point about Andretti potentially not being competitive enough to race against the existing teams, given the limited preparation time before 2025.Indeed, it is rumored that Andretti might need to effectively follow the Haas-Ferrari model by building the first car with customer technical partner Renault-Alpine's help.
Even so, the European Commission might be on Andretti's side.
In 2000, the Commission investigated Formula 1 for alleged breaches of European competition law, which at the time centered mainly around the way broadcasting rights were sold. The Commission found that F1 needed to make changes to ensure fairness and competition, prompting the creation of Article 2, which may now prevent Liberty Media from blocking Andretti's participation on grounds other than safety.
If F1 simply says no to Andretti, the American entity may initiate legal proceedings—and then an awkward situation in which the FIA allows Andretti to race but is blocked from being on TV screens by Liberty Media. The situation could in part explain why Liberty Media, headed by its CEO Greg Maffei, is so keen to accelerate negotiations over a new Concorde Agreement, even though the current one isn't due to expire until late 2025.
If a new deal is agreed before Andretti is shown the green light, Liberty could then simply up the current $200 million 'new team' entry fee to a number like $600 million and effectively price Andretti—or anybody else, for that matter—out.
Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia and Technology Conference this week: "We've seen the value of F1 rise dramatically. But the reality is the team's valuations have increased much faster."
Even if Liberty Media follows through with a prohibitive new Concorde Agreement that locks Andretti out, F1 might still fall foul of the European Commission rules. Those rules say Liberty cannot abuse its dominant position to prevent fair competition within Formula 1.
It is expected that the FIA will clarify its stance over the Andretti-Cadillac bid later this month.