Motorsport

F1 to Michael Andretti: Try Again in 2028

by Steven Cole Smith
1 February 2024 4 min read
F1 to Michael Andretti: Try Again in 2028
Getty Images

When we last left former Formula 1 driver and current multi-series team owner Michael Andretti and his quest to be allowed to enter a two-car team in Formula 1, it was October 2 of last year, and the FIA, the governing body for F1, had approved his application.

Andretti then moved to the final stage of the process, which was handled by Formula 1 management itself.

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Today, its decision dropped on Andretti’s head like a ton of bricks. In a 20-point assessment, F1 has blackballed Andretti’s application, though the series managers did say they could reconsider their decision for the 2028 season.

Andretti and his father, 83-year-old Mario Andretti, the 1978 F1 world champion, have been seeking to become the 11th team on a grid that seems happy with 10 teams and 20 cars. All during the process, Michael Andretti’s effort, in conjunction with a partnership with Cadillac, has received minimal support from some team principals, outright hostility from others.

F1 Las Vegas
(Richard Dole)

F1 claims its decision had nothing to do with how the other teams felt about Andretti. “Our assessment did not involve any consultation with the current F1 teams,” reads the rejection statement. “However, in considering the best interests of the Championship we took account of the impact of the entry of an 11th team on all commercial stakeholders in the Championship.” In other words, they understand that the F1 pie is presently divided into 10 parts, and those teams did not want to have to cut the pie into 11 slices.

The rejection seems to rely largely on the fact that Andretti F1 does not have a dedicated engine supplier. According to F1’s statement, Andretti’s application “contemplates an association with General Motors that does not initially include a Power Unit [PU] supply, with an ambition for a full partnership with GM as a PU supplier in due course, but this will not be the case for some years.” In other words, while Cadillac is happy to provide development resources such as wind tunnel time, and has registered as a power unit supplier with F1 as of last November, the company is not yet in a position to build a suitable F1 powertrain, a process which could cost upwards of 10 figures. If Cadillac’s situation changes by 2028, Andretti’s application would stand a better chance of approval.

“Having a GM Power Unit supply attached to the Application at the outset would have enhanced its credibility, though a novice constructor in partnership with a new entrant PU supplier would also have a significant challenge to overcome. Most of the attempts to establish a new constructor in the last several decades have not been successful,” the rejection statement said. “GM has the resources and credibility to be more than capable of attempting this challenge, but success is not assured.”

Cadillac F1
(General Motors)

F1 management said that: “Our assessment process has established that the presence of an 11th team would not, in and of itself, provide value to the Championship. Any 11th team should show that its participation and involvement would bring a benefit to the Championship. The most significant way in which a new entrant would bring value is by being competitive, in particular by competing for podiums and race wins. This would materially increase fan engagement and would also increase the value of the Championship in the eyes of key stakeholders and sources of revenue such as broadcasters and race promoters.

“We do not believe that the Applicant would be a competitive participant.” This comment will catch any motorsports aficionado by surprise: Michael Andretti as a driver and team owner has consistently been competitive in a variety of series, including IndyCar, Formula E, and IMSA, proving itself most recently with Jake Dennis’ win in the season-opening Formula E race last week.

But what about the Andretti name, arguably the most famous racing family in North America, which has become a huge market for F1? “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.”

The only ray of hope for an Andretti- and Cadillac-backed team was this: “We would look differently on an application for the entry of a team into the 2028 Championship with a GM power unit, either as a GM works team or as a GM customer team designing all allowable components in-house. In this case there would be additional factors to consider in respect of the value that the Applicant would bring to the Championship, in particular in respect of bringing a prestigious new OEM to the sport as a PU supplier.”

Haas F1
(Haas F1 Team)

This, despite the fact that multiple teams currently in the series use powertrains bought or leased from other manufacturers. And that the only American F1 team, Haas F1, has been a perpetual backmarker since it entered the series in 2016, and has always used a supplier engine, originally from Ferrari. Haas F1 finished 10th out of the 10 teams in 2023, and owner Gene Haas fired team principal Gunther Steiner this month. Steiner had been with the team since it began. Haas has never had an American driver.

Almost certainly, Andretti could do better.

So it appears Andretti’s only real path into F1 is to buy an existing team, but he has said repeatedly that there isn’t one for sale.

Last year, we asked Andretti if he was disappointed with the lack of support he has received from other F1 teams. “I don’t know if ‘disappointed’ is the word,” he said. “I said some things I shouldn’t have. I should have said that every team is going to look out for themselves, that’s just the way it is, especially as big as Formula 1 is. My point was the series – FIA and F1 – look at it a different way than the teams do. They are the ones who have to look out for the future of the sport, where the teams have to look out for the future of the teams.

“I think I used the word ‘greed,’” as he described the teams’ negative reaction towards his initiative, “which was the wrong word. I should have said ‘self-interest.’ If I was in their position I’d probably be doing the same thing.”

Well, maybe. The fact that F1 can’t see the value in a solid American team, likely with at least one American driver, and an association with General Motors – we’d say “disappointed” is the right word.

So far, no word from Michael Andretti himself. We’ll update the story when we get one.

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