Motorsport

General Motors officially enters the F1 power unit battle

by Nathan Petroelje
16 November 2023 3 min read
General Motors officially enters the F1 power unit battle
(General Motors)

Conveniently piggy-backing on the immense growth of Formula 1 in the US, General Motors has announced that it has formally registered with the FIA as an F1 power unit manufacturer. GM becomes the second major US automaker to throw itself into the world’s flashiest show on wheels, following Ford, who announced a partnership with Oracle Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri earlier this year.

Notably, GM’s announcement also marks yet another key step in the journey to see the Andretti name return to the F1 grid, with the help of Cadillac. Early last month, the FIA, F1’s governing body, approved an application for Andretti Formula Racing LLC to become the series’ 11th team.

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Michael Andretti
(Getty Images)

“We are thrilled that our new Andretti Cadillac F1 entry will be powered by a GM power unit,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “With our deep engineering and racing expertise, we’re confident we’ll develop a successful power unit for the series, and position Andretti Cadillac as a true works team. We will run with the very best, at the highest levels, with passion and integrity that will help elevate the sport for race fans around the world.”

GM says that development and testing of prototype technology that will be used in the power units is already underway. The goal, according to the announcement, is to become an official supplier starting in the 2028 season. (Ford, by contrast, is set to enter the series from the 2026 season.)

F1 grid Italian GP
Race start during the 2023 Italian Grand Prix. (Getty Images)

For GM, the decision to enter the cutthroat world of F1 offers a few upsides: Watched by nearly half a billion people worldwide, F1 represents an incredible marketing opportunity, in this instance to showcase the Cadillac brand. But from a practical side, GM feels that competing in F1 – more specifically, building the ludicrously complex powertrains that propel these spaceships around tracks at speeds that beggar belief – will advance the automaker’s expertise in key engineering areas such as electrification, hybrid tech, sustainable fuels, high-efficiency internal combustion engines, and more.

Despite the business case from GM’s standpoint, things are not yet guaranteed for an Andretti/Cadillac tie-up to take the green flag later this decade. According to a report from ESPNwhen the Andretti group first voiced interest in F1 earlier this year, it was initially believed that Alpine would supply engines to the team, who wanted to be on the grid by 2025.That became a sticking point with the other F1 teams, who believed the Alpine power unit wouldn’t be a strong candidate for great racing, and by extension, would not benefit the fans. GM’s decision to become the power unit supplier adds a significant boost to the legitimacy of the Andretti effort.

Ferrari F1 US Grand Prix
(Getty Images)

Another report, from motorsport.com, also revealed that the only way GM comes to the grid currently is with the Andretti team. Should that fail to materialize, GM may be sent back to the drawing board, or be forced to shut down its efforts.

And there is a chance that this effort still fails to launch; although the FIA has granted approval for the Andretti team, the charter still has to pass muster with Formula One Management (FOM), who represents the interests of the teams already competing in the series. Those teams have been lukewarm to the idea of an 11th team, because as it stands currently, the massive prize pool of money is paid out in 10 lump sums to each constructor, dependent on the finishing order of the constructors’ championship. An additional team could mean that the last-place constructor gets nothing from FOM, which could become a real issue given the ridiculously high costs associated with every element of competing in F1. (The current F1 entry fee alone is £163 million.)

FOM has said the only way it will entertain the idea of an 11th team joining the fray is if it feels the entry would prove beneficial to the series as a whole. We can’t help but think a legendary American name such as Andretti would do nothing but lift the overall appeal of F1, especially in the US, which now boasts three races on the F1 calendar – the most of any country the series visits.

As is often the case in a series rife with drama both manufactured and real, it appears that a game of chicken is set to take place over the next few years. That Andretti now has the might of the General behind its efforts should, we hope, tip the scales in its favour.

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