With the help of what was once the world’s biggest carmaker, ex-racing driver Michael Andretti wants to get a place in Formula 1. The opposition of many racing teams enrages the boss of the world governing body.
Formula 1 is heading for a power struggle in the dispute over the expansion of the grid. The US project of Michael Andretti and Cadillac is pushing for admission to the exclusive club of the Formula One team with the support of the head of the world governing body. But the majority of the ten current racing teams do not want to share the growing billions in revenue with new entrants, and the bosses of the racing series are also putting on the brakes.
“Surprised by the negative reactions”.
In an unusual move, the president of the International Automobile Federation (FIA), Mohammed Ben Sulayem, made his disgruntlement at the opposition from the premier class public via his private Twitter account. He was “surprised by the negative reactions” to the plans of the former Formula 1 driver Andretti, Ben Sulayem let it be known. The interest of big carmakers like Cadillac parent General Motors in Formula One must be “encouraged”, the FIA chief demanded.
20 million dollars per team – that’s too little for most people
But the admonition of the supreme watchdog is likely to leave the team bosses unimpressed. It is simply a question of too much money. At the moment, a newcomer would have to bring 200 million dollars (about 186 million euros) as compensation for the established teams. This is supposed to mitigate the losses of the racing teams if the marketing revenues are divided by eleven teams instead of ten, as is the case now. 20 million dollars per team – that is too little for most.
Horner: “Money will be an important factor in the end”.
The value of the Formula 1 brand and the amount of income from rights sales and advertising contracts have recently risen massively, also thanks to the boom in the US market. Many industry experts, therefore, consider a compensation payment of at least 600 million dollars to be appropriate. “Money will be an important factor in the end. It would be unfair to make other teams pay indirectly for the new arrivals,” said Red Bull team boss Christian Horner already last year.
Wolff: “What do you bring to the show?”
Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff also referred to the massive investments of the Swabian carmaker and stressed, “The value of Formula One is that there is a limited number of licensees. And we don’t want to dilute that value by simply adding teams.” He said the question with new additions is always, “What do you bring to the show?”
Andretti, however, is not about to be turned away. His attempt to buy into the Sauber racing team still failed in 2021. With General Motors, once the world’s biggest carmaker, as a partner, the former McLaren driver and son of former world champion Mario Andretti now sees the way to Formula 1 prepared. With the new technical regulations from 2026 at the latest, this could be the case, and Andretti is even aiming for an earlier entry. “I believe that 1000 per cent,” said the 60-year-old.
Andretti sees all the prerequisites fulfilled and his project “clearly ahead of the competition”. In the US state of Indiana, his motorsport company is building a large new racing factory. In addition, he has already started recruiting personnel with Formula 1 experience, Andretti said.
The response from Formula One management to the ex-racing driver’s pithy remarks remained undercooked. “We all want to ensure that the World Championship remains credible and stable. Every new potential contender will be scrutinised to meet such requirements,” the racing series’ top management announced. Any new competitor would not only need the approval of the world governing body but also of Formula One, they added.
Domenicali not amused
Only the Alpine and McLaren teams recently assured Andretti of their support for an entry. The fact that Andretti approached all the team bosses at the race in Miami and tried to persuade them to agree to his plans in writing is said to have displeased Formula 1 managing director Stefano Domenicali. This is no way to do business in the racing series, Domenicali had signalled to the American, the BBC reported.
The fact that the FIA president is now taking Andretti’s side could further deepen the rift between the world governing body and the racing series. Formula 1 is resisting the FIA’s interference in day-to-day business and has long wanted to push back the governing body’s influence on important decisions. The conflict over the grid could become the catalyst for a fierce rift.