After a seven-month process of due diligence, Andretti Cadillac has been given the green light by the FIA to enter Formula 1. That makes Andretti the only one of the seven entities to throw its hat into the ring to have been accepted by F1’s governing body. Following a careful examination of its bid, the FIA is satisfied that the American team has the financial and technical resources to compete in F1 for the long term.
That is not the end of the story, however. After the go-ahead by the FIA, Andretti now also needs to reach a deal with FOM, F1’s commercial rights holder owned by Liberty Media, to be accepted. This is proving to be a much bigger hurdle than getting through the FIA’s initial application process. FOM is also having to look after the interests of F1’s 10 existing teams, many of which are vehemently against Andretti joining the grid at the current terms.
If Andretti were to join as an 11th expansion team, it would mean the current prize pool divided by the teams, over one billion dollars, would have to be shared with an extra party and therefore the current teams would see their slice of the pie shrink.
F1’s Concorde Agreement, the three-way commercial contract that the FIA, F1 and its teams operate under, has catered for a $200 million anti-dilution fee, an amount that a new entrant would have to pay up front to join F1. That money will then be distributed among the existing teams to make up for their loss of revenue by having to share its income with another party.
However, most teams feel this fee is way too low. It was conceived during a period when many F1 teams were struggling to stay afloat, while F1’s popularity boom and its budget cap have now made their values soar. Teams therefore want to see this figure at least tripled, not only to offset the revenue shared with Andretti but also to protect their overall value. Teams like Williams and Haas feel they should be rewarded for having weathered the financial storm in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic, with their respective owners pumping in many millions to keep their teams afloat.
Naturally, team owner Michael Andretti – son of 1978 F1 champion Mario and owner of the Andretti Autosport IndyCar team – doesn’t agree with their reasoning. Andretti is confident that through raising sponsorship and through marketing spend from his partner Cadillac his team will actually bring in additional revenue to the point where the existing teams won’t lose any income. It is now up to Andretti and the GM brand to convince FOM that it will grow the pie rather than slice it into more pieces.
With F1 keen to attract more OEMs to build their own power units, it remains to be seen if GM and Cadillac will treat F1 as more than just a branding exercise. Andretti had a provisional deal in place with Renault to supply engines, an agreement which has since lapsed but could be revisited.
If Andretti was to, against all odds, be given the green light to form an 11th F1 team, its precise arrival on the grid is still up in the air. Speaking at the recent United States Grand Prix, Michael Andretti expressed his preference for a 2025 debut, having already built a 2023-spec mule car that has been tested in the wind tunnel.
But since Andretti and his backers are keen to lean into an all-American identity, the lead time required to establish F1 facilities in the United States might make 2026 the more pragmatic choice. A major regulation change coming into play for 2026 should also be considered. That season F1 will switch to all-new cars and hybrid power units, so it would be much more efficient to defer the entry for a year rather than design cars to two different sets of regulations.
However, the most recent new team on the grid, Haas, debuted in 2016, 12 months prior to the landmark shift to significantly different cars in 2017. A year to acclimatise to the grand prix scene and refine operational efficiency also has its clear benefits.
Michael Andretti has made no secret of his desire to field at least one American driver and has named his current IndyCar driver Colton Herta as his ideal candidate. The Californian made history as the youngest ever IndyCar race winner at the age of 18. The 23-year-old has since won six more races and has been a regular frontrunner, although Andretti has struggled to compete with the likes of Penske, Ganassi and McLaren in recent seasons. That has limited Herta to one fifth and two 10th-place finishes in the championship, which has meant he hasn’t yet been able to secure the required F1 superlicence to be allowed to compete. Herta would need to win the 2024 IndyCar championship in order to secure a superlicense in time for the start of the 2025 season, as first place is the only position that awards the necessary 40 points for F1.
It is hard to see many alternative options for the American driver slot. The most recent Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden is firmly established at rival outfit Penske and seems unlikely to move, unless Roger Penske were to join F1 himself. Alexander Rossi has already had a (sour) taste of F1 with Manor and has recently moved from Andretti to McLaren. Andretti’s most recent American hire Kyle Kirkwood is an exciting prospect, but the 25-year-old would too struggle to get a superlicence for the time being. Current Williams driver Logan Sargeant is one American superlicence holder that could be available if Herta can’t get in.
Andretti plans to complement Herta with an experienced driver to learn from in the second seat. It is unclear who this driver could be at this stage. Out of the current crop of drivers, few would seem to be willing to gamble on joining a new entrant. However, by 2025 or 2026 several drivers might be either out of contract or out of favour at their current outfits, with Andretti perhaps in the position to hand them a lifeline to stay in F1.
Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas could be one driver who is at the right stage of his career to embark on the challenge, if the Finn doesn’t get retained when the Sauber squad morphs into Audi. Kevin Magnussen, who drives for fellow American outfit Haas, could also be an experienced candidate. By that time perhaps even the likes of Sergio Perez or Daniel Ricciardo could be available if they fail in their bids to hold down a Red Bull seat.
Photo by: James Gasperotti
Rio Haryanto, Manor Racing, MRT05, Romain Grosjean, Haas, VF-16
When was the last time F1 had 11 teams?
Among the weaker arguments for why the Andretti bid should be rejected by F1 is that some circuits cannot supposedly accommodate an 11th garage. But the team bosses pedalling that case would appear to have a short memory, as the grid stretched to 22 cars as recently as 2016. Of the 24 venues listed on the calendar for next year, 18 of them featured that season as well.
In 2016, American-fronted Haas made its F1 debut and would finish a fine eighth in the constructors’ championship. It remains the youngest team in F1 to this day. That year also marked the final appearances for the increasingly hand-to-mouth Manor team. While it had outlived fellow 2010 newcomers HRT and Lotus (later rebranded to Caterham), the factory doors would shut in early 2017 when the team’s parent company fell into administration after failing to gain new investment. A similar scenario of underprepared teams coming and going is exactly what F1 is now trying to avoid.
Photo by: Andreas Beil
Podium: Jake Dennis, Andretti Autosport
What does Andretti currently race in?
When launching the application process for new teams, the FIA stipulated that candidates must prove their technical and financial capabilities to participate in F1 at a competitive level. Andretti Global can back this up with a strong track record across a variety of high-profile series.
Running with the Porsche powertrain in Formula E, Andretti’s own Jake Dennis won this season’s all-electric drivers’ title but a lacklustre swansong single-seater campaign from team-mate Andre Lotterer consigned the squad to third in the teams’ standings. Its battery-powered fortunes in the off-road Extreme E series were a little less inspiring as Andretti returned seventh of the 11 entries.
Arguably its most high-profile gig is in IndyCar. Michael Andretti purchased a stake in the Green Racing squad in 2002 and since his buy-in, the team has amassed five Indy 500 victories and four championships. The 2023 IndyCar campaign concluded with star driver Herta 10th in the points.
Away from its Indy NXT feeder series team and IMSA SportsCar championship programme, Andretti also boasts a presence down under. It contests the flagship Australian Supercars series in conjunction with Walkinshaw Racing and McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown’s United Autosports concern. For the inaugural season of the new Gen3 machinery, Walkinshaw Andretti United currently ranks fifth ahead of the final two double-header rounds. Ford Mustang racer Chaz Mostert leads the WAU driver quartet. He occupies fourth in the points.