Americans are on the cusp of a motorsport revolution, as the country has been dominated by the left-turn-centric ways of NASCAR for far too long. Within the past few years, Formula 1 has taken the country by storm with ten high-profile and highly profitable teams, an intriguing Netflix series, and now several races on our home turf (with the possibility of more on the horizon). Now, racing tycoon Michael Andretti and Andretti Global are poised to join the grid. Most F1 teams and fans have questions about this new All-American bid.
Who is Michael Andretti?
Michael Andretti is a member of the Andretti racing family, one of the closest names one could get to motorsport royalty in the United States. He can boast several career accomplishments including, a CART (INDYCAR) championship in 1991 with over 30 poles, and 40 plus wins. Although his only season as a driver in Formula 1 was dismal, it is still an accomplishment most drivers can only dream of. His family has been wildly successful as well. Michael’s father, Mario won at every stop in his career with four INDYCAR titles (some of which were under a different name or sanctioning body), a Formula 1 championship, and wins at the Indy 500 and Daytona 500. In fact, he is the only driver that has won a race in each of those series. Other members of the Andretti clan have also had success throughout their careers as well.
Out of all the successes that individual Andretti members have had, none seem to outshine what Michael has built as a racing team. The team has secured 17 drivers’ championships across at least six current series. Some American teams can claim bigger numbers, but considering how relatively young Andretti Autosport is, 17 is nothing to scoff at. His drivers have also conquered the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with six victories at the 500, the premier race of the INDYCAR season. This makes a clear statement that only does Michael Andretti knows how to spot and sign talent, but he also knows how to cultivate a winning culture.
Why does Andretti want an F1 team?
Arguably the best racing driver of all time Ayrton Senna once said, “If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you’re no longer a racing driver.” Michael Andretti clearly comes from a deep racing pedigree and competition is in his blood. This alone would make an excellent reason to support his bid for entry into Formula 1, the pinnacle of racing. On top of that, Andretti has noticed something missing at the top of motorsport, a true American team. MoneyGram Haas F1 Team is currently the only American team on the grid. Headquartered out of Kannapolis, North Carolina (alongside NASCAR counterpart Stewart-Haas), but actually based in Banbury, England, Gene Haas has overseen this midfield team since 2016.
Andretti has a vision for not only headquartering his future team in Indianapolis but his base of operations as well. He has committed over 200 million dollars to this project thus far and is willing to go much further, developing U.S.-born drivers, and developing feeder programs as well.
How does Andretti Secure an F1 Team?
There are only a few roads into Formula 1 and most recently prospective team owners have succumbed to purchasing an existing team. This recently happened with auto manufacturer Audi purchasing a majority share of Alfa-Romeo Formula 1 Stake, operated by Sauber Motorsport AG (convoluted isn't it?).
On a side note, this is the same team that Michael Andretti had an agreement in place to purchase roughly a year ago. The controlling group, Sauber decided to pull the plug at the last minute, citing fears for how the team would be run. In other words, Sauber didn't like that Andretti Global planned to move all operations to the United States and when they complained, Andretti stood firm.
As for other teams potentially up for sale, there aren't many, and that's a problem when you only have ten teams competing. Scuderia AlphaTauri has been rumored to be up for sale for various reasons, but the "sister" team to Red Bull Racing has refuted those claims. This currently leaves only Gene Haas as a potential seller for Andretti's hopes. The two racing icons have had many conversations over the years, but through every attempt, Haas has remained committed to F1.
It appears as if the best way for Andretti Global to enter Formula 1, on their terms will come as an 11th entry to the sport. This has been met with great detraction and some less-than-positive interactions with current teams. Joining as a new entry would require a hefty sum of money. The most recent and widely accepted figure is a 200 million dollar entry fee, the most recent full purchase (Williams Racing by Dorilton Capital). However, some of the current teams fear a dilution of profits and have requested upwards of 600 million dollars. Triple the price for the same entry fee seems to have been absurdly pulled out of thin air, however, it has some merit. This was the same price that Audi has agreed to for the majority stake in Alfa Romeo. Andretti's soon-to-be rivals are eager to increase this bid, maybe out of spite, definitely greed, and ultimately, because the paddock understands the luxurious position they find themselves in. Andretti nevertheless, has agreed and covered the 200 million dollar entry fee, is building a multi-million dollar facility stateside, and partnered up with General Motors for future factory projects. All are signs that Andretti is fully committed to this endeavor, regardless of what others fear.
Who would drive for an Andretti F1 team?
Andretti has multiple options for his potential two-car team in Formula 1. Several former F1 drivers have found spots as INDYCAR has done a wonderful job seeking talent and room for displaced drivers. Andretti even has a recent F1 driver in Romain Grosjean on his team. He has also said that he wants to develop U.S.-born drivers to race on his team, another commitment that shows not only how serious he is, but willing to grow the sport in this part of the world.
Probably the biggest ace up Andretti's sleeve is Colton Herta. The super-talented, highly touted young driver out of California has been outperforming his rivals for quite some time. Herta had a seat lined up with AlphaTauri but fell through because he couldn't attain his super license due to a vague point system. Other young talent includes Pato O'Ward and Alex Palou who have had their own contract issues recently but are poised to make the leap. For most fans, the biggest reason to have an 11th team is to see more drivers on the grid. None more deserving than Daniel Ricciardo, currently a fan-favorite driver relegated to a reserve position at Red Bull. Regardless, Andretti has more than enough options to field his team.
Michael Andretti sees a gap in Formula 1 and he intends to go for it with an 11th team set to join the grid as early as 2025 (more likely 2026). However, F1 CEO, Stefano Domenciali has claimed that any new teams must bring value to the sport. Andretti continues to prove the value he can bring to not only Formula 1 but all of FIA. Current commentators, former drivers Karun Chandok and Martin Brundle have stated they could see as many as 12 teams in F1 before too long ushering in a new competitive, well-balanced era to Formula 1. The time is right for the United States to embrace Formula 1 and perfect for Andretti to capitalize on the opportunity to compete.
Photo courtesy of Getty