It's no secret by now that the top decision-makers in Formula One have zero interest in adding an 11th team to their field. This is despite the Andretti's, Mario and son Michael, doing everything in their power to try and do so over the last several years. But how far has Formula 1 and their existing teams, an institution that has spent millions of dollars trying to engrain themselves back into the American Motorsports culture after the botched 2006 U.S. GP in Indianapolis, stooped too to ensure that won't happen? Well, according to Jenna Fryer of the AP, they've asked General Motors, the planned engine
supplier of the hypothetical Andretti Autosport F1 Team, to work with literally any other team. If it looks like collusion, smells like collusion, and feels like collusion...well, you know the rest.
"We're Rolling the Dice"
Perhaps the most frustrating part of this story is that the Andretti's have gone above and beyond the call of duty to show that they are serious about this Formula 1 bid. They are set to test their car, built to the 2023 specs, in a wind tunnel out in Germany, which undoubtedly is a million-dollar venture in and of itself. They've got the backing of General Motors to supply engines for their planned 2025 entry into the sport, with long-rumored Cadillac branding, and have attempted to speed along the process of IndyCar driver Colton Herta getting his FIA 'Superlicense', granting him access to run F1. Not to mention a planned new state-of-the-art team facility in Indiana to pair with their IndyCar team.
These aren't the actions of a group taking their Formula 1 bid unseriously. Even the FIA gave the Andretti group their stamp of approval to join the F1 Grid, putting the ball firmly in the court of the teams and Liberty Media. As far as the recent wind tunnel test goes, Michael Andretti called it a dice roll when he talked to the Fryer over the weekend. It feels like a rigged game, though, and the dealers are Toto Wolff, Christian Horner, and Gunther Steiner.
Catching people in lies can be very amusing at times. Take Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, for example, who's been at the forefront of the anti-Andretti brigade since day one, who went out of his way to lie on the record about not knowing about the Andretti's.
“I don’t know him. I mean, he’s one of the great names of the sport. And I think Andretti, as a racing team, has been doing well in the United States. There’s no grudge. If you haven’t really met someone, you can’t have a personal grudge.” - Toto Wolff (Lying on the record, for the record)
This despite spending time with Mario Andretti at last year's Miami GP, "who spent nearly an hour inside Mercedes hospitality with Wolff." The very next sentence after that Wolff quote, by the way. So Wolff is just lying for the love of the game. At least Guenther Steiner had the decency to say he knows of the Andretti's before lying about this not being personal. These teams wouldn't be colluding to the lengths that they are if this wasn't personal. Even FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem called cap on these decenting teams saying this isn't personal.
“It’s about the money. It’s only about the money. That’s what’s personal. They don’t want to share the money.” - Mohammed Ben Sulayem
The money being inferred here is the purse money that F1 teams get. Like these teams aren't already generating millions of dollars. Can we think of the multi-millionaire team principles for a second? Also one more note on Ben Sulayem, he revealed some of the internal politics and attacks he received over being for an Andretti big into F1, even after his son passed away in a car accident back in March. Seems like a great group of people calling the shots in the F1 paddock, if you ask me.
The Pinnacle of Circuit Parades
Another downright laughable claim that Fryer mentioned is that F1 teams are worried about how competitive Andretti would be in Formula 1. That's the biggest self-report that these teams do not watch these races. Because if they did, they would know that F1 has been as uncompetitive as humanly possible for the last 15 years at the very least.
In case you haven't noticed, around 7-9 of the 10 teams in F1 currently have a 0.01 percent chance of winning on a given weekend. Since 2009, there have been just 17 drivers to win a Grand Prix, and 233 out of those 294 races were won by a driver for either Red Bull or Mercedes, good for a 79.2 winning percentage. Add in Ferrari's 33 wins over that span and that becomes 90 percent of all wins belonging to three teams. It's one thing not being a spec series, which is fine, but being concerned about the competitiveness of a new team when teams currently in the club are stinking up the joint is nuts.
Williams, Alpha Tauri, Alfa Romeo, Haas, and Aston Martin (Free Fernando Alonso) are all there to look good for the cameras and run parade laps (I'm tough, but I'm fair). Then you have McLaren, Ferrari, and Mercedes serving the purpose of giving people a false sense that Max Verstappen has any real competition (he doesn't). So, if these teams want to open up the can of worms that is competitiveness, let's talk, I'm all ears.
The Country Club of Motorsports
So I can only take recent news of F1 teams trying to sabotage Andretti's engine deal with GM, on top of every other derailment attempt they've tried in this saga one of two ways, neither of which paints the series in a positive light. Option No. 1 is that Formula 1 is the same old boys' country club that it was when Bernie Ecclestone was (regrettably) still calling the shots. Option No. 2 is that the F1 teams are scared Andretti will come in and make most of these teams look bad.
I lean towards Option No. 2 for this reason. While Haas got into the sport via an auction buyout rather than a brand new operation, what have they done in the seven years of being in the sport? Five Top 5 finishes, one pole, and one constructor finish of fifth in eight years? You're telling me that Andretti, even with some IndyCar struggles in recent years, can't do better than Haas or one of these other bottom feeders? Also, unless these teams are that upset over losing out on relative chump change in the purse pool, what's there to be afraid of if Andretti is bad? We're getting that upset over five million bucks when you're already getting eight figures?
Yes to American Dollars, No to an American Team
Circling back to the country club comment, there's that at play, too. Fred Smith, motorsports editor over at Road and Track, made this tweet on Tuesday that jumped out and made a lot of sense to me.
That's another element that I think shows some insane level of hypocrisy out of the F1 paddock. You can say Haas is technically an American team since one of their shops is in North Carolina, but they run Ferrari engines, and their team principal is from northern Italy. Never mind that they've never had an American driver, but instantly sold out to give the son of a Russian Oligarch a ride so he could finish 19th and 20th every week. I wouldn't go out of my way to claim them as 'America's Team.'
Onto British-based F1 blueblood Williams, whose only claim to being American is that they have Logan Sargeant. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida native has spent nearly every second of his racing, even his amateur days karting outside the United States. Despite securing zero Championships and only racking up five wins in five seasons racing in Formula 2 and 3 (also including zero Championships in regional F4 racing since 2016), Sargaent got the call-up to Williams because he, much like Nikita Mazepin, comes from a ton of money (his grandfather a fuel contractor for the U.S. Military), but checked off the American box F1 was desperately looking for.
This may come off as harsh, but Sargeant doesn't feel like one of our guys. I'd feel way more connection with someone like Pato O'Ward or Alex Palou if they ever jumped to F1, despite neither being American. American racing fans have seen those two over the years be elite talents, and they've engrained themselves into the American racing scene. I feel confident saying that the average motorsports fan in the United States couldn't tell you a single thing about Sargeant's before 2023.
This is all to say that when racing's Royal Family wants to become an American-run Formula 1 team, backed by an American engine manufacturer, likely with an all-American or U.S.-based driver lineup, is being railroaded and blackballed, the attempts to grow the sport in the United States, and running cheesy stars and stripes liveries at COTA comes off as extremely hollow. At this rate, the self-proclaimed 'Pinnacle of Motorsport' will never beat the old white men elitist country club allegations. But hey, if these team principles want to keep raking in the cash off of an objectively mediocre racing product, more power to them.
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