The ongoing odyssey of Michael Andretti's bid to become a Formula 1 team owner has taken yet another strange turn, with Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press reporting that F1 team owners and potential rivals have tried to convince General Motors, Andretti Global's engine partner in the proposed F1 team, to abandon Andretti for an already existing team.
The son of racing great, Mario Andretti, Michael enjoyed a very distinguished racing career in his own right, winning the 1991 CART Championship and amassing 42 IndyCar victories, ranking him 4th on the all-time wins list. Andretti even made it to F1 as a driver, teamed with Ayrton Senna at Marlboro McLaren, he suffered through a horrible 1993 season that saw his ride with the team mutually terminated with three races left to go. Since retiring as a driver, Andretti has become one of the more successful IndyCar team owners and has branched out into many different forms of motorsport under the Andretti Global (formerly Andretti Autosport) banner, including: Indy NXT, Extreme E, Formula E, IMSA, Mexico's Super Copa and Australian Supercars.
In 2020, Andretti attempted to buy an existing F1 team, but his bid fell short. In January of this year, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the international motorsport governing body that sanctions Formula 1, opened an "expression of interest" process for potential new teams to apply to join F1. Of the seven applicants, the FIA approved only Andretti Global's application. While Andretti Global had cleared that hurdle, it must still gain approval from Liberty Media, the United States-based commercial rights holder to F1. Additionally, many of the existing 10 F1 team principles have voiced vociferous public opposition to the addition of Andretti's team to the series, citing harmful financial ramifications for their teams if they had to share F1's vast resources with an 11th team.
Now it seems that F1 has gone so far as to try to break apart Andretti Global's partnership with General Motors in a bid to refuse Andretti entry into F1.
Speculating that the F1 team owners' opposition to Andretti seems personal despite their objections to the contrary, Fryer writes, "[Michael] Andretti can make a case that keeping him out of F1 is indeed personal: Three different people with direct knowledge of the conversations confirmed to AP that F1 asked General Motors if it would partner with someone other than Andretti."
F1 racing is currently enjoying popularity at never-before-seen levels in the United States, based mainly on the Netflix hit reality series "Drive to Survive." For the first time in its history, F1 is hosting three Grands Prix in one country—the U.S.—having already raced in Miami and Austin, Texas, with the highly anticipated third round debuting next month in Las Vegas.
Having an American team based in the U.S., partnered with an American automobile manufacturer like GM and with plans to run at least one American driver can only build the sport's popularity, yet many in the F1 paddock seem to rather want to cash in on the current F1 mania rather than enjoy long-term sustained growth potential in one of the world's biggest and influential sports market.
Clearly denying Andretti entry into the sport won't immediately put F1 on life support but it's hard to imagine any entity's long-term success if it maintains a strictly closed-door policy on new entrants. Refusing to allow an American team with the legacy of the Andretti name into the sport will definitely sour many of the new American fans' attitude toward F1. Is F1 willing to kill the goose for the golden egg? Only time will tell...and time is quickly running out if Andretti Global wants to make the grid for 2025 or 2026.
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