Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturdays: F1 Fears Andretti

Formula 1’s decision to reject Andretti Global’s bid to join the series can be described in any number of words.

Hypocritical. Cowardly. Lazy. Greedy. Thoughtless. Idiotic. Stupid. Moronic. Corrupt.

But the word that I prefer among any is fearful.

Before I get into the meat of this very complicated situation, I should clarify exactly how a lot of this works.

The FIA Formula 1 World Championship, as we all know it, consists of three separate parties. The first is the FIA, the sporting regulation body that runs F1 and several other motorsport series around the world. The FIA is a non-profit organization that is essentially the world authority on driving.

As an example of the FIA’s reputation in the sporting world, it honored the IOC Russian ban on athletes in world competitions a few years ago; Nikita Mazepin competed under a world flag instead of a Russian one. Had motorsport been approved for the 2028 Olympic Games, the FIA would have been the competition’s organizers.

The next party that should be identified here is Formula One Management, colloquially known as FOM. The FOM are the commercial rights holders of the series, as the FIA gave up those rights to the company as part of a 100-year agreement that began in 2001. They handle the commercial elements of the series, including prize money allocation, scheduling, signing new races (with circuits conforming to the FIA’s rules on safety grounds), and producing the world television feed.

The final party here is the 10 individual teams (nine, with Red Bull owning two). The teams may not seem to have power in this system, but they do, as there would be no legitimate F1 without them. And as they can grind the series to a halt by not signing on to the Concorde Agreements that are decided every few years, they must be kept happy.

Not to mention that one team, Ferrari, is bigger than F1 and has the power and influence to prove it. The last FIA president prior to the current one was a former Ferrari team principal and CEO (Jean Todt). The current FOM president, Stefano Domenicali, is a former Ferrari team principal.

FOM and the teams have set barrier after barrier after barrier for Andretti. And yet, Andretti has done nothing but hurdle over every single one in the last two years.

First and foremost: Andretti has been approved by the FIA for entry. By all accounts, the FIA process is a much more thorough and rigorous review than the one done by FOM.

Andretti has a very specific and concise plan for how they will develop the team for entry on the grid. An article from The Athletic from a few days prior to the rejection goes over the nuts and bolts of the operation, which was definitely not fly-by-night.

There has been a noticeable tension between FOM and the teams with the FIA in the last two years, as FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem loves to talk and make decisions they don’t like. The Andretti situation is just a chip in the larger story there.

But ultimately, we’re not here to discuss the FIA’s relationship with FOM. It’s if Andretti is a viable entry for F1, and if they bring money to the championship.

FOM cites in its rejection of the team that Andretti alone would not bring a 10% increase in value, nor would it help the name value of F1. Instead, F1 would increase the name value of Andretti.

This isn’t that much of a stretch. When F1 and IndyCar went head-to-head last June with races simultaneously at Montreal and Road America, F1 demolished IndyCar in ratings. Considering the popularity of IndyCar in America, and that outside of America and Italy, Mario Andretti himself is a respected name but just one of many one-time F1 champions… the second point is probably true.

As far as Andretti not bringing the value, of course, they wouldn’t increase value by 10%. No one team could do that, outside of Ferrari. That’s not what FOM should be looking at.

What FOM should be looking at is whether the team brings any value. It’s not FOM’s responsibility if the existing teams lose out on their cut of prize money and become less valuable; it’s if the number goes up. And it would with any new team on the grid, not just Andretti.

Not to mention that Andretti will bring General Motors, the world’s biggest auto manufacturer, as an eventual OEM. They won’t initially, but denying Andretti entry may well cause GM to lose interest and go away.

They are cutting themselves off at the knees long-term for short-term gain.

The reality of the situation is that F1 teams are afraid of Andretti.

They are afraid that they are an actual American team that actually wants to compete for wins instead of spending just enough to finish seventh in standings every year, Haas.

They are afraid of an actual American team with an actual American driver, with a racing pedigree beyond just a name bought by a private equity firm, Williams.

They are afraid of a new OEM finishing ahead of them in points every single season, Alpine and Visa Cash App Very Valuable According To FOM Racing Team.

They are afraid of a team that doesn’t put a literal “Kick me” sign on their entry form in the name of any kind of sponsorship revenue whatsoever, KICK Sauber.

Quite simply, the teams have far too much influence over FOM right now, and are making decisions out of greed and fear that are actively hurting the series.

Team principals should have to admit what their real thoughts of Andretti are. Either they fear Andretti, or they want Andretti to just buy whatever the Red Bull junior team is calling itself this year for $1.4 billion. Imagine all those jobs made redundant overnight because Gene Haas doesn’t want to invest any more in his race team that he doesn’t want to sell anyway.

And if F1 teams want to claim they do not fear Andretti, clear them then. Try and beat them. If they think Andretti will fail, let them do so then. This is car racing, not a closed sports league.

Andretti will be in F1 in some form or fashion, eventually. FOM has chosen the hard way instead of the easy way, with the only winners at the end of the day being the lawyers.

Now, here’s the funny part of this whole situation. It’s actually right where we started at: the FIA has approved Andretti’s entry for 2025.

As long as Andretti meets all of the FIA guidelines and pays the yearly entry fee to the FIA, there is nothing stopping them from actually being on the grid. Heck, they could even force Renault to sell them engines under the compulsory engine rule that FOM acts like will kill all interest in the series in their rejection note.

But because they wouldn’t have an agreement with FOM, Andretti would not be featured on the broadcast. They wouldn’t appear in graphics, and they would be avoided on the world feed cameras. Who even knows how it would work out if they do something Haas has never done in nine seasons and actually finish on the podium?

It won’t happen because then FOM wouldn’t pay Andretti prize money and sponsoring the team would be fundamentally useless. But imagine just how embarrassing a situation it would be for FOM.

It would be a situation they deserve.

About the author

Michael has watched NASCAR for 20 years and regularly covered the sport from 2013-2021. He moved on to Formula 1, IndyCar, and SRX coverage for the site, while still putting a toe in the water from time-to-time back into the NASCAR pool.

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Bill B

Great article Mr. Finley!

Well written and explained so that even someone like me, who knows next to nothing about F1 beyond what’s visible on TV, could understand and see the obvious problem and conflicts of interest.

What this also does is undermine the legitimacy of F1. If the current owners blacklist someone who is otherwise qualified, then it kind of implies the series is, if not fixed, heavily controlled towards a certain outcome. Like we didn’t already have that idea anyway.

All sports have the issue of fans suspecting that something might be amiss, whether a timely call or penalty, but they try not to make it look so obvious.

Anthony Green

F1 (FOM) are scared of Andretti Global and that’s the Bold Facts! What’s their afraid of? Daddy Mario will get in and beat at least 75% of the field at 84 years old? None of these drivers not Max, Lewis or even Micheal or Alonso could beat Mario Andretti on their best day. I will give Alonso credit,at least he competed in the the Indy “500”. I don’t give a rats balls what or who is F1 Goat! The Real F1 Goat is Jim Clark! Any driver that can Dominate the Indy “500” which the competition was 10xs tougher than these F1 & Indy drivers and F1 the same year,earn that title of F1 GOAT! Jim Clark was to Motorsports like Jim Brown was to the NFL and Colin Chapman the F1 GOAT in Design. He to F1 & Indy Car like Vince Lombardi was to coaching the Green Bay Packers. Lotus change both F1 & Indy Car at the same time. Honorable Mention Dan Gurney!

Alex Curits

Wow, great article, much better than the usual Racer.com crap basically referring to Michael Andretti as a stinking pile of dog sh!t not worthy of F1 and not qualified to run a go kart team in Zimbabwe. Oh wait, they have the same guy who every year states Red Bull is done, Ferrari will dominate.

Anthony Green

None of these F1 drivers including Max,Alonso,or even Lewis can beat Jim Clark. A driver that can dominate the Indy “500” and F1 the same year is the Real F1 GOAT! I’ll give Alonso credit at least compeated in the Indy “500”! Jim Clark was to Auto Racing like Jim Clark as Jim Brown was to the NFL. As far as Designer GOAT in F1, Colin Chapman. He was to building those Lotuses which changed F1 & Indy Car at the same time. Chapman was to building race cars is like Vince Lombardi to the Green Bay Packers. Honorable Mention Dan Gurney!

Dan Fryling

Its pathetic, Having Andretti Cadillac would make F1 more interesting, what with most of the pathetic back marker teams in F1 they would definitely be competitive with a decent driver.

Jeremy

Andretti/GM should start a HUGE fundraiser here in the states. Something like “F1 is scared of us, and won’t give us TV time or Prize Money if we race in their series, even though we are approved by the FIA to run. So we’re going to go over there and kick their *** just to prove we can do it! Who wants to help be a part of TEAM USA – F1?”

It probably wouldn’t be long for some awesome t-shirt slogans/designs to come out, along with die cast (does anyone buy these anymore?), hats, keychains, etc…

Anthony Green

Haas F1 Team is a poor disgrace to a F1 entry to represent the US. American F1 drivers from Phil Hill to Dan Gurney should be rolling in their graves at 200mph. Haas would make the Three Stooges look like Team Penske Indy Car Team!

Jeremy

I, too, have been disappointed Haas hasn’t seemed to improve much. The first year or two I thought they were doing OK for a new team, and they’ve just kind of stayed as they were when they first started, perhaps even backslid a bit.

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