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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