Formula 1 is returning to America this weekend, and it is bringing with it rumours of a new team. Throughout the past couple of weeks there have been whispers of Andretti Autosport looking to join Formula 1 as soon as 2022. While normally this wouldn’t be possible, as adding a new team to the sport would certainly take several years to plan and execute, the American racing team has a unique opportunity to bring the Andretti name back to Formula 1 without creating a whole new team.
Written by Morgan Holiday, Edited by Janvi Unni
Currently, Andretti Autosport races in Indycar, Indy Lights, IMSA, Formula E, Extreme E, and Supercars. It has been no secret that the team has had an interest in joining the top step of the motorsport ladder for some time now, but they didn’t seem to be pursuing it seriously until recently. While creating a completely new team is a daunting and expensive venture, the other way to join Formula 1 is to buy an existing team, which is Andretti’s current plan.
Michael Andretti, son of former Formula 1 World Champion Mario Andretti and owner of Andretti Autosport, is currently in talks to become a majority owner of Sauber. The deal would be with Islero Investments, the company that owns Sauber. His plan is to buy 80% of the company, which would give him ownership of them, along with Sauber Motorsports, and effectively make him the new team owner of Alfa Romeo’s Formula 1 team. This would give the team a chance to enter Formula 1 while escaping any entry fees or having to build a team and car from scratch.
2022 would be an ideal time for Andretti to enter Formula 1, as the new regulations offer a big chance for midfield or backmarker teams to make large performance gains. While Alfa Romeo currently sits in 9th in the constructor’s standings and will likely finish there at the end of the season, the 2022 changes could see them climb up the grid, if they do everything correctly. Having an experienced racing team like Andretti to assist them through the regulation changes and add funding could increase their chances of a performance boost even more.
In addition, Andretti being a team on the Formula 1 grid would be seen as a highly valuable asset for the sport, as there has been an increased effort in recent years to draw American viewers to the sport. A new American team, as well as possibly an American driver, is something Formula 1 has stated an interest in having, and is something Andretti would provide.
If Andretti succeeds in gaining control of Sauber, the American team could be seen on the Formula 1 grid as early as 2022. Valtteri Bottas has a contract with the (currently) Swiss team Alfa Romeo for 2022, but the second seat is still undecided. The main drivers in contention for that seat at the moment are current Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi, and Alpine junior drivers Guanyu Zhou and Oscar Piastri. Should Andretti take over, any of these drivers would still be options for that seat. However, with the team’s presence, Indycar’s Colton Herta could also be amongst those names in the running for a seat.
Herta has been driving in Indycar for four seasons, and currently drives with Andretti Autosport. He is already a six time winner in the series, but the opportunity for a Formula 1 seat is one very few would say no to. While Herta does not currently possess enough points to be eligible for a super licence, the FIA has been more lenient with the super licence rules in the past year, and should Herta be seriously in the running for a seat at Andretti’s new team, it’s highly likely exceptions could be made.
Reportedly, the deal has been done and is expected to be announced sometime this weekend.