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Inside the Battle: Andretti's Journey to Enter Formula 1, and the FIA's U-Turn

Written by Jacob Awcock, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri

Following the recent developments of Andretti's bid to enter Formula One in the coming years being a step closer to reality, it is interesting to look back at how Andretti got to this stage, and why it proved to be such a battle for the team.

Before Andretti expressed their interest in entering F1, Stefano Domelicali was extremely reluctant to allow new teams to enter F1. And now, all of a sudden, it looks as if Andretti could indeed join the existing ten teams on the grid, in 2026. So what has caused such a sharp U-turn in F1's plans?

Andretti as a team

In 1978, Mario Andretti's remarkable talent propelled him to world championship glory, with the American securing victory in six races throughout the season. While he graced various teams over the course of his career, it was with Lotus the American clinched his sole world championship. Notably, Mario stands as one of only two American Formula One world champions, and he holds the distinction of being the most recent one, at that.

Mario boasts an impressive track record even outside the pinnacle of motorsport, with four Indy Car titles under his belt. His legacy also includes the distinction of being the sole American to achieve victory in the Indy 500, the Daytona 500, and the Formula One World Championship — a feat unmatched to this day.

Mario's racing career spanned a multitude of disciplines, encompassing Formula One, Indy Car, NASCAR, and Stock Car racing, among others. His wealth of experience across diverse motorsports arenas has solidified his status as an invaluable source of knowledge and inspiration for motorsport enthusiasts worldwide.

His son Michael Andretti also pursued a career in professional motor racing, reaching both Formula One and IndyCar. However, recognising the challenge of matching his father's success, he made a significant career shift, establishing his own racing team.

In 1994, the Forsythe Green Racing Team was born, co-owned by Barry Green and Gerald Forsythe. The team entered the CART series with the renowned Jacques Villeneuve as one of their drivers. In Jacques' rookie season, he clinched victory at Road America, marking a promising start for the team.

Andretti have competed for many seasons now in IndyCar: Photo Credits: Photo by Chris McDill/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In 1995, Barry Green continued the team alongside his brother after parting ways with Forsythe. The team underwent a name change, becoming known as Team Green. Fast forward to 2001, and Michael Andretti himself, along with Kim Green, joined as drivers, leading to yet another renaming, this time to Team Motorola.

The team not only competed in the CART series, but also ventured into the 2001 Indianapolis 500, where Andretti delivered an impressive third-place finish, earning significant media attention. Although Andretti secured his final race win in 2002 at Long Beach, he chose to extend his career for one more season.

Facing challenges within the CART series, the team made the strategic decision to leave, and commit to the Indy series permanently. Michael Andretti also acquired a majority stake in the team, prompting another name change to Andretti Green Racing. At the close of the 2003 season, Michael Andretti retired from driving, making way for the emerging talent Dan Wheldon.

Wheldon enjoyed considerable success over the next three years, the standout achievement being his victory at the 2005 Indy 500, which Michael Andretti celebrated as if it were his own. Wheldon departed at the end of 2006, succeeded by Michael's son, Marco. In a remarkable moment, Michael emerged from retirement to race alongside his son in the 2006 Indy 500, and both achieved podium finishes.

Following continued success in Indy racing, Andretti Racing expanded into additional racing categories, including the USF2000 National Championship in 2010, and the Australian Supercars championship in 2018. With each venture, the team's reputation and global prominence continued to grow steadily.

Arguably, Andretti Racing's most significant move came in 2014 when they entered the newly established racing series, Formula E—an all-electric racing championship. They were among the inaugural teams and have remained a consistent presence in the series.

Competing as Avalanche Andretti, the team has often operated in the midfield over the past few seasons, with British driver Jake Dennis taking a leading role.

However, in the 2023 season, the team’s challenge powered by a Porsche drivetrain, Dennis secured the championship victory in thrilling fashion, clinching the title at his home race in London. This achievement once again thrust Andretti Racing into the spotlight as world champions in yet another racing series, solidifying their status as a formidable force in the global racing scene.

F1 bound?

Towards the end of 2021, there were suggestions that Andretti was going to purchase a large number of shares in the Sauber racing group, who operated the Alfa Romeo team.

Alfa Romeo was, at the time, a consistent midfield runner in Formula One, but a team who, with their history and financial backing, wanted to climb further up the grid and regain their once dominant status in the sport. Despite this, the possibility faded into the dust, as talks fell through. Yet, it showed Andretti’s clear interest to enter Formula One.

On February 18th, 2022, Mario Andretti publicly announced that his son Michael had "the resources and ticked every box" that was required to create his own F1 team. He explained his son had filled out an FIA application form to enter the 2024 F1 season under the title ‘Andretti Global’.

Shortly after, Mario confirmed that an agreement had been reached with Renault for them to become engine suppliers for Andretti for 2024. All seemed legitimate and concrete, yet problems soon arose.

Zak Brown has been openly supportive of Andretti’s possible entry to F1: Photo Credits Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

In response to Mario, the FIA announced they weren't seeking new teams to join F1 at this current time. A blunt response that was furthered by the collective disgruntled reaction of existing Formula One teams. Toto Wolff (Mercedes team principal) as well as Ferrari team principal Fred Vasseur claimed Formula One needed bigger teams such as Audi, to field a competitive and permanent entry to the sport, while Red Bull boss Christian Horner claimed it would be about the distribution of profits that deterred him from supporting Andretti.

The only team supporting their entry was McLaren, with team boss Zak Brown claiming teams against Andretti's entry were "short-sighted". Once again Andretti's potential entry into F1 fell into dust, despite all these plans.

However, on 5th January, 2023, Michael once again announced the submission of another bid to enter F1, this time in a partnership with luxury brand Cadillac. Andretti furthered this with plans to enter "as soon as possible" as well as aiming to have "at least one American driver" in his team.

Luxury brand Cadillac already expressed their interest in a partnership with Andretti: Image Credits: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a sudden, quick, and clear U-turn from F1, FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem announced he "welcomed the news" and was "looking forward to further talks". Despite the bright response from Ben Sulayem, teams were still not as receptive. The unusual aspect of this though, is there have been no public addresses from teams regarding Andretti. Just silence. And in a way, this is the loudest of all responses, as it is clear that teams are not happy with the entry.

Just days ago, Andretti's bid to enter Formula One was accepted by the FIA, and it is going through Formula One and the Formula One Management (FOM) for final approval. Should the final green light be received from the FOM, it would potentially conclude a two-year battle for Michael, and a dawn on a new, exciting opportunity for him and the team.

Money, power, fame.

Prize money is distributed through championship order in Formula One. The team that finishes the highest receives the largest percentage of the prize money, and the team that finishes the lowest receives the least.

Currently, with ten teams on the grid, and new financial regulations, in addition to a cost cap, teams are satisfied with the way money is distributed. However, with another team wanting to enter the sport, the money shared at the end of the season would now be significantly less, as it has to be shared between ten teams plus another new one.

So the possible entry of Andretti means less money, less development, and less chance of winning, for the majority of teams explaining the past collective disapproval surrounding this.

At the same time, teams at both ends of the grid would react differently to Andretti. For teams like AlphaTauri and Haas, smaller teams not known as famously outside the F1 racing industry, they would be less likely to be receptive to this new, larger, and well-known team entering, as it is possible that they will lose fans.

A new big manufacturer would surely be more appealing, not only to fans, but also to sponsors who would want to invest in a larger team, so their brand could be distributed to a larger audience. At the same time, big teams like Red Bull and Ferrari wouldn't want their current success to be overshadowed by this new team trying to enter. The spotlight usually is on the existing bigwigs, and when it's not, they certainly wouldn’t be happy about it.

American popularity.

With many people confined to their homes during COVID, Netflix's Drive To Survive surged in popularity, mainly in America, with an overall increase of 4% in viewing figures post 2020.

After lockdown restrictions were eased, it was clear to see the surging popularity, leading F1 to organise a race in Miami, alongside its existing race in Austin, Texas. This was a huge hit, with its unique paddock and fake marina, as well as an exciting new circuit. This caused F1 organisers to arrange another race for this season, in Las Vegas.

Formula One is currently ‘booming’ in the states following Drive To Survive being released: Photo Credits: Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Now with three races in the US, and an American driver in Logan Sargeant on the grid, Formula One’s stateside prospects are indeed booming. Just the thought of the viewing popularity as well as sponsors and income, if Andretti were to enter and have an American driver, is mind-blowing.

An untouched gold mine, some could say so, and no wonder Andretti would want to enter Formula One. With one of Michael's main aims being to bring an American driver on the team, the possible support and revenue created as a result could rival the bank balances of even the top teams. With F1 constantly looking to grow, the sport's organisers will surely be looking at this, and thinking of the possibilities if Andretti was to join.

Yet, the main opposition to Andretti is the existing teams, who wouldn’t want to lose out on all their potential fans and sponsors supporting Andretti. So, if they can stop it, they will.


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