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OPINION: In Denying Andretti’s Bid, F1 Showed Serious Problems Within the Entire Competition

Written By Gabriel Tsui; Edited by: Mara Simion

Credit - Darron Cummings, AP Photo

In the afternoon hours of January 31st, Formula One Limited released a statement on their website, concluding the application for Andretti Formula Racing to enter Formula One.

In a short conclusion, they determined that Andretti “would not, in and of itself, provide value to the championship (as in F1).” They claimed that while Andretti carries some recognition among F1 fans, they believe that Formula One would bring value to the Andretti Brand, rather than the other way around. 

At the end of said statement, they also claimed: “The most significant way in which a new entrant would bring value is by being competitive, in particular by competing for podiums and race wins.”, hinting that they believe Andretti will fail in their early years and not be able to compete for podiums and wins.

However, I believe that Formula One Management (FOM) made an incredible error in denying the bid, and this inadequate mistake has shown serious problems of their own.

Their words contradict themselves on multiple levels, claiming that Andretti would benefit from Formula One more than the other way around, but fail to see that a household American name brings far more attention to the sport than multiple races in America.

Andretti Autosport is one of the most well known names within the motorsport world, with teams participating in some of the most watched series’ around the world, such as Indycar and Formula E, while participating in other series such as IMSA, Supercars and Indy NXT. 

While Andretti would certainly benefit from the fame and sponsorship opportunity by participating within the Formula One Series, the Andretti brand attracts fans from all over the world, be it fans from the old times that saw the Andretti family win multiple championship titles, or the fans nowadays who grew up watching the Andretti team in Indycar, winning multiple championships from the mid-2000s to early 2010s. 

Stefano Domenicali, CEO of F1; Credit - Simon Galloway, Motorsport Images

It makes the decision even more puzzling taking into account that their main focus in recent years is to bring in more and more American fans, which explains the additions of Miami GP and Las Vegas GP.

However, during the three races held in the United States of America, Miami GP has to compete with the NASCAR races, the NHL playoffs and the NBA playoffs, while the US GP in Austin overlaps with the NFL season, NHL season opening and the NASCAR playoffs, and the Las Vegas GP faces competition with the baseball World Series.

To attract more viewers over 23 weeks, why not add another American team to the mix?

On the other hand, FOM’s concern as to Andretti’s competitiveness and ability to compete isn’t unfounded. Past additions such as Caterham, Manor, HRT are all prime examples of teams not able to find their footing within the Formula One world, and fade away from the sport.

Younger teams such as Haas F1 have also been bottom feeders for years since joining F1, with their best season coming from 2018, where they finished fifth in the championship. However, a counterpoint raised by many within the racing community is that underdogs nowadays such as Williams, Sauber, Toro Rosso and Haas are all seconds behind Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes.

Using FIA’s logic, these teams are all non-contributors to the championship and bring no value to the sport, which in of itself is completely false.

Another argument for Andretti is that they already have a team with basic F1 infrastructure with a secure financial source funding it. They currently already have a F1 car model, with wind tunnel testing and parts in production.

They built up key infrastructure such as headquarters in both Silverstone and Indiana, while bringing in numerous top tier talent from F1 teams to develop their team, such as technical director Nick Chester, head of aerodynamics Jon Tomlinson and chief designer John McQuilliam. 

They also received support from General Motors (GM), who committed as a power unit supplier starting from 2028, while providing the needed manpower, wind tunnel testing time, and manufacturing parts. GM has been a manufacturer of multiple championships for the past decades, the most prominent being Chevrolet in the NASCAR Series and the Indycar Series.

They have the necessary experience to serve as an engine manufacturer, and would be an incredible addition to Formula One, who has been targeting more engine manufacturers. Unlike other teams that have shaky operations, Andretti Global already have every necessary campaign to run a F1 team, alongside a heavyweight company bankrolling the operation, there is no reason to deny Andretti’s bid. 

However, with all of that in mind, the most frustrating part isn’t the absolute blindness towards the benefits and solely focusing on the negatives. The most infuriating part of this entire debacle is that this conclusion isn’t drawn based on technicalities or engineering or even a racing decision; it was a choice made solely on financial motivations.

Throughout the entire statement, it was majorly focused on monetary incentives. In their announcement, within the subsection of FOM describing their review process, five of the seven key areas of review were focused on the economic side of things, with four of them being researching the impacts on investors. 

As much as I understand the fact that Formula One is all about the money, financial incentives should never overpower competition factors.

Sadly, as shown in the past two years or so, rather than inviting competition that brings variety and competitiveness to a world class series that has been ravaged by single team domination, FOM and F1 teams instead insist on closing the gates of their little empire, electing to keep the current system to collect a few more pennies on the dollar.

Even though in the statement FOM encouraged a bid in 2028, where the team would join F1 alongside GM as a manufacturer, by the time Andretti is allowed to apply again, the Concorde agreement will be renewed and the dilution fee is rumoured to be set at 600 million USD, triple the current one. At that point, would Andretti or GM even be motivated to join F1 anymore? 

Concluding all thoughts, it is an incredible mistake for the FOM to deny a new member, especially one that could bring incredible value to the sport.

Throughout the entire process, they have shown that they would rather choose to selfishly preserve themselves and earn more money, instead of inviting competition that could help their causes, such as expanding the North American market and introducing more competitiveness to the top teams, their goals all along.

This situation shows the rooted organisational problems, and these problems need fixing.

Fans deserve a management that puts the fans’ and the sport’s interests first, but unfortunately that is not the case. It is one that fans have to live with, and that is an incredible misfortune.

1 comment

1 Komen

09 Feb

Imagine running a competition and a globally well known name wants to enter, with heritage in the sport, cash, a market you want to tap into and a manufacturer willing to come all in. Do you A) turn it away because it might upset you current entries and their financial nest feathering - effectively taking a cowards route or B) welcome them to the competition and let them live or die by competitive means..

F1 goes for plan A every time.

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