Will Andretti/Cadillac birth a genuine American F1 team?
If you log onto Andrettiautosport.com, you’ll find seven vertical boxes that outline the different kinds of racing that Michael Andretti’s company is involved in: Extreme E, Formula E, the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, IndyCar, Indy Lights, the Supercar Championship and Super Copa.
In late 2021, Andretti made it public—actually, his father Mario Andretti inadvertently made it public—that Michael would like to add one more vertical box to that inventory: Formula 1.
Last February, when the buzz was at full din, I asked fellow IndyCar and IMSA team owner Bobby Rahal, an Indianapolis 500 winner and in 1978, a Formula 1 driver himself, what he thought about Andretti’s chances then of getting accepted into Formula 1’s gang-of-10 inner circle.
“I think, good luck,” Rahal said.
It wasn’t just money. Andretti, who also raced in F1, told me he had the $200 million entry fee, plus backing for starting a from-scratch F1 team, which could run five times more than that pricey entry fee. And, as you may know, Andretti was sent home with his tail between his legs.
F1 is a business, a lucrative one if you’re good at it. And the 10 teams in F1, which are mandated to field two cars apiece, saw no reason to split the pie eleven ways instead of ten. Several principals let it be known that they didn’t get the value Andretti would bring to the table that should cost them part of that pie.
That changed Thursday when the press release dropped: Michael Andretti and Cadillac would be joining forces in an attempt to join F1. Is anybody saying General Motors racing in F1 wouldn’t be value added? Anyone? Bueller? Crickets.
That doesn’t mean it’s a done deal, despite the admirably try-and-stop-us tone of the press release. Here’s Mark Reuss, GM president and a dedicated motorsports fan:
“General Motors is honored to team with Andretti Global on this historic moment in racing. We have a long, rich history in motorsports and engineering innovation, and we are thrilled with the prospect of pairing with Andretti Global to form an American F1 team that will help spur even more global interest in the series and the sport.”
Michael Andretti isn’t letting grass grow under his feet, either. Less than a week ago, he announced a partnership with Wayne Taylor Racing, which fields a championship team in IMSA, a division of the sport in which Andretti was already involved at a third-tier level. This deal with Taylor and Acura (not Cadillac, which also fields teams in IMSA’s new premiere Le Mans-bound GTP class) shows how diversified Andretti is.
Let it not be forgotten—assuming you even knew this—that when Penske and Dodge parted ways in NASCAR, Andretti was going to go NASCAR racing with Dodge and Kurt Busch, even investing in a facility before Dodge suddenly pulled the plug. And Andretti came this close to bringing Volkswagen into NASCAR before that deal fell apart. And be aware that even as he was angling for an F1 invitation (that’s how it works, all 10 teams had to vote you in), he told me he’d still go NASCAR racing “if the right deal came along.”
Bottom line: Do not discount Michael Andretti. Do not discount Mark Reuss. Especially do not discount Michael Andretti and Mark Reuss.
The Andretti-Cadillac F1 team would be based in the U.S. with a facility in the United Kingdom. The team would have at least one American driver, which is one more than the other American team, Gene Haas’ Haas Formula LLC, has had in its seven years. That driver would most likely be Colton Herta, the 22-year-old Honda-powered Andretti IndyCar driver who has to be hoping he doesn’t age out before Andretti and Cadillac get permission to begin building their team.
Unless they buy an existing team, that is—a possibility, and you have to think Gene Haas may be tired of spending money on a perennial backmarker. He might relish selling his seat at the table for GM money, though Haas flatly turned down an Andretti offer last year. It could be 2025 before an all-new team can get up to speed.
Andretti’s backers last February were, he told me, not a group of investors, but “a couple of guys” known “a little bit” to the racing community. Guesses ranged from the Steinbrenner family to Bill Sandbrook, former CEO of U.S. Concrete. If they are still involved, plus General Motors’ clout and fat checkbook, it could all come together.
With three Grand Prix races in the U.S. (Austin, Miami, and soon, Las Vegas) and F1 riding an American wave begun by Netflix’s Formula 1: Drive to Survive TV series, it’s a way-past-perfect time for a truly American team. And if Andretti and Cadillac can’t make F1 sit up and listen, nobody can.
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