Andretti seems to be losing ground as now 9 of the 10 current F1 teams are reportedly against the Andretti/Cadillac bid. Even McLaren who have been vocally supportive of the entry are now, from what we have learned, joining the pack in saying no. Thus there is now only one team that is standing in Andretti’s corner, which is Alpine. The big question is why?
The F1 teams set down a simple “any new team needs to add something to the value proposition of F1 overall” when asked about an Andretti entry early in 2022. On the face of it, an Andretti and Cadillac entry clearly would given time, not only would F1 be gaining a pure racing team which has had success in a variety of different racing leagues, similar to McLaren. It would also be gaining one of the biggest car manufacturers on the grid.
Not only would this bring a massive amount of extra attention and fans to the sport, via both Andretti and GM’s large fanbases, it would be the exact type of attention that F1’s Commercial Rights holder Liberty has been looking for. The US market.
This would definitely be a strong addition to the family for F1 itself, the commercial rights holders and of course the FIA who own the championship itself. It could only have an upside for the championship, but where the contention comes from is the teams themselves.
As F1 grows the pot of money that the teams gets grows with it, thus the amount of money that would be diluted by an 11th team has been growing year on year. While the teams have been talking about the direct pot of money in terms of dilution so far, the real issue, which hasn’t been discussed publicly, is the indirect losses. F1 gets millions of eyeballs per race, and with every team added it means quite literally less time on camera for each other team.
Thus the teams don’t want to lose crucial airtime, which quite literally translate into marketing funds. The fact Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari have been the most vocal about this spurs a problem for F1, given the rest of the teams as expected have fallen in line politically behind their respective engine supplier, even McLaren, isn’t that surprising.
Let’s spend a few minutes playing devil’s advocate for both sides here though. Starting with the teams, while Andretti itself I personally think would be a strong addition to the grid, especially as they can clearly bring strong sponsorship to the table. When Andretti blindsided the world and pulled GM into the ring, with their Cadillac brand, to most of us on the outside it seemed like a knockout punch.
This is exactly what F1 is looking for, manufacturers. However this is where that thread may have fallen apart for the teams. GM has not put its hat in the ring to construct an engine for 2026 and while they have hinted at the idea they’ll look into it, all evidence points to a deal being done with Renault to provide an engine for the team. Given Alpine’s support, who is lest we forget a Renault Subsidiary, running the Renault E-Tech PU, this would stand to reason.
That would make this Cadillac nothing more than a branding deal, a title sponsorship similar to Alfa Romeo with Sauber. Given that Andretti would be building the chassis and Cadillac would just be putting their badge on the car (and engine if Renault can be paid) this would give the teams pause, as a title sponsorship could go at anytime, as they wouldn’t have pumped hundreds of millions into engine development.
The fact that Red Bull is also reportedly working on a similar engine badging deal with Ford, where ford just pay to sticker an engine that RBPT build, is likely also playing into Red Bull’s reaction to the entry as I’m sure Ford would like to be the only American “manufacturer” on the grid.
Threat to the Grid
While I think all of this Manufacturer in name only argument is a valid one, it is also a selfish one, as the teams are very much protecting their own interests over that of the sport. Even as a badging exercise, the Andretti/Cadillac outfit would certainly bring more to F1 in terms of competitive ambitions than the other American team Haas or, and I say this with sadness, Williams can currently bring to F1. That’s not meant as disrespect to Haas either, they’ve been surprisingly competitive considering they never even wanted to build their own chassis, but in terms of ambition, they don’t have much in F1 terms.
This is where I want to flip the coin and talk about why Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, might be wary of an Andretti entry more so than a less competitive team. While we could argue all day about whether Andretti could fight for championships is a championship as competitive as F1, there’s a few reasons why the potential is there.
The first reason is that unlike Haas, Andretti is planning from the get go, to be a full constructor. They will likely take engines from Renault to start at least, but so did Red Bull, McLaren, Williams and most other Championship winning teams in the past, outside of Ferrari and Mercedes. Andretti is planning to pump massive money into the right facilities. Given that they are joining after the cost cap has been in full swing, they’ll also be building their infrastructure to fit in perfectly for a cost cap era. Which is something that Aston Martin has been boasting about its new facilities.
On top of that, while F1 is very different, Andretti has been racing in a variety of series and therefore will likely be able to get access to some world class talent to push its charge.
Then there’s money, Andretti have Guggenheim partners backing them and GM on board, that’s before they’ve even been accepted. Basically funding will not be an issue for the team if they make it to the grid.
This brings me back to my earlier point, the teams fighting at the front, get more exposure and therefore more indirect marketing return than all of the rest.
Basically what I’m saying here, is that I don’t think this has anything to do with a measly dilution of the direct fund. I also don’t think, for the teams at least, this has anything to do with adding value.
I think the teams are worried that, even if only potentially, Andretti could very quickly be a competitive force. Which could not only hurt the big 3 team’s bottom lines, it would also hurt their egos.