Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

Formula 1 management has swiftly and unmistakably rejected Andretti Global’s bid to become an expansion franchise in the pinnacle of motorsport in the 2025 or 2026 seasons. It comes nearly four months after the FIA — F1’s governing body — gave Andretti its seal of approval that made the global motorsport franchise the sole finalist in the FIA’s Expression of Interest process the body opened last spring.

In its three-page report released Wednesday morning, F1 did leave the door open on Andretti’s future hopes to enter the sport that its namesakes Mario and Michael Andretti raced in decades ago. The sport’s officials proposed that General Motors’ plan to supply engines in F1 in 2028 — plans the company announced in November to help bolster Andretti’s F1 bid after initially attaching themselves to Michael Andretti’s project as a minor manufacturing partner in January of last year — could sway them.

Michael Andretti stands in the pit box Friday, May 19, 2023, during Fast Friday ahead of the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

But the sport’s owners pulled no punches in its decision that Andretti’s proposal, as it currently stands, would fail to reach F1’s competitive standards while providing little value to the sport and its current stakeholders, while at the same time serving as a burden to those currently invested in the sport.

“Our assessment process has established that the presence of an 11th team would not, on its own, provide value to the Championship,” F1’s statement read. “The most significant way in which a new entrant would bring value is by being competitive. We do not believe that the Applicant would be a competitive participant.

“While the Andretti name carries some recognition for F1 fans, our research indicates that F1 would bring value to the Andretti brand rather than the other way around. … We do not believe that the applicant has shown that it would add value to the Championship. We conclude that the Applicant’s application to participate in the Championship should not be successful.”

Insider:Michael Andretti calls Formula 1 teams ‘greedy’ for resisting growth. Is he right?

Among its criteria F1 says it honed in on during its month’s long review of Andretti Global’s project, the sport said it considered the prospective team’s “likely competitiveness … and it’s impact on value”; Andretti’s engine plans, before and after GM’s planned entrance into the sport; benefits the new team might bring towards fan growth and engagement; the “operational impact” of a new team; the impact that approving Andretti’s bid would have on F1’s future revenue; and Andretti Global’s own future “financial sustainability.”

Notably, F1 also stated it consulted with “key stakeholders to understand their view of the value that the Applicant would bring,” but denied any “consultation” with current F1 teams.

F1 reached out to Andretti Global representatives on Oct. 10, eight days after the FIA announced its own approval of Andretti’s bid, to lay out the assessment process and provide a questionnaire for the team to fill-out. Andretti returned responses two weeks later. According to F1’s Wednesday statement, the sport’s representatives reached out to Andretti on Dec. 12 as an invitation to hold a formal in-person meeting for the team to go over its full application.

“But the Applicant did not take us up on this offer,” the statement read.

One of F1’s biggest concerns was the timing. Joining the grid for the start of the 2025 campaign, the officials wrote, would leave Andretti Global having to build cars under two different regulations in back-to-back years. F1’s present technical regulations expire after 2025, set to be followed by a new list of rules for the 2026 season.

“The fact that the Applicant proposes to do so gives us reason to question their understanding of the scope of the challenge involved,” the F1 statement said.

Joining in 2026, of course, wouldn’t have this issue, and had Andretti been approved this week, they would’ve had more than two years to work towards building that new car to the future regulations. Andretti Global noted this week in a story by The Athletic that they’ve already hired 120 people — most to their growing technical team — to solely focus on the F1 project while working out of a factory at Silverstone in the U.K. The team’s technical director, Nick Chester, has spent more than two decades in the sport, and he leads a team that includes an aerodynamics chief that worked for Williams and Renault, as well as a chief designer with nearly four decades of F1 experience.

Chester told The Athletic that Andretti Global had hired away folks directly from three-time defending champion Red Bull, as well as Ferrari Mercedes and McLaren, among others. So far, the team had already build a 2023 model car at 60% scale that has run in Toyota’s wind tunnel in Cologne, Germany, and it had eyed building a full-size Andretti Global chassis later this year to use for homologation testing.

As its part in supporting Andretti’s progressed towards a hopeful bid to join the grid, GM had already dedicated 50 engineers toward designing wind tunnel models, manufacturing parts and developing the car’s roll hoop design and hydraulic systems at its Charlotte, N.C. base, according to The Athletic.

“I can’t imagine anyone would want to try and stop us and deprive racing fans the opportunity to see a genuine American works team going head-to-head with the legendary names currently competing in F1,” Michael Andretti told The Athletic, taking an obvious shot at Gene Haas’ “American” team that has never run an American driver, does most of it’s work via a U.K. base and runs a Ferrari engine.

“As (FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem) has said a number of times, the benefit we will bring to the sport and the championship are so obvious.”

Clearly not obvious enough to those with the final say.

In response to a potential 2026 debut for Andretti Global, F1 officials noted that the sport “represents a unique technical challenge to constructors of a nature that the Applicant has not faced in any other formula or discipline in which it has previously competed.” F1 officials feared, according to the statement, that running with a competitor’s engine for an already finite time as Andretti waited for GM’s launch, a circumstance that could make its temporary power unit provider “reticent to extend its collaboration with the Applicant beyond the minimum required while the Applicant pursues its ambitions of collaborating with GM.

“A compulsory (power unit) supplier would see (this) as a risk to its intellectual property and know-how.”

The statement, though, ignores the fact that Red Bull has already stated its plans to bolt to Ford in 2026, abandoning its Honda-supported project, while Aston Martin and Sauber have already stated their plans to shift from Mercedes and Ferrari, respectively, to Honda and Audi power.

F1 also seemingly held Andretti to an entirely different standard than many of its current participants in stating that any new entrant to the series should be able to prove its worth and its benefit to the championship “by being competitive, in particular by competing for podiums and race wins.”

Last year, Red Bull won 21 of the 22 races. In the seven season in which the current 10 F1 teams have competed together, Haas and Sauber have achieved zero podiums, while Williams has recorded just two. Alpha Tauri, essentially running as Red Bull’s B team, has recorded just four podiums in that span, including one win.

Also, despite approving up to 12 two-car teams in its Concorde Agreement that binds the 10 current teams, the FIA and F1 management together, F1 noted in its statement that the admission of Andretti Global to the grid “would place an operational burden on race promoters, would subject some of them to significant costs and would reduce the technical, operational and commercial spaces of the other competitors.”

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