The Andretti/Cadillac entry versus Formula 1 is a story that isn’t going anywhere.
Since the announcement of the entry bid there have been accusations that Formula 1 is running its championship like a cartel, a groundswell of opposition from the current F1 teams who want to raise the amount to enter and Michael Andretti himself accusing those teams of being “greedy”.
With so many developments, The Race’s journalists have waded in on what we’ve learned, how it might impact the bid and what needs to happen for any progress to be made in what appears to have developed into a very public stand-off.
Raising the dilution fund value makes sense
I have some sympathy for the existing teams fearing that Andretti might ride into F1 as essentially a Renault customer team with some (relatively) cheap GM branding, feed at the trough while it is brimming, and then sell on at a massive profit.
If the current 10 teams were in totally rude health then it probably wouldn’t matter so much, but the scars of Covid are probably still quite raw for many and so they will want to feel they have really reaped the benefits of the good times before deciding to share the cake.
Of course, Andretti knows it’s a bad look for F1 to be playing protectionism and acting like a closed shop – especially while expanding the calendar and trying to harness a huge surge in popularity (in America especially).
The double standard of Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo – both customer teams presented as works outfits – is also apparent. But new teams will always be held to a higher standard than the existing franchises, and it’s down to F1 and the FIA to set the bar for exactly what a new team should bring to the party.
To protect the weaker of the existing teams it makes sense to up the ante on the anti-dilution fund, given how much has changed since the latest Concorde agreement was signed, and pushing GM/Cadillac on how it might tackle the 2026 engine rules (and thus become a ‘proper‘ works team) would no doubt help persuade those cynics who fear this Andretti project might be little more than a high-class fake ID being used to gain entry to a popular nightclub.
Lack of due process is causing the issue
Fundamentally, the problem is with the lack of a new-entry process for F1 teams. Were there already a procedure in place whereby a team could formally express its interest and then have its candidacy measured against some pre-existing criteria, it would at least demonstrate that the F1 teams aren’t keeping the door firmly shut out of narrow self-interest.
This is important at a time of significant growth for F1, particularly in America.
It’s right and proper that there is a high bar to clear to get an entry given how important that is for the stability of the existing teams and the success of the current rules set that, over time, could create the most competitive F1 grid there has ever been. But the optics of the current situation are negative for F1 and reflect badly on all involved.
The days when anyone could stump up an entry fee and join in have long gone, which is out of necessity. But if it’s not possible for a well-funded, credible operation with manufacturer backing to get in then that risks leading to stagnation.
If the Andretti Cadillac bid is not all it appears to be, then it wouldn’t clear that bar. But currently, the vacuum that is the entry process means that it risks becoming a political football in a turf war. The politics will always be there, but until there’s a framework for a new team bid to be attached to, situations like the current one will have a bad impact on the perception of F1.
All the stakeholders – F1, the FIA and the teams – need to add as a collective for the benefit not just of themselves, but also the countless fans of grand prix racing around the world. But they cannot either be a cartel, or appear to be that, for reasons of sporting integrity.
SOMEONE HAS TO BE THE BIGGER PERSON
There is a fine line between creating a strong and stable championship and creating a cartel that runs the show.
I sympathise with the reaction I see from people frustrated with the attitude of F1 and its teams as when you look at the basic bullet points of the Andretti timeline it can look like the goalposts just keep moving.
At the same time, the current teams should not be expected to willingly reduce their revenue and the value of their entries by expanding the grid, especially when they have played a key role in F1’s recent growth. They will always fight any dilution. Some people call it greed but others will just see it as self-preservation.
Then there is the matter of Andretti’s conduct and the clear view of those inside F1 that he is not behaving in a constructive manner. And there will be plenty of opinions about whether that’s F1 being anti-American, or it’s a specific Andretti grievance, or it’s a legitimate response to Andretti doing his business in a way that’s antagonistic and divisive.
The best suggestion I’ve heard in all of this is that Andretti needs to get into a room with the F1 Commission and make a straight presentation to them: ‘This is what I’ve got, this is what we’ll do, this is why it’s a real General Motors team, this is where I think it will add tangible value.”
It doesn’t sound as though Andretti has proactively pursued that. On the flip side, has he been explicitly invited to?
Someone has to be the bigger person, cut through the bravado and self-interest on both sides, and extend an olive branch. Otherwise, this will continue to play out as a public back and forth in an unedifying way for all involved.
Two sides of the argument can be right
It is a bad look and it is understandable business practice. It has the look of cartel-like behaviour but it’s coming at a time of rapid increase in F1’s value because of its commercial success.
The original fee was set at a level to discourage the possibility of someone fronting it up and then flipping a team for a big profit.
But the increase in the notional value of teams has risen so much in the meantime that it becomes once more a feasible concern if the dilution fund is too proportionally small to the increased value of the teams.
Why the surprise?
I assume Michael Andretti and his partners are fans of at least one US sport that features a top division using the franchise model. And when these franchises do well, people want to buy in, but often struggle to do so as they come under intense scrutiny from those trying to protect their own vested interests from within. And then, because of the exclusivity of it all, the price goes up and the whole process gets harder.
The recent boom in F1 is no different.
F1 has long been a championship dominated by the teams, and teams that are willing to be absolutely cut-throat in their protection and advancement of their own causes. Especially when the checks and balances have often fallen so far in their favour.
So, given all of that obvious information, why is Andretti so surprised that getting on the F1 grid is tough and that it’s not a walk in the park?
Of course, the teams are protecting their interests. It’s just good business, and I don’t understand why the Andretti camp – and a lot of media and fans in the US as well – are taking it all so personally. The goalposts might be shifting, but that’s often what happens in these situations.
Outwardly criticising F1 and its teams loudly in the public domain isn’t going to endear the project to anyone or help in any way. Why is Andretti taking this ‘us against them’ approach, when it does in fact need ‘them’ to get on the grid. To me, it’s bizarre.
Even a badging exercise is valuable
It always felt like F1 was trying to encourage Andretti to find a manufacturer to hitch itself to, and it’s landed a big one.
Clearly this won’t be a fully-fledged, early-2000s style F1 manufacturer entry, but that’s not a criticism. The world has changed. And if this version of F1 appeals to General Motors in some way, who else is out there that could also be drawn in?
Could we be in for a new manufacturer influx that fits with the modern world and automotive landscape? Will other major car companies see GM getting involved and think it’s time they take a serious look at F1, even if they go down the route of a glorified marketing and branding exercise rather than doing everything from scratch like Toyota did 20 years ago?
F1 has combined a boom in popularity with getting its house in order on the financial side. You can see why that would look like ripe turf for more major manufacturers to look for some way to get involved.
Lead picture courtesy of Chris Paul Design/Unkredible Studios