Apart from nine or so team bosses, most of the sensible Formula 1 world would celebrate Andretti Global’s goal to become the 11th team in the top flight as of next year and, as 2023 kicks in, momentum is mounting in their favour.
It is well-known how hard and long Mario and Michael Andretti have lobbied to become that elusive eleventh F1 team; last year they ramped up their efforts, all but put up the $200-million admission fee but found resistance to their plans, from the teams themselves, through their bosses.
However, the FIA this week kicked off what could the final steps to admit a new team when the F1 ruling body’s President Mohammed Ben Sulayem wrote on Twitter: “I have asked my @FIA team to look at launching an Expressions of Interest process for prospective new teams for the FIA @F1 World Championship.”
In an interview late last year, former F1 dictator Bernie Ecclestone, who engineered the complex commercial agreements, many of which still remain in place, said: “The name Andretti would be very good for the sport, which is now spreading more and more in America.
“Many teams are simply afraid that they will have to share the billion-dollar cake with an eleventh team. But according to the law, only the ten best teams continue to concede. Where is the problem? Up to two years after joining, nothing would change anyway!”
F1 has turned itself into an exclusive members club, no way out and no way in
Currently, by luck of being at the right place at the right time, F1 is the playground of ten teams who share the financial pie ten ways amid a complex formula that determines what teams get what at the end of each season. Hence the shortsighted thinking is that an extra team means a smaller slice of the pie.
History also shows that the very same naysayers still on today’s teams, Toto Wolff has cried loudest of all, perhaps forgetting he did not have such qualms a decade ago when the nod was given to those flopped-from-day-one projects: Marussia, HRT, Caterham, and their derivatives that eventually perished.
Andretti Global is a totally different prospect, a racing organization with a huge motor racing pedigree well beyond what Mario and Michael achieved on track, just by the sheer volume of their programmes over the years. The value they will bring to a booming America is clear for most.
And they are not resting, despite the negativity, as the company, he heads builds a new state-of-the-art facility that will be bigger than Ferrari’s fabled headquarters at Maranello. In other words, they are moving relentlessly with the F1 project after an eleventh-hour failed attempt at buying Sauber last year.
Speaking to SoyMotor, Mario Andretti explained: “At the moment I think we’ve run out of some of those opportunities. We’ve been working to potentially buy some existing teams, but at the moment those possibilities don’t seem too clear, so we’re still trying to be the 11th team. You’ll see we have a good plan.”
As for their plans when F1 becomes their flagship programme, Mario Andretti revealed: “Ultimately, the operational team would be in the UK, but the main hub would be in Indianapolis, mainly because most of the equipment to build the chassis and everything would be there.
“That’s what Michael wants and that’s what he’s planning. There is no problem with it, but operationally, the facilities would be in the UK. This is the plan,” added the 82-year-old racing legend, and 1978 F1 World Champion.
Andretti Global’s intent was always to have an entry for the 2024 F1 season
This gives them only a year to fully mount the F1 programme, two years ahead the new rules package earmarked for 2026, also when Audi are set to take over Sauber.
Thus, no matter how one looks at it, the target date is fast approaching and still remains the priority insisted Andretti: “I think 2024 is the target because you try to organize a lot of things before the new regulation of 2026 arrives. “The sooner you start, the better. We are having discussions with the FIA and I can say that there are a lot of things that are progressing, so we will see what happens. We keep fighting”, he added.
Meanwhile, down at the ‘shop’ it is business as usual with the Andretti F1 project being taken for granted: “We’ve been working as if the situation were going to happen, so we have a lot of things already in place but we won’t know until we have the absolute okay.
“The, it’s a matter of hiring more key personnel who are waiting to know if we have that green light. We already have a lot of people interested, but others are waiting. It is very key for us to have the permit as soon as possible and we are fighting for it.”
“We are still hoping that it will happen in 2024, but if that is not possible, of course, we would like to be in 2025. But we are going to try very hard to be on the grid in 2024,” concluded Andretti senior.