McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown still supports Michael Andretti’s bid to join Formula 1 and expects governing body FIA will have an answer soon on grid expansion.
The FIA earlier this year opened a formal process for potential new teams to enter the global motorsports series and is expecting about four applications — submitting one costs $300,000 — by the April 30 deadline. The FIA says it’ll decide whether to expand its 20-car grid by the end of June.
Attending his first IndyCar race of the season this weekend at his home track of Long Beach, California, Brown said Friday that F1 paddock speculation is that some of the applicants aren’t viable options.
He told The Associated Press that teams expect a full update at an FIA Commission meeting scheduled for April 26: “What’s come to light is that three or four teams are going to put forth entries. I’d love to see the grid expand with the right terms and conditions. We know I’m a supporter of Michael and Cadillac and I think they’d be healthy for the sport. I’m probably in the minority in that thinking.”
Andretti, under the Andretti Global umbrella, has petitioned the FIA to allow him to add two cars to the F1 grid by the 2025 season. He wants an American-centric team with Californian driver Colton Herta and engine support from General Motors through its Cadillac brand.
But his efforts have met fierce resistance through the F1 paddock as teams are opposed to expanding the grid because it would dilute the pot of money for which the 10 current teams compete.
At the end of 2024, the FIA is free to expand the number of F1 teams
Although the FIA manages F1, the series is actually owned by American company Liberty Media. The current contract limits the F1 grid to 12 teams (24 cars) up to and including the 2025 season, so the governing body – under President Mohammed Ben Sulayem – could theoretically approve two applications.
F1 will have a new power unit beginning in 2026 when Audi enters the series in a takeover of the existing Sauber team. Andretti in 2021 nearly purchased Sauber but the deal fell apart over what Andretti has called “control issues.”
After trying to win over the teams, and failing apart from support from Brown and Alpine, Andretti has since turned his focus to pushing the FIA to expand the grid but has gone largely silent on the issue the last few months in part to pushback from F1 on how candid he’s been about his effort. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has repeatedly said Andretti is simply “the most vocal” about his request among the potential applicants.
The FIA has asked for applications to include a detailed business plan for the first five years, proof of sustainability and how the team intended to “achieve a positive societal impact through its participation in the sport.”
Andretti has already broken ground on a 575,000-square-foot facility on roughly 90 acres in Fishers, Indiana, to house Andretti Global. He also has significant financial backing from sponsor Gainbridge, as well as investment firm Guggenheim Partners, which is expected to pay the $200 million entry fee for Andretti to join F1.
Brown told reporters that the existing F1 teams have conflicting views on expanding the grid, but stressed that at the end of the process, “The teams don’t have a voice. I don’t think everyone fully understands the governance of Formula 1. At the end of the day, the teams have no vote on this particular matter.”