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andretti f1 congress

Andretti: We didn’t ask Congress to send letter to F1, it’s their call

andretti f1 congress

What better way to begin our exclusive coverage of the 2024 Miami Grand Prix weekend than a face-to-face sit-down with one of America’s greatest motorsport legends – Mr Motor Racing – MARIO ANDRETTI!

In the Miami F1 paddock. shaded by the Hard Rock Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins, packed with motor racing’s elite luminaries, Mario Andretti shines among the brightest of all.

With an energy that belies his 84 years of age, Mario was in great spirits, enthused, passionate and with a great deal to say about his son Michael Andretti’s General Motors-backed, FIA-approved but FOM-rejected bid to be the 11th Formula 1 team in 2026.

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In Stateside media ahead of the Miami Grand Prix weekend, Andretti Global received much attention ahead, as the United States Congress took an interest and hard look at the sport. F1 is booming massively in the country and with US corporation Liberty Media owning the commercial rights, it made sense to check out what was coming to their shores for the first of three occasions this year. As they would the Olympics or World Cup or whatever.

And no surprise, a Congressman asked the question the whole world of motorsport is asking: Why no American F1 team?

Andretti Senior again confirmed that his son Michael’s Formula 1 bid continues unabated as is generally known in news circles. Work continues “full steam ahead” on the road to that goal, including the latest Silverstone base for the Andretti Global F1 project.

Notably and for the record, Andretti also made it crystal clear that it was not they who urged the United States Congress to write to Liberty Media, questioning why the sport is dithering on allowing an American team and F1 entry.

Andretti: First, I’d like to make something clear…

Andrett: First, I'd like to make something clear... f1 bid congress

The letter was led by Rep. John James, from Michigan and signed by several of his colleagues, the crux of it being: “It is unfair and wrong to attempt to block American companies from joining Formula 1, which could also violate American antitrust laws.”

With this as a background the first question to Mario was logical: Where are we at with Andretti Global F1 bid? Andretti replied: “First, I’d like to make something clear, I did not take the case to the Congress. It’s actually, Formula 1 attracted the attention of Congress when they exhibited last week in Washington, DC.”

The perception was that the Andretti’s took their case to Congress to trigger the letter to Liberty Media CEO and President Greg Maffei, which Mario repeated was not the case: “I want to make this clear that they’re the ones that attracted the attention of Congress.

“They asked me to come to Washington and said: We’d like to ask you some questions. They wonder if F1 is trying obviously, and very hard to become more prominent in America, why are they having such a difficult time approving an American team?

“I did not ask to go to Washington. I didn’t ask to speak to any of them. And anybody that thinks that is wrong. But when they asked me and invited me to go there and meet with them, obviously, I did. Why wouldn’t I?

“It was a general discussion and they know we’re somewhat in limbo as well and very obviously anxious to arrive at a proper conclusion here. And, and that’s it,” revealed Andretti.

One can argue, in its current state Formula 1 is no longer the pinnacle of motorsport it professes to be. It’s increasingly a closed elite club, where there is no way in for any team to disprove that the current ten teams (or is it nine with Red Bull owning two?) are top of the motorsport pyramid.

Williams, Haas and Sauber making a mockery of F1 being the pinnacle of the sport?

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Consider the likes of not only Andretti but also Toyota, Peugeot, Porsche, BMW and even Cadillac (Andretti’s F1 partners) have top-notch operations in the World Endurance Championship (WEC) also worthy of F1 if ever they deemed or dreamed to head that way.

But they will only find the entry blocked. There’s no way in as the ten berths are taken, forever or at least for now it appears. No way in. What of Andretti Global’s FIA-rubber-stamped approval? Surely it was a formality after that?

After a lengthy process of due diligence, examining the Andretti roadmap to F1 and business plans, the sport’s governing body declared at the time what was considered “with General Motors on board an entry F1 cannot refuse.” Yet they did, on F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali’s desk.

The greed-based stalling by shortsighted F1 teams perplexes Andretti to this day: “From our standpoint, it’s difficult to understand. We’re prepared to comply with everything that’s asked of us by rule, by the Concord agreement. We were accepted by the FIA.

“Now the commercial side, if we satisfy what is part of the agreement now, then, we’re in. So far, there’s been a lot of discussion and talking, you know, by the media, about other things, numbers and so forth, but nothing directly to us.

“So that’s what has to be clarified from our standpoint. We have to try to come to some sort of conclusion here and we’ve shown that we have every intention to be ready, and so forth, for 2026. And that’s it. I mean, our objectives are clear. We’re going into this with our eyes wide open because we have studied the situation. We know what is necessary to be able to comply.”

Been there, done that, Andretti Global won’t buy an existing F1 team

andretti f1 bid michael mario

“They made a statement early on in January, but we were told that it is not final at one of the meetings. So tell us what we’re missing then. That’s all. We just need to talk and that and we haven’t been able to really organize that. That’s where we are,” lamented the 1978 F1 World Champion.

Asked if the option to buy an existing F1 team (aka Alpine or VCARB if they were for sale) instead of becoming an 11th team, Andretti replied: “No. Now it’s full ahead. We tried hard enough for almost two years to buy another team. [Sauber]. That was originally the plan. We tried every possibility, but there isn’t any so you have to change the course of action.”

The subject of American drivers – Colton Herta for example – being used by Andretti Global’s F1 team came up, which Mario explained is the goal long-term: “You have to be realistic. I think in the future you will try to encourage to have two American drivers.

“At the beginning, I think at least one will be the objective and you know time flies you can’t be 100% sure. You mentioned Colton Herta, certainly one of the strong candidates to be one of the drivers at the beginning.

“The overall objective is to give opportunities to American drivers,  American trained drivers say from the IndyCar Series, to potentially try to progress into F1,” ventured Andretti.

In closing, we made a date for a cappuccino at Monza in the Andretti F1 Team paddock in the near future, we all hope “100% we will do that!” promised Mario, who won his first Grand Prix when he triumphed in South Africa in 1971 as a Ferrari driver.

Mario Andretti interview by Nasir Hameed in Miami

f1 american driver mario andretti

Hall of Famer Mario Andretti’s career in top-tier motorsport is unrivalled

  • Regarded as perhaps the greatest American driver in the history of the sport;
  • One of only two drivers to win races in Formula 1, IndyCar, World Sports Car Championship and NASCAR;
  • He also won races in midget cars, sprint cars and drag racing;
  • Andretti won the Indy 500, four IndyCar titles, the 1978 Formula One World Championship and IROC VI;
  • The only driver ever to win the Indianapolis 500 (1969), Daytona 500 (1967) and the Formula 1 World Championship;
  • One of two drivers [Juan Pablo Montoya the other] to have won a race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Formula 1 , and an Indianapolis 500. He was the only person to be named United States Driver of the Year in three decades (1967, 1978 and 1984);
  • One of only three drivers to win races on road courses, paved ovals and dirt tracks in one season, a feat that he accomplished four times;
  • Mario Andretti is a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1990), the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (2000) and honoured by the RRDC in 2014.