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Can Andretti hold on to their F1 dream until 2028?

Andretti’s road to hell was paved with good intentions, but ultimately, for F1, it’s a case of better the devil you know – now Andretti must wait in purgatory

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After such a brutal and public rejection from the F1 establishment, will the Andretti project be able to dig deep enough to keep going?

Andretti F1 FIA 2028 FOM
Andretti already has successful programmes in IndyCar and Formula E, where Jake Dennis took the 2023 drivers’ title. (Image Credit: @AndrettiFE on X) 

As of now, it seems that Andretti’s race might already be run, having not even made it to the grid.

F1 were emphatic in their denial of Andretti’s requested entry into the sport in either 2025 or 2026.

However, Formula One Management (FOM) did leave the door somewhat ajar. In their official decision, they said:

“We would look differently on an application for the entry of a team into the 2028 Championship with a GM power unit, either as a GM works team or as a GM customer team designing all allowable components in-house. In this case, there would be additional factors to consider in respect of the value that the Applicant would bring to the Championship, in particular in respect of bringing a prestigious new OEM to the sport as a PU supplier.”

The above passage was the final point of F1’s dismantling of Andretti’s application, but with General Motors (GM) already signed up as a power unit supplier from 2028, have F1 in essence said: ‘Yes, but not right now’?

F1 systematically took apart the Andretti-GM bid for several reasons. Central to those were three key issues: there is a belief that F1 would provide ‘value’ to Andretti and not the other way around; that Andretti’s plan to build a car for 2025, before a regulations change requires a new car for 2026, indicates that they do not fully understand the scope of the task at hand; and that a new entrant being reliant on a customer engine deal for multiple seasons would be “damaging to the prestige and standing of the championship”.

Breaking down those three main problems

The first is somewhat self-explanatory. F1 deemed that Andretti would gain more through admittance and participation in the sport than the sport would gain from having Andretti.

Andretti’s whole argument was predicated upon adding value to F1. Did they get the angle wrong, or was there simply no other angle they could have played?

Furthermore, F1’s statement shows that to them, value in and of itself isn’t restricted solely to commercial value, but rather competitive value as well – which they did not believe Andretti would be able to provide.

Of course, competitive value would have downstream commercial advantages, especially for a US-based team, but F1 wanted a new entrant they felt would be fighting at the sharp end almost immediately.

That feels like a near-impossible ask.

This also links directly to the second issue. Andretti wanted to start competing as early as next season, which is the final year of the current regulations cycle. That would therefore require Andretti to build a brand-new car for their second season, in 2026.

This point is the most critical in the perception that Andretti hasn’t quite fully grasped the size of the challenge in front of them.

F1’s stance is not so much that Andretti’s plans were unrealistic, but rather that it highlighted just how unaware Andretti are at what success in F1 might require.

Whether that assertion by F1 is fair or justified remains to be seen. But, in short, Andretti’s willingness to say and do what they perceived to be the ‘right’ thing has ultimately contributed to their undoing.

The power unit Catch-22

Last, and certainly not least, is the issue of Andretti’s need to rely on a power unit supply until 2028, when GM will be ready to enter the fray.

To F1, this poses a problem. It will prove difficult to get an existing power unit supplier to work with Andretti, given the known, limited shelf-life of any arrangement.

This issue is further amplified when considering that GM will be building a new power unit alongside any Andretti customer deal, thus posing a potential threat to the existing power unit supplier’s intellectual property.

But the power unit question is somewhat of a paradox for Andretti, and it’s riddled with an inherent contradiction by F1.

FOM believe that “the most significant way in which a new entrant would bring value is by being competitive, in particular by competing for podiums and race wins.”

The best way for Andretti to be as competitive as possible straight away is to be a power unit customer, not start afresh at the same time as GM – we’ve seen how much new power unit providers have struggled in recent years, so why not allow them to assume operations incrementally?

There are already customer teams within F1, and many of those are not even close to competing for podiums and race wins. However, the obvious counterpoint to that is this: those teams are already in F1.

Perhaps the sensible middle ground would have been to allow entry for 2026, with a two-year power unit deal. However, F1’s initial problem remains.

No zero-sum game

The idea that only one entity can add value to the other isn’t quite the case. There’s no reason that Andretti can’t add value to F1 and vice-versa, and isn’t that the whole point?

Andretti believe it would be mutually beneficial, but to F1, it’s a zero-sum game. That suggestion seems disingenuous, especially when American growth and interest in the sport are factored in.

Andretti are a marquee name in motorsport, and a former F1 World Drivers’ Champion bears it, too.

FOM’s decision, and particularly their final comment on looking upon a future application with a GM power unit differently, feels to me like they’re trying to run the clock out on the Andretti project.

If Andretti do indeed run out of steam by 2028, F1 avoids having to say no (again). And therein lies the challenge…

Keeping the momentum going until 2028 is a tough ask. Retaining key players within the fledgling team might prove difficult, and it’s a long time to keep the lights on without formally being in F1.

Not to mention an anti-dilution feel that will certainly be substantially higher in the next Concorde Agreement.

But there are people – and entities – with deep pockets associated with the project. The test for Andretti now is this: can they convince those parties that the project remains viable long-term, or can they pursue other avenues to speed up the new timeline?

Where do Andretti go from here?

In the wake of the announcement, Mario Andretti took to X (formally Twitter) to voice his dismay.

This was followed up sometime later with a formal, more resolute response from the team:

“Andretti Cadillac has reviewed the information Formula One Management Limited has shared and strongly disagree with its contents,” the statement began.

“Andretti and Cadillac are two successful global motorsports organizations committed to placing a genuine American works team in F1, competing alongside the world’s best. We are proud of the significant progress we have already made on developing a highly competitive car and power unit with an experienced team behind it, and our work continues at pace.

“Andretti Cadillac would also like to acknowledge and thank the fans who have expressed their support.”

Clearly, they have no plan to start slowing down, which indicates that they don’t think this issue is over just yet.

This sentiment was echoed to a degree by the FIA, who approved the progress of Andretti’s bid to this current stage, where it has faltered.

“The FIA notes the announcement from Formula One Management in relation to the FIA Formula One World Championship teams’ Expressions of Interest process,” their statement read, before concluding with:

“We are engaging in dialogue to determine next steps.”

That last part is revealing. Will the FIA now look to work with Andretti to convince F1 to, at least partially, walk back their decision?

On a day in which Lewis Hamilton’s shock blockbuster switch to Ferrari for 2025 is set to be confirmed, only time will tell if the Andretti application is dead and buried – at least for now – but given the lengths they’ve already gone to, and the resources they’ve invested, it would be prudent to not count them out.

Featured Image Credit: Joe Skibinski – 2023

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