Andretti’s bid to join the Formula One grid in 2026 has been rejected with the sport claiming bluntly that the American team would “not add value to the championship”. However, the door has been left open for a potential entry in 2028 backed by General Motors.
It remains to be seen how Andretti, whose bid is backed by GM via its Cadillac brand and whose entry had been recommended by motorsport’s world governing body the FIA, reacts to the news. Andretti had already hired a significant number of staff and built a 60 per cent model car to the current rules in a wind tunnel. But it would surprise no one if it turned into a messy legal battle on anti-competition grounds.
No doubt mindful of that, Formula One released a lengthy and very carefully-worded statement outlining the reasoning behind its decision.
Among the reasons cited, the sport argued there was not physically enough room for an 11th team, that Andretti’s entry would place an extra burden on existing promoters, that it was not convinced Andretti would be competitive enough, and that the team’s need for a customer engine in the short-term, before GM could build them a power unit, would “damage the prestige and standing of the championship”.
Perhaps most stinging of all was the claim that, while the Andretti name carried “some recognition for F1 fans”, the sport’s research indicated that “F1 would bring value to the Andretti brand rather than the other way around”.
Michael Andretti, who owns Andretti Autosport, is one of the most successful Indycar drivers of all time. He raced for McLaren for most of the 1993 season, and his team compete in various series including Indycar, endurance racing, touring cars, and the electric Formula E and Extreme E championships. Michael’s father Mario was the Formula One world champion in 1978 and won 12 grands prix in a fabled career.
Reacting to the news, Mario said: “I’m devastated. I won’t say anything else because I can’t find any other words besides devastated.”
While the rejection was blunt, no one can claim to be very surprised. Formula One and most of the existing teams had already indicated that there was no appetite for an 11th entrant, given it would dilute their share of the prize money. There is an ‘anti-dilution fee’ which any new entrant would have to pay, but is currently ‘only’ $200 million (£157 million).
This could well be the reason F1 says it would “look differently” on a GM-backed application for 2028, either as a full works team or a customer team. “In this case there would be additional factors to consider in respect of the value that the applicant would bring to the championship,” F1’s statement said.
It may not be coincidental that by then a new Concorde Agreement – the commercial pact that binds the sport’s stakeholders – will have been thrashed out. It is thought that teams believe the anti-dilution fee should be raised to at least $600m (£472 million).