Mario Andretti ‘offended’ by Formula One’s treatment of Michael Andretti’s bid

Mario Andretti ‘offended’ by Formula One’s treatment of Michael Andretti’s bid

LONG BEACH, California – The roots of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach date all the way back to Formula 5000 in 1975, followed by Formula One in 1976, and Mario Andretti was a part of both of those early events.

Andretti would win the 1977 Long Beach Grand Prix and the 1978 Formula One World Championship to become an honored and revered member of the F1 fraternity.

But the patriarch of the Andretti racing family admitted on Friday morning before IndyCar practice began for the 49th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach that he was “offended” by the treatment his son has received trying to join Formula One as an 11th team.

Michael Andretti’s efforts to bring an Andretti Global Cadillac team to the F1 grid has been met with one roadblock after another obstacle.

The team has been approved by the FIA, which sanctions the Formula One World Championship, but not by the Formula One Manufacturers (FOM), the group of companies that promote and run Formula One that is owned by Liberty Media of the United States.

FOM have turned down Andretti’s efforts at every opportunity, including some disparaging remarks that the Andretti name would not enhance F1.

“I was offended, actually,” Mario Andretti told three reporters, including, The Associated Press and the Indianapolis Star, on Friday at Long Beach. “I don’t think we deserved that, to be honest with you.

“All they have to do is look back and we didn’t just talk about, ‘We’re going to do this and that.’ We’re doing it, and it shows proper commitment.

“What else do you want? It’s a big investment in the series, and you’d think they would welcome that. Even the value of the series is more valuable with 11 teams than 10, so I don’t know.

“Tell us what is really wrong.”

Formula One reportedly reached out to General Motors and asked if the Cadillac brand would be interested in joining another existing F1 team instead of an 11th entry pursued by Andretti Global.

“That’s another offensive statement there,” Mario Andretti said. “How are you going to take them? We’re the ones that worked it out, and GM said it over and over, ‘Andretti or nothing,’ and then they still tried to take it.

“I don’t know. There’s an undercurrent there that I don’t understand quite honestly.

“But if they want blood, well, I’m ready.”

The FIA had a lengthy process to determine if the F1 grid could expand from the current 10 two-car teams to an 11th two-car team. Instead of dividing the revenue share by 10, it would be divided by 11, which currently means each share by the current 10 owners would be reduced.

“Definitely, it’s about the financial side, no question about it,” Mario Andretti said.

2023 Hankook London E-Prix - ExCel Circuit - Sunday 30th July
2023 Hankook London E-Prix - ExCel Circuit - Sunday 30th July

Michael Andretti counters by saying a true Formula One team from the United States using an iconic brand such as General Motors and Cadillac would increase the value of Formula One.

Currently, Haas F1 is the only team from the United States, but it uses a Ferrari 066/10 for its two drivers, Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg.

Andretti and Cadillac would design and build the chassis and supply the engine.

There were seven applicants that originally wanted to be approved by the FIA and spent several hundred thousand dollars in filing fees.

In the end, the only applicant approved was the Andretti Global effort.

“I think our guys did their homework,” Mario recalled. “They knew what to expect. There were a couple surprises but nothing we couldn’t deal with. And that’s it. That’s your demand? OK. We’re ready. Check this box. Check that box.

“We’ve met them all along.”

Despite the FIA’s approval, Formula One passed on the bid.

It’s been heart-wrenching disappointment for both Mario Andretti and his son, Michael, but both remained determined.

“I’m remaining hopeful for sure because we never stop working towards this,” Mario said. “It was made clear that our work is at pace, and as you can see, we’re not just talking. We’re putting brick and mortar together.

“We’ve shown that with the team that we already have in place at Silverstone (England). That will be our base of course, base operations for the series.”

Formula One: Formula 1 United States Grand Prix
Formula One: Formula 1 United States Grand Prix

It’s been said that Formula One keeps moving the goalposts regarding Andretti. All they want is a fixed target.

“Again, we’re trying to say ‘We’ll do whatever you ask of us. We know the Concorde Agreement and so forth. We’ll do whatever is there. Now, if you think of something new, tell us,’” Mario Andretti said. “But they haven’t told us yet except for some excuses like, ‘Oh we don’t want you coming in. We don’t want to be embarrassed.’ But we don’t embarrass ourselves.

“The fact is, General Motors has made it so clear that they’re excited about this project. They have a long-term commitment there.

“I don’t know what else we can do. The rules say that 11 or 12 teams is legal, otherwise the FIA would not have started the process. We more than exceeded the FIA’s demands, even with the commitment of having a Formula 3 and Formula 2 team to be able to facilitate some American talents to come out there if they have an ambition to be in Formula One.

“We’re all-in, and I don’t know what else to do.”

When Mario Andretti attends a Formula One race, he is treated with the reverence he deserves. For his son, however, he is treated with disdain by some of the current Formula One team owners.

“Everybody has been totally respectful and everything to me,” Mario said. “As for Michael, that’s the other part. I don’t know. But I have no complaints in that respect.

“I’ve never been disrespected as a person face-to-face, but it’s been at a distance, and I don’t think we deserve that.

“We are trying to be a bigger part of that dimension. I don’t know what else to do. That’s where we live. That’s what we breathe.

“Michael, he’s got me working like crazy, and normally I’d say, ‘I don’t need a job.’ But I’ll go in the fire with him.

“We just want to have some reason here that is proper.”

According to Mario, a meeting is scheduled with Formula One at next month’s Miami Grand Prix.

“We only had one meeting with them,” Mario said. “That’s the problem. We haven’t had enough. I think that’s why I really welcome our next meeting. You know, let’s sit down.

“Let’s look each other in the eye.

“There were some opportunities missed along the way, but we’ve got to look forward, not back.”

They are hoping to regain some positive momentum toward resolution that would ultimately approve Andretti’s bid for an F1 team joining the grid in 2026.

“We want to be there when we’re more ready, but since the can has been kicked down the road, obviously we want to be realistic,” Mario said. “It has to be 2026 because it’s got to make sense for the whole overall masterplan for it to work.

“The point is, right now, the Concorde Agreement that is in place, that’s the valid one. They want to come up with a different one after the end of 2025, they can do that.

“But we started this process over two years ago, and we’re going under the current Concorde Agreement. We didn’t build, we didn’t do everything, we didn’t invest to be here in 2030.

“The objective was to be on the grid in 2024 when we started. Now it’s ’25, and now it’s ’26. But this is it.

“It has got to happen. We put everything; we invested knowing that we’re going by the book. We’re going by the book.

“I don’t want to hear about a new one. You can throw everything you want around, but that is a different story.

“We are going by what is in place now.”

As for the reason for so much resistance, Mario Andretti continues to seek answers why the door continues to be slammed on the team’s efforts.

“We’re all racers,” he said. “We all are professionals. We’re trying to advance the cause for all of us.

“I would like to know ultimately what the reason is.

“It’s not happy times until it's happy times.

“We're just waiting until we can celebrate a little bit. We're moving forward. I mean, the process is tough enough to deal with and to have some of these other issues.

“So, again, just let us get going.”

Formula One: United States Grand Prix Race
Formula One: United States Grand Prix Race

Andretti revealed there are a line of key sponsors and partners ready to join the team’s F1 program, but those contracts can’t move forward until there are assurances that the F1 bid is approved.

“There are so many people that really want to join this which is actually that's to us is revealing,” Mario said. “It's so good because everyone that we have there even at the base that started everyone started this, I mean, we have no new faces, if you will.

“So, we're relying on absolute that the ultimately the experience that we can find, and, and everybody's so excited. I mean, that's the part that of the team that we have in England. They are looking at a future.

“I don't think there’s anything wrong with that.”

Mario Andretti turned 84 on February 28, but he continues to travel to most of the IndyCar races and attends Formula One events from time to time.

It’s Michael Andretti’s Formula One effort, but his father is helping to serve as an ambassador to the operation.

Once successful, Mario would like his son to reward his efforts.

“I’ll be the first one to test the car,” Mario said. “I told Michael, you’re not paying me so the only thing he can do to pay me back is let me be the first one to make a burnout with that car.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500