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Senators call on Justice Department and FTC to investigate Formula 1 for rejecting Andretti Global

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of influential senators is calling on the Biden administration to investigate Formula 1 over its decision to reject Andretti Global from racing on the grid in the coming years, suggesting the sport may be violating American antitrust law as it grows its U.S. fan base.

They made the request in a letter sent Tuesday and viewed by NBC News, which was led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the chair of the Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, and joined by the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

The letter is addressed to Jonathan Kanter, the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, and Lina Khan, the chair of the Federal Trade Commission — two entities that share enforcement of antitrust law.

It’s co-signed by Democratic Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, whose state is home to General Motors, which has partnered with Andretti Global to build its engines. It’s also signed by Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who represents the state where Andretti is based, and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif.

The six senators said they are “concerned” that F1 may be acting on behalf of other teams, “including foreign automakers,” to deny Andretti's bid to enter the sport in 2025 or 2026 even though its governing body, the FIA, approved its application. Formula 1 management, the commercial side of the sport, rejected its bid in January, doubting the team would be competitive or increase the value of the championship.

"It is possible that such a refusal to deal—especially if orchestrated through a group boycott—could violate U.S. antitrust laws,” the senators wrote.

“Last year, F1 hosted three races in America, in Miami, Las Vegas, and Austin, while no other country hosted more than a single race,” they added. “Clearly there is a financial incentive to adding an American team to F1’s roster, and there is no reason they should be blocked unless [Formula 1 management] is trying to insulate its current partners from competition.”

The letter underscores rising interest by the U.S. government in the actions of F1 as it penetrates deeper into the American market with a growing fan base. A group of House members held a news conference with Mario Andretti on May 1 to pressure F1 to admit his team, and Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, launched an independent inquiry the next week. A Justice Department or FTC probe would represent a significant escalation.

Representatives for the Justice Department and the FTC confirmed Tuesday that they received the letter but declined to comment further.

A spokesperson for F1 did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the senators’ allegations. F1 and its American owner, Liberty Media, have not publicly addressed the pressure from Congress to admit Andretti as the 11th team.

“The most significant way in which a new entrant would bring value is by being competitive. We do not believe that the Applicant would be a competitive participant,” F1 said in its January statement rejecting Andretti, adding: “While the Andretti name carries some recognition for F1 fans, our research indicates that F1 would bring value to the Andretti brand rather than the other way around.”

Andretti Global praised the senators for their letter Tuesday.

“We are pleased that Senators Klobuchar and Lee and their bipartisan colleagues have joined members of the House and called for an investigation into the practices of Liberty Media,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Our focus at Andretti Global remains on building a world-class Formula One team and being ready to compete in 2026.”

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com