Andretti’s latest hurdle reveals F1 ambitions

It was a disappointing but not entirely unexpected verdict from Formula 1 when it delivered the commercial assessment results of Andretti’s effort to join the grid.

The rejection letter was comprehensive, as it explained exactly why it did not feel like it was the right time for an 11th team to join the circus.

But there were two stand-out pieces of information in the ruling that probably perplexed fans: the competitiveness argument and the burden on promoters.

Did Andretti underestimate the challenge?

The biggest standout of the entire ruling was how F1 assessed the ‘competitiveness’ based on the proposals for the 2025 and 2026 seasons. It is arguably a period when it will be most intense for teams, as they will be finalising developments for their current cars while going full steam ahead on a completely new concept that has very little carry-over.

F1’s conclusion read: “Our assessment process has established that the presence of an 11th team would not, on its own, provide value to the Championship. 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.”

This hinged on the fact that F1 did not think Andretti could build “two completely different cars in its first two years of existence” and even raised questions over whether the outfit understood the “scope of the challenge” involved.

One could look towards Haas as an example of a team that did exactly the same between 2016 and 2017, but you must also remember that the team had a lot of help from Ferrari before the rules were tightened on how much teams can ‘share’ resources.

The vetting process for teams has changed dramatically for the better in recent years. Could you imagine HRT, Virgin, Lotus, or USF1 in 2010 being subjected to the same assessment of competitiveness? The argument can be made that Andretti also competes and became FIA World Champions in other disciplines, but they are all spec championships.

Amid the background on teams not wanting an 11th team access to their prize money pot, this seems like it is an easy scapegoat for F1.

Preparing for 2026

The other conclusion read: “The addition of an 11th team would place an operational burden on race promoters, would subject some of them to significant costs, and would reduce the technical, operational and commercial spaces of the other competitors.”

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem previously made the point using the upcoming Hollywood project starring Brad Pitt, that F1 has already been operating an 11th team.

The current Concorde Agreement expires at the end of the 2025 season, which enables 13 teams (or 26 cars) to race and for there to be space provided by the promoters and F1.

With Andretti out of the picture, the next agreement is likely to reduce that to 10 teams. Even if the Hollywood blockbuster has shown that 11 teams is a possibility, with the APX GP garages appearing at select venues last year.

All of it boils down to F1 wanting to protect the current teams, while also demonstrating that it has much better procedures in place for new entrants to determine if they are fit and proper.

The fact that it made reference to General Motors rather than Andretti, when pointing to a 2028 entry “either as a customer or works outfit” shows you where F1’s ambitions lie.

Caught between it is Andretti, which is in the unprecedented position of having approval from the FIA but no commercial agreement from F1. The team has stated that it “strongly disagrees” with F1’s report and will engage in dialogue to determine the next steps.

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