Is F1 shooting itself in the foot with brazen Andretti refusal?


More than a decade ago, Formula 1 hoped to have more teams on the grid, but in 2024 the F1 organization says it has no room for a team that would “benefit from F1” instead of the other way around.

It is one of the statements from Formula 1’s press release that is difficult to confirm. There are many facets you could look at to validate such a statement. In fact, there are also plenty of arguments that speak in Andretti’s favour. You could argue, for example, that the Andretti name does make Formula 1 bigger.

Liberty Media, the owner of Formula 1, seems to have the idea of hosting more Grands Prix in America, but at the same time, there is thus no room for an American team.

Of course, Haas is already on the grid, but that team still acts mainly in Great Britain. A real American team is out of the question, partly because Haas gets a lot of help from Ferrari. Andretti wants to become the real American team in F1. They have a strong plan and have been working for quite some time, bolstering the technical ranks with shrewd signings, and it seemed like Andretti already knew for sure that they would be on the grid in 2025.

The FIA was so convinced it only accepted Andretti’s entry bid for technical evaluation.

The plan Andretti provided is not on a single A4 sheet. The FIA took the application process for new teams very seriously and made the potential teams work hard to get the best possible understanding. Andretti presented a big plan.

The FIA looked at it carefully and judged that the American team would be sportingly capable of meeting Formula 1 regulations. This was also because Andretti actually started working on the project and it was no longer a theoretical plan. A scale model was even already being tested in Toyota’s wind tunnel in Cologne.

National pride

After the FIA approval, it was Formula One Management’s (FOM) turn to look at Andretti’s added value commercially.

That was not given, and only if Andretti submits a new application together with General Motors for the 2028 season does the FOM see a chance of success. However, 2028 is still very far away, and it remains to be seen whether Andretti and General Motors will continue to invest for so many years, with no certainty of actually being on the grid in 2028.

The financial risk, especially for building an F1 engine, is extremely high, and so it could just be that General Motors will start to stop the newly established engine project already. That would be a huge setback for F1 and the American market.

Logically, everyone wants General Motors on board. The more constructors and suppliers operating in F1, the bigger the sport’s brand name. Yet the FOM does not see that in the Andretti name. It does not think the Andretti name will add value to the F1 brand.

This is very striking because Andretti is a big name in American motorsports as well as the general sports world. In addition, American fans are known as true “team” fans. When Andretti is on the grid, you can assume that many American fans will consider the team to be ‘their’ team. This ticks off an important facet in American society; pride, national pride.

National pride is already often seen in the American sports world. The American national anthem gets as much or perhaps more attention at the start of an American sporting event than the sporting event itself.

With Andretti, this American pride probably would have ensured more F1 viewers. It is much needed, too, as last season the number of American viewers stagnated.

Growth in the American market automatically means financial growth for Formula 1 as a whole. After all, there is much more to be earned in America than in other countries and continents.

Look at the Superbowl and the NFL (American Football), where insane amounts of money are paid by mainly American sponsors. The Super Bowl is watched by about 100 million people and yet the NFL earns from that one event, one-fifth of what Formula 1 brings in in an entire year.

By comparison, an F1 race is watched by about 70 million people. However, these viewers are spread around the world and therefore less interesting to big brands. So it automatically brings in less money.

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Underestimating F1

For the American fan, big brands do want to go deep into their pockets, and so it makes sense that Formula 1 would also focus on the American market. The question, however, is whether F1 has not shot itself in the foot with Andretti’s rejection. After all, firm wording was used, especially when looking at the text on value.

F1 seems to underestimate how strong and big the Andretti name is in American motorsports.

FOM’s firm wording may hit the “pride” of the American fan and it could just be that fewer Americans will watch the 2024 F1 races. As mentioned, fewer people watched F1 than the year before. That doesn’t seem to be because of Max Verstappen’s dominance. Americans love winners like Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

It is not to be hoped for the FOM and Liberty Media that American fans are going to drop out, especially given the growth in the country. In addition, F1 needs to rethink whether an eleventh team is actually going to cause other teams to earn less.

Andretti has a certain status after all, and the U.S. NFL, NBA (basketball) and MLS (soccer) have all expanded over the past 30 years. Therefore, clubs in the league have actually started earning more as well. This involves franchises and not sports teams, but F1 frequently associates itself with the NFL in recent years.

The NFL, larger in terms of revenue than the Premier League, Serie A, Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1 combined, is even said to have plans to launch teams in Europe.

This would make their league have even more clubs, but according to the NFL’s calculations, this would give all teams even more revenue in the long run. Despite the fact that NFL Comissioner Roger Goodell spoke with the team owners of F1 teams during the Canadian Grand Prix weekend last season, they do not seem to share the same opinion on this point.

Technical field

The FOM’s rejection also states that there is a chance that Andretti would be allowed to enter Formula 1 from 2028. So General Motors would then supply the engines and form its own constructor team with Andretti.

There are only four such teams on the current F1 grid: Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Alpine. The remaining teams, McLaren, Williams, Stake F1 Team, Visa Cash App RB and Haas, are all officially customer teams. It is therefore noteworthy that the FOM includes this argument in its decision.

While that approach does seem to somewhat suggest a new direction in the new Concorde Agreement. The terms of the new Concorde Agreement are currently being negotiated. The agreement will go into effect in 2026.

The argument about an own constructor team seems to indicate that F1 wants all teams to have a completely separate identity. The value of the sport would then go up, but is that realistic?

For the record, there will not suddenly be 10 engine suppliers in Formula One. It creates more independence if some collaborations between teams are made smaller or if Red Bull would no longer be allowed to own two teams. But then why not give Andretti two seasons to work toward this status with certainty?

The Americans have concrete plans ready with General Motors, so they could work toward the 2028 season as a relatively small team. From that year they could have gone through life as a factory team.

Stake F1 Team is in the same situation, as they will become Audi’s factory team in 2026. So on this front, too, it seems to be a missed opportunity, as it is not unrealistic that General Motors will now pull the plug on the engine project.

Tensions between the FOM and FIA

Last season there was already a lot of infighting between the FOM and the FIA, and this decision by the FOM will undoubtedly cause that infighting to be rekindled. This once again creates a bad situation in the sport, because no one benefits from a power struggle at the highest level.

The marriage is already not going well and cannot use another discussion. After all, a Concorde Agreement still needs to be drafted.

Time is running out and the ticking clock will begin to create more stress and tension. An approval of the Andretti project might have provided a step forward.

Follow-up steps rejection Andretti

When the FIA announced that only Andretti had provided the proper documents and plans to possibly get a spot on the grid, the rejected parties already announced that they were going to look at legal options.

Little more has come out about that, however, so it remains to be seen whether Andretti will try to force a spot through the courts.

That will also depend on how much faith Andretti and General Motors have in the FOM keeping the door open for 2028. Are they willing to keep making large investments and only get certainty about eventual participation in the next few years? You would say that no driver wants to take this risk, given that the cost of engine development is more than a billion dollars.

No doubt the legal people at Andretti and General Motors will start looking at options in court. If one were to take that step, they would no doubt be sure of their case.

However, that is still pie in the sky. The Americans have just been told that they have been rejected, and it does not look like they will go to war right away.

For now, the F1 fan in particular seems to be the loser. Several polls showed that fans would love to welcome Andretti to Formula 1, but this seems to be off the table for now.

In addition, it will be interesting for the F1 organization and teams to see how their much-ambitioned American F1 fan will react to Andretti’s rejection.

One more option could be for Andretti and General Motors to buy a team. Yet that does not appear to be happening for now.

Therefore, it remains to be seen what the next steps will be, and hopefully, there will be a solution and no hard fight between Andretti and Liberty Media.

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