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Formula 1

The solution that would avert Andretti and F1's collision course

by Edd Straw
4 min read

Formula 1’s decision on Andretti’s Formula 1 entry is a binary one, so the answer is either yes or no. But there is a way it could dodge the question entirely, allowing Liberty Media and the teams to have their cake and eat it with no 11th team, but still welcome Andretti and the Cadillac brand onto the grid.

The answer is to convince Andretti that the path of least resistance is the one that F1 has wanted all along, and that originally almost happened with Sauber, of buying an existing team to merge with its nascent operation.

You might think that ship has long since sailed, and possibly the window of opportunity has closed, but it’s such an elegant solution that you can be certain attempts will be made behind the scenes to make it happen.

Firstly, there’s the question of whether there is a team available to buy. There’s no team that is officially for sale, but why would there be? F1 team values are at an all-time high, notionally at least, so why appear to be a motivated seller when being a reluctant one is much more lucrative?

The obvious candidate is Alpine. Renault recently sold off 24% of the team, albeit in a deal that it stressed was not the first step in getting out of team ownership, and Andretti has had dealings with them given the agreement that was previously struck to use Renault engines. The recent Forbes appraisal of F1 team values put Alpine’s value at $1.4bn, so if Renault is tiring of team ownership, as it has done before, it would recoup serious cash.

And while there’s no indication Renault wants to sell, especially given it claims the Alpine team is key to its brand strategy, it could be a way to bail out of a project that has not delivered the results hoped and ensure the future of the operation.

AlphaTauri is another obvious candidate, perhaps the most obvious. While also not for sale, it has been the subject of a thorough review by Red Bull and Forbes valued it at $1.125bn. Should Red Bull want to offload a team that it has probably concluded has limited value to it, while potentially also creating a customer for its 2026 power units and technical services, it could make sense.

Andretti has already tried its luck with Haas and been rebuffed, but the possibility of Gene Haas deciding to sell up can’t be discounted. As for Williams, owner Dorilton Capital has shown no signs of wanting to leave and makes a virtue of its long-term approach but it’s possible that the right price could change that.

This at least shows that there are teams that might possibly be buyable, with owners potentially sensing the opportunity to get a deal done with the assistance of F1. If the price is high, this would not only solve Liberty Media’s Andretti problem but also serve as a benchmark for the value of F1 teams.

You might ask why Andretti would countenance this. If it wanted to buy a team, it could have done and its attempt to do so with Sauber collapsed. What’s more, it has the FIA’s approval to come in as an 11th team and has already sunk significant cash into setting up its own operation.

Firstly, it would surely appeal far more than F1 slamming the door on it. That could give grounds for legal action, but that would be costly, time-consuming and, ultimately, wouldn’t get Andretti any closer to being on the F1 grid.

Secondly, there’s the possibility it could add up financially. The anti-dilution payment of $200m could be increased anyway, potentially to $600m if it’s let in for 2026, so it’s already committed to spending big. What’s more, while it’s already spent lots on starting the F1 project, it could merge that with an existing operation and save hundreds of millions in further investment. It would also acquire vast amounts of design data that would take years to build up itself. The appeal of that varies depending on the team, but it would still be a cost-effective shortcut that's cheaper in the long run. It’s not a slam-dunk that would add up, but it’s possible it might.

And while Andretti is cast as the outsider pushing back against F1’s self-interest, it would likely also suit it to be one of 10 teams rather than one of 11.

All of this means it’s a pathway that should be explored. This would happen behind the scenes with plenty of horse-trading as everyone involved seeks the best deal, so it might be impossible to pull it off. But it’s too tempting a possibility not at least to try.

And when there’s a solution that could suit all parties, even the FIA that will be seen to have opened the door to this, such an outcome should never be ruled out.

After all, given saying yes or no poses problems to Liberty Media in equal measure, sometimes finding a third way is the best solution.

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