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Formula 1

Cadillac gives Andretti a stunning answer to F1 sceptics

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

For almost as long as Andretti has been publicly chasing a Formula 1 entry, there has been cold water poured over the prospect by sceptical stakeholders.

As documented several times over the past year, the reception to the idea of a standalone Andretti entry was lukewarm inside F1. Even such a famous name couldn’t just command the benefit of the doubt and the obvious insinuation was that its would-be project carried an inherent risk of diluting F1, not adding to it.

Those who doubted Michael Andretti acknowledged his personal achievements and those of his father Mario, respected the business he built with Andretti Autosport, and knew he represented a great family.

But the fact that Andretti’s advances were rebuffed for so long carries an unspoken implication that its F1 project was perceived as a risk of being some combination of uncompetitive, lacking the funds required to be a serious project, or uncommitted if things didn’t go well.

Mario Andretti Michael Andretti IndyCar

Throw in the fact that F1 was known to be keen on an automotive manufacturer, and you have your reasons why, rightly or wrongly, Andretti seemed to be struggling to make any meaningful progress.

The newly announced joint bid from Andretti and Cadillac to pursue an F1 entry, though, is a stunning answer to prior scepticism.

Credit is due to Andretti for persevering with his idea, evolving the concept, and pulling together a much more convincing project in this revised form.

This has taken shape over the last few months and is a clever move from Andretti, who has recognised the resistance from those in F1 and taken action to counter it. He reckons he’d have “absolutely” continued to face pushback if he’d stayed the original course.

“One of the big things was ‘what does Andretti bring to the party?’,” he says.

“Well, we’re bringing one of the biggest manufacturers in the world now with General Motors and Cadillac.

Cadillac logo

“We feel that that was the one box we didn’t have checked that we do have checked now.

“We’ve put in a tremendous amount of support to Formula 1 and it’s hard for anyone to argue that now.”

It is certainly difficult to see how holes could be picked in this kind of project. And Andretti put it plainly when he said he is “1000%” sure it has a serious chance of getting onto the grid.

“We feel very confident that once the expression of interest goes out, having our great partnership with Cadillac, we have a very, very, very good shot of checking every box and being able to be on the grid soon,” he says.

In the past, the due diligence process has boiled down to assessing the team’s technical ability, its experience and human resources, its ability to raise and maintain funding to participate competitively, and the value it may bring to F1.

When this was envisaged as Andretti Global, and the idea existed in a more abstract form, a good case would have been made for satisfying all those requirements already.

The merits of this initiative are even more compelling now: the respective racing backgrounds of Andretti Autosport and Cadillac, their likely vast collective resources, the sponsorship portfolio they will almost certainly command, the commitment of a parent company like GM.

They have not ruled out building an engine of their own in the future. Mark Reuss, president of General Motors, has pledged “GM’s vast engineering resources will bring proven success and invaluable contributions to this partnership”.

And there is also a clear strategy of being an “all-American” F1 team, with an American driver designed to accelerate F1’s impressive growth in the US even further.

For what it’s worth, the neutral position before this specific idea emerged today was that a serious Andretti-run F1 team could be a great addition to F1, but for all the talk there needed to be proper action to back it up.

There were some details out in the open but not much, and that meant blindly assuming it would be a successful enterprise would be foolish.

Now it is much more concrete. And what would be foolish would be to deny that this changes things.

F1’s response to the news was straight down the middle: “There is great interest in the F1 project at this time with a number of conversations continuing that are not as visible as others.

“We all want to ensure the championship remains credible and stable and any new entrant request will be assessed on criteria to meet those objectives by all the relevant stakeholders.

“Any new entrant request requires the agreement of both F1 and the FIA.”

Andretti Cadillac logos

A cynical interpretation of F1’s collective attitude to Andretti until now is that it was: ‘You’re a bit underwhelming, come back if you find something we can care about.’ And Andretti has done exactly that.

Of course, there’s no guarantee this ends in an ultra-successful F1 team. But that’s not the project’s aim right now.

The short-term goal is to win a seat at the table.

Andretti says: “We feel like we’re definitely ahead of our competition to get there, so I feel very confident that we’ll be on the grid soon.”

For the first time, even Andretti’s most hardened sceptics would have to agree with him.

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