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Formula 1

Brown says Andretti F1 bid ‘compelling’ – but is there a catch?

by Jack Cozens
4 min read

McLaren CEO Zak Brown says the Cadillac-badged, General Motors-supported bid Michael Andretti has put together to join Formula 1 is a “very compelling proposition”.

Andretti has strengthened its case for joining the grid in the wake of FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem saying the governing body plans to open a tender process for prospective new teams, announcing last week that its entry would be as part of an alliance with GM brand Cadillac, but its plans still appear to face resistance from existing F1 stakeholders.

Brown and Andretti are business partners via Supercars outfit Andretti Walkinshaw United in Australia, and Andretti said in an interview with Forbes earlier this week that “Zak has been very supportive” of the team’s attempts to join the grid

But while McLaren was originally a proponent when Andretti began to speak more vocally about his ambitions to join F1 last spring, Alpine – which through Renault would supply the prospective team’s engines and which Andretti name-checked alongside Brown as a party willing to do “whatever” it took to help his team be accepted – is now believed to be the only team actively in favour of expanding the grid to accommodate Andretti with the other nine needing further convincing.

Teams are also pushing for the $200million anti-dilution fund that any new entrant would have to pay to be increased significantly.

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Asked by The Race for his opinion on the Andretti bid in light of its plans to partner with GM, Brown was complimentary and more openly enthusiastic than Mercedes and Williams counterparts Toto Wolff and James Vowles had been when discussing the project on Friday.

But he still stopped short of saying it should definitely be granted an entry. The Race understands that while McLaren and Andretti have a good relationship and McLaren is broadly supportive of the F1 grid expanding, its stance is still that Andretti and any other newcomer must satisfy all F1 and the FIA’s protocols. McLaren is also believed to agree with fellow current teams that the $200m entry fee now needs to be substantially higher.

“The Andretti name’s got such a rich history in multiple forms of motorsport,” said Brown in a session with selected media at the Mexico City E-Prix, where McLaren was making its Formula E debut.

“Michael and I are partners in a Supercars team with Walkinshaw, also a great history in motorsport.

“GM is an awesome OEM that we race with in IndyCar and I think he’s put forward a very compelling proposition and I think it shows the growth of Formula 1.

“We haven’t had a new team in a long time, since Haas, and so it’s just great to see Formula 1 attracting new markets, new teams, new sponsors, new partner base. In the last few years we’ve brought on Google, Goldman Sachs, the Ciscos, the Dells, the Coca Colas, kind of a who’s who [of corporate brands].

“I think it’s great to see they want to join the sport, I think he’s put together a compelling team.”

Andretti said in his Forbes interview that by having GM on board the team had satisfied “the only box we didn’t have checked when we were working on our entry” previously, and added “we are willing to follow every procedure that needs to be done”.

Reservations among existing F1 teams remain about a lack of detail – concerning matters such as where Andretti’s funding is coming from, how much of it there is, and what GM would be contributing either financially or technically.

Andretti Cadillac Logos

This information would need to be provided in any formal bid once the process is opened, but F1 teams would not be privy to this.

One suggestion has been for Andretti to present his proposal to all stakeholders at an F1 Commission meeting.

Asked if this was something Andretti could do to strengthen its claim, Brown said: “I’m not close to what the bid process is, since we’re in. I know he’s [Andretti] working closely with the FIA and Formula 1.

“This tender process hasn’t happened in a while but I think what he’s doing is bringing forward his brand, his reputation, his partners, and making the best presentation possible.

“The FIA and Formula 1 will go through the process. I think there are other entities [interested], as Stefano [Domenicali] commented on.

“So I’m just excited that there’s this excitement of new teams that want to join Formula 1. I think that talks a lot about the health of the sport.

“And the same thing here in Formula E; a couple of manufacturers went, we’ve seen in all forms of motor racing manufacturers come and go.

“What’s great is when a couple leave, how quickly another couple come in and I think that talks to the demand and health of motorsport in general in the moment we’re in. Long may it continue.”

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