General Motors’ registration as a Formula 1 power unit manufacturer starting in 2028 future-proofs its own options beyond what happens with its intended Andretti collaboration.
The sentiment in the GM announcement was clear. “We are thrilled that our new Andretti Cadillac F1 entry will be powered by a GM power unit,” GM President Mark Reuss said.
Reuss says GM wants to “position Andretti Cadillac as a true works team”. But there is still no guarantee of an Andretti Cadillac F1 entry. And if some people in F1 have their way, there never will be.
If Andretti is right, and the commercial objection to the Andretti Cadillac entry that has the FIA’s approval really is a personal vendetta, then GM’s not getting into F1 that way.
A GM engine, though, has been welcome from the start – even when it was just a vague hypothetical prospect. And a Cadillac branded team elsewhere on the grid – partnering with an existing team - would avoid many if not all the objections that GM faces in association with Andretti.
Since the beginning of the year there have been murmurs in the paddock about whether GM could be tempted to break ranks and find a new allegiance. There are said to have even been some tentative inquiries to see just how wedded GM is to Andretti.
The answer, it seemed, was that this is very much a package deal. In fact, back in February, there was a clear emphasis that Andretti was the driving force behind GM’s sudden, concrete interest in an F1 project that it had barely entertained the notion of previously.
But GM’s curiosity has now been piqued. It is so absolutely convinced that F1 is the place it needs to be that it is willing to commit to a full-scale engine programme.
Is it so outrageous to think that in the worst-case scenario of Andretti getting snubbed after all, GM’s interest would persist?
And if “engineering an F1 power unit will advance GM’s expertise in areas including electrification, hybrid technology, sustainable fuels, high-efficiency internal combustion engines, advanced controls, and software systems”, would that argument not ring true regardless of which team uses that engine?
Entertaining the notion of a rival to Andretti emerging, the obvious alternative is Haas.
It has the right nationality for the all-American project that GM has been keen to emphasise the value of, even if it does have far less of a US presence for the team itself than what Andretti and Cadillac have planned.
And planning this for 2028 would also give Haas plenty of time to extract itself from the structures and dependencies it has had since entering F1 in 2016 and get ready to stand fully on its own two feet.
Were it to appeal to Haas, or even be something that F1 wants to see happen, all that will matter is what GM is willing to do. And it may be that GM truly only has eyes for Andretti.
One of the reasons will be how intent on a true collaboration the two parties are. Who knows, maybe that includes Andretti stumping up a portion or the majority of the funding for an engine project too?
It’s obvious how badly Andretti wants to get on the grid and the money is always said to be there.
It may yet be that this announcement is part of what finally convinces F1 to lower the drawbridge and welcome Andretti Cadillac after all.
And if that fails, perhaps a full-on GM works programme with a publicly committed 2028 engine deal might open doors that were previously closed to the sale of an existing team? Clearly there are still a couple of routes for Andretti and GM to enter F1 as a partnership even if they have different likelihoods.
The point is just that, if GM wants to be in F1, it improves its chances of achieving that by having an engine project that it could still make use of even if the number one priority of a works Andretti team fails to materialise.
It really comes down to how intrinsically linked the Andretti and GM intentions are, and how much GM’s loyalty could be tested now a 2028 engine is a more formal prospect. This may well bring other options, or people with other ideas, out of the woodwork.
GM’s announcement made the point that “racing has provided a testbed for GM and Cadillac to transfer knowledge and technology between race cars and production vehicles”, which leans into the classic ‘F1 could be a great laboratory for this engine manufacturer’ argument.
GM’s only ever indicated it is willing to do this with Andretti. But some in the F1 paddock do not just believe GM is better off with someone else, they are keen to make it happen.
That may only intensify in the wake of this fresh GM commitment.