Formula 1

Top US driver ‘matters more’ than team like Andretti Cadillac

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
5 min read

Formula 1 teams believe a leading American driver would be better for the championship than adding a team such as Andretti Cadillac, as doubts remain over the benefit of such an entry.

The General Motors-backed Andretti Global bid is one of several applicants for a slot on the F1 grid after the FIA started a formal process to evaluate potential new entries earlier this year.

Other known applicants include the prolific junior single-seater team Hitech and the supposedly Asian state-backed LKY SUNZ project.

Andretti teamed up with GM to enter under the Andretti Cadillac name, using the luxury vehicle brand that has an increasing presence in the sportscar world and finished third at this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.

The belief was that securing the support of a major American manufacturer would tick the final box and show F1’s stakeholders that the entry would not just be successful but grow the championship in the US and attract other big brands as well.

As the FIA’s evaluation process draws to a close, Ferrari and Mercedes have questioned whether a US team would bring that much, while Red Bull has once again raised a concern over whether it is a real General Motors effort or just a “badging exercise”.

Fred Vasseur, the Ferrari team principal who was in charge of Sauber when that team was saved from financial ruin in 2017, said: “Ten teams made huge efforts even when it was tough to be on the grid, and to survive.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Austrian Grand Prix Race Day Spielberg, Austria

“If we have to welcome another team, it has to be for mega good reasons.

“The fact that you have an American team is not a good reason.

“First, we have an American team, thanks to Haas. And the second one is that if you want to be at the top in the country, it’s a matter of drivers.

“Have a look at what’s happened in the Netherlands. It’s the biggest success of the world today, and they don’t have a team, they have Max.

“First, we have had good success in the US. If you want to increase the success in the US, it’s more a matter for me to have an American driver. It’s not about the team.”

He added on Friday at the British Grand Prix’s team boss press conference: “We didn’t change position at all. It could make sense for F1 only if it’s a huge push in every single direction.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Australian Grand Prix Practice Day Melbourne, Australia

“Very often we are speaking about the nationality of the team. But for me, it’s absolutely not an argument.

“F1 is not just a UK championship because we have 70% of the teams being based in the UK.

“The attraction of F1 is much more based on the nationality of drivers. And it’s nothing to do with the nationality of the team.”

Vasseur’s stance was backed up by Mercedes team boss and co-owner Toto Wolff, who also reiterated that his position is for the current interested parties to “buy a team” instead of starting a new one.

Wolff said he believes that F1 would be better off creating a system that develops and facilitates more American drivers.

Colton Herta Honda Indy 200 At Mid Ohio By James Black Large Image Without Watermark M86047

F1 missed out on IndyCar race winner Colton Herta switching series because he is ineligible for a superlicence under the current flawed criteria, although Williams driver Logan Sargeant has this year become the first full-time American in F1 since Scott Speed in 2007.

“Obviously our standpoint is clear, because we would only want to have a team that brings something to the cake – an eleventh team brings more than what they cost the other teams, more show, more exciting drivers,” said Wolff.

“Like Fred said, the team’s nationality plays no role.

“We have had an American team [Haas] for a long time, we need to have a good points system that we attract more drivers from the US, that will make them eligible for a superlicence.

“We need to support young drivers like Logan Sargeant to give them enough time. Because like we’ve seen with Fernando in Spain, you’ve got to race at the front, if you’re not racing at the front your fellow countrymen are not going to follow.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Practice Day Silverstone, England

“These are the things we have to do.

“If one of the applications has demonstrated to the FIA, and to FOM, that it is beneficial that they join, we can just say, ‘Welcome’.

“At that stage, we have to embrace the decision that’s been taken and say, ‘OK, let’s work on this together’.”

Though he stressed that only the FIA and F1 are aware who has applied and what their bids contain, Wolff said what has been seen or heard “hasn’t convinced” existing teams.

Their issue is essentially whether any new team could offset how much the existing teams would lose by having to share their revenue with an 11th or 12th entrant.

An anti-dilution fund exists as of the 2020 Concorde Agreement, requiring a new entry to pay $200million that is shared equally among the 10 current teams.

The theory is that this short-term measure will offset the immediate lost percentage of revenue share before the new team makes enough of an impact to grow the total prize pot and ideally means teams are quickly sharing 1/11th of a larger pie.

F1’s sharp growth since 2020, though, means some teams feel the anti-dilution fee is not high enough, especially as the cost of buying-in has risen significantly, so the priority should be protecting the existing teams – unless there is a compelling reason to grow the grid.

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has suggested that the “model” for the Andretti/General Motors combination is the key.

Comparing it to his company’s investment in a full engine programme, Horner said: “I don’t assume they’re going to go and build a facility like this, I assume it’s a badging exercise.

“GM are associated with Andretti at the moment, who currently don’t have an entry.

“What it really boils down to, is who’s going to pay for it? And if it dilutes the existing 10, of course they’re going to have an issue with it. Liberty’s not going to want to dilute their element of the income.

“That’s where you end up with a stand-off.”

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