Andretti’s rebranding of its entire roster of international racing teams to the identity it wants to use for its prospective General Motors-backed Formula 1 team comes at an interesting time.
Earlier this week, the Andretti Autosport name was absorbed into the Andretti Global umbrella that has been the parent company to the various racing subdivisions like IndyCar, Formula E and other categories.
Andretti Global is also the entity that joined forces with General Motors to bid for a new F1 entry under the Andretti Cadillac banner for 2025.
A brand built on a foundation of racing excellence, the rebrand from Andretti Autosport to Andretti Global will unite all aspects of the organization under a single identity.
— Andretti Global (@AndrettiGlobal) September 5, 2023
The timing of the rebrand is interesting in the sense that we are very close to getting an answer on whether Andretti or any of the prospective new teams will be getting onto the grid.
It could just be a coincidence. Perhaps Andretti felt this was the best time to signal to the world that its army of racing teams – “eight platforms across six continents”, it stressed, leaning into the geographic range of its Extreme E team – needed to be consolidated under a single identity.
But one line, reiterating its “appetite to expand its worldwide footprint into other major motorsports series”, felt like a knowing nod. Andretti has been chasing F1 for years. And there is a firm belief from that organisation that this entry is impressive enough that the FIA and F1 cannot say no.
Plus, news is imminent. It makes sense to align its interests under the Andretti Global banner, then a few days later announce that Andretti Global is going to have an F1 team as its flagship programme.
“This rebrand is a major milestone in our team’s journey, but we are only getting started,” said Michael Andretti, who runs the organisation and has driven the F1 interest.
“We are determined to achieve success and confident that there are big things in store for Andretti Global.”
The question is whether that confidence is misplaced. Certainly, Andretti is believed to have impressed not just the FIA but the F1 side. The process is confidential, and no specific details are known. But broad judgements have been passed. At one point there were rumours that both Andretti Cadillac and Hitech could get the green light from the FIA, such were the qualities of the bids on sporting, technical and financial grounds.
For the Andretti/General Motors combination that appears to still be the case (that is not to say Hitech is out of the running, just that rumours for the US project are more prominent). Unfortunately for them, it isn’t just the FIA’s call. It’s F1’s. And that position has been consistent for months – clearly, the commercial rights holder, which is aligned with the majority of teams on this, has not felt that expanding the grid is a good idea.
The message has stayed the same: show us that you will grow the championship commercially and give F1 more than you will take away by turning 10 slices of the revenue shared among teams into 11 slices.
And while there is a financial aspect to winning over the FIA, that relates to showing the funding exists to being a competent F1 team on-track. It is not the same as presenting a good commercial case to F1 itself.
This conflict has been known for months. And it has carried a clear risk that the FIA would give a team the green light but F1 would reject them on commercial grounds. In this case, an entry or entries are granted but they then engage in futile commercial discussions.
There’d be no Concorde deal, and therefore no prize money. There’d be arguments over the right to be shown on TV. And there’d be, after all of this, the serious risk of a long, complex and expensive legal dispute.
So, for Andretti and General Motors, their FIA-approved entry would be walked back on because it cannot feasibly proceed, which would be a disastrous look. The only way to avoid that is to not grant the entry in the first place, meaning a joint announcement in which the FIA says the entry ticked the necessary boxes but F1 plays the bad guy and says it will not be granted on commercial grounds.
That’s still a bad look, even if it is not as bad as the alternative, and would almost certainly be met by a legal challenge. Whispers of supposedly relevant EU anti-competition regulations that F1 could be ensnared by have often been played down by sources in the paddock, yet they persist nonetheless.
One argument is the FIA could have seen this all coming and never started it because it would only go one way. The counter to that is there were serious and convincing interested parties so it was better to formalise the process and determine what substance there really was.
And since FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem committed to starting the process formally earlier this year, the FIA has been duty-bound to do things properly. If an applicant meets all the requirements from a sporting, financial and technical side, the FIA can’t throw the process just because it prevents a confrontation with F1.
Of course, there is always the possibility something has changed. Maybe, just maybe, F1’s door has been battered away enough for Andretti to make a compelling commercial case. In which case, maybe the newly minted Andretti Global stable really can expect to have something to shout about. And there will be no such conflict at all. That does not seem to be the case but when it comes to the crunch, F1’s position may shift.
One way or the other, this will be resolved soon. If F1 stands firm then it is hard to see how a collision course set a long time ago can be avoided.