Mario Andretti has spoken out this week concerning the plans for Andretti Motorsport to join the F1 grid for 2024. The Global sports company failed to conclude a deal to purchase alfa Romeo early in the 2022 season and has since applied to the FIA to join Formula One as an 11th team.
Of course the famous Piranha club of F1 team bosses were on the whole less than enthused at the idea of an 11th team joining the sport purely on the basis of short term interests.
Another team means the pot of money available for distribution amongst the competitors could be diluted.
Concorde agreement allows for new teams
Yet the recent Concorde agreement in 2021 which binds the FIA, the teams and Liberty media contractually altered the criteria for new entrants. To protect the value of incumbent teams any new competitor must pay an ‘entry fee’ of $200m up front which is distributed amongst the existing 10 teams in exchange for the ew entrant to share in the prize money.
Previously a team had a nominal fee to pay but were not able to receive any prize money until their second year of competition.
Despite this huge up front cost Mario Andretti reveals their FIA is progressing well.
Andretti F1 car well under way
“We’re working on that every single day. The objective is clear and strong. We’re trying to meet every pre requisite .”
“We’ve been told clearly there’s a protocol and we’re working through that. At the moment I can tell you we’d like to be on the grid in 2024.
“There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes and our preparation is as if we’ll be given the go ahead [by the FIA].
You’d be surprised how much we already have going on and I’m just hoping that good reasoning will prevail here.”
When Andretti’s application to the FIA was revealed, Toto Wolff was fairly dismissive. Despite the ‘anti-dilution fee’ of $200m the Mercedes boss reckoned it would take a huge amount more to prove the Andretti team ‘brings value’ and aren’t merely another team.
Wolff dismissive of Andretti application
“It’s not only by paying a $200 million entry fee, but it needs to demonstrate in my opinion what it can do for the other teams, for F1 and FIA. Only then the sport will grow,” said Wolff.
Part of the FIA process for new entrants refers to “adding value” though was intended to prevent the scenario where the likes of HRT and Caterham joined with no real value added give their lack of history and non-competitive cars.
Wolff believes to fulfil this requirement Andretti needs a lot more than $200m.
“We are the absolute pinnacle, this is the Champions League or the NFL, and redistributing franchises is not the goal, that’s not how it should be, and it’s not the intention of F1 and the FIA neither.
“But if there is a real brand coming in with good people, necessary funding, not only the 200 million [entry fee] but probably you need more like a billion [dollars] if you want to play in this club straight from the get go, then why not?”
F1 taking America by storm
Of course Toto is teeing up the FIA to consider whether Andretti Motorsports will meet the ‘added value’ criteria and placing $1bn as the number to be achieved.
Formula One is selling out its US events already and the inaugural Miami GP sold out in around 30 minutes when the tickets were released.
The implication is F1 was already succeeding in the States and does a fully American new entrant really add that much value.
Mario believes Andretti will add to US fans interest
When asked about the resistance to the Andretti F1 application, Mario replied, “It’s a bit surprising and some of it disappointing but the teams all have their own objectives.”
“But you’ve got to look at the big picture. This is a huge investment in the sport [of Formula One] and we’re here for the long term and I think it should be better received than it has so far.”
Andretti comments on the unprecedented interest in the USA currently in Formula One.
“The interest has grown Immensely especially though the Netflix series which has showcased Formula One in depth.
“Formula One is enjoying a great bubble at the moment so let’s feed the bubble. We now have three bone fide Formula One events in this country which is unprecedented and to have a fully fledged American team, I don’t think that’s going to hurt the situation in anyway.
There’s nothing that will deter my love for Formula One in anyway and we just want to e there. Idon’t think there’s anything wrong with that.”
FIA looking favourably on Andretti application
Despite resistance to the Andretti application, the FIA has already indicated it will look favourably on the Andretti application.
Firstly, the Andretti investment to date is believed to be in the region of $100m and would the organisation spend that kind of money if it didn’t believe there was a good chance of its application to join Formula One being successful.
Further by setting in stone the requirements for a new team to join the sport in the 2021 Concorde agreement, the teams no longer have a say given the FIA is in charge of the regulatory side of the sport.
Finally, the cash strapped FIA initially blocked the increase in F1 Sprint races to 6 for 2023 pending agreement on a funding uplift for the sports regulatory body.
More F1 teams mean bigger FIA budget
Any new entrant into Formula One will see the FIA’s budget and F1 funding from Liberty Media increased further.
Reading the tea leaves it looks good for Andretti Motorsports and probable they will be included in Formula One at some point. Yet given the speed at which the FIA move it may be ambitious to expect Andretti to be on the 2024 starting lineup, but 2025 is definitely achievable.
Mario Andretti is set to drive a Formula one car again at the upcoming race in Austin.
Zak Brown head of McLaren confirmed at the Miami GP, “Struck a deal with Mario to tick something off his bucket list – he’ll be driving a previous @McLarenF1 race car at this year’s US GP in Austin,” tweeted Brown.