How Andretti has ‘sucker punched’ Toto Wolff and Mercedes: With the advent of a ‘new’ engine formula due for the 2026 season, the FIA has been keen to sign up new power unit manufacturers; whether or not they are a full works team is of less importance. The recent withdrawal of Honda from Formula One and the potential of Red Bull Racing having no engine supplier following their fall out with Renault created a steely determination at the FIA and FOM to ensure the sport is better supported by a diversity of engine suppliers.
The current V6 Turbo hybrid era will for various reasons be the longest without a significant specification change in the history of Formula One. The new formula was originally scheduled for 2021 however a lack of interest from power unit manufacturers and the complete disagreement amongst the teams on what the new power units should represent delayed the revision of the engine formula by four additional years.
2026 F1 engines ‘hardly a revolution’
From a technical standpoint the new power units due in 2026 are hardly the revolution the was created when ditching the V8’s and moving towards the V6 turbo hybrids in 2014.
The internal combustion engine bore will remain the same at 1.6litres and the turbo together with the energy store will also be retained. The overly complex heat recovery system (MGU-H) will be ditched and the electrical output allowed increased to around 50% of the 1000hp that will be generated.
Red Bull Racing had proposed a return to a V8 configuration believing this would have a greater global appear particularly to USA based manufacturers. However the first of the FIA’s 4 key “pillars” of the future ruled this out in an instant.
FIA focus now on sustainability
“Maintaining the Spectacle” was the first principle the FIA set out as a principal for the new F1 engine formula. This simply means retaining the V6 units and the second “pillar” of “Environmental Sustainability” will see carbon based fuel ditched and a reduction of 30% in the maximum fuel allowed during the race to 70kg.
Pillar 3, “Financial Stability” is another reason to prevent engine suppliers ‘doing a Mercedes’ and spending billions more than the rest on R&D and dominating the sport. There will also be a cost cap to make the new power units affordable and this is set at $95m for 2023-25 rising to $130m in 2026.
The final pillar has to date had limited success, making F1 “Attractive to New Power Unit Manufacturers.” Whilst Audi have a deal to make Sauber their works team the expectations that Porsche would join the sport to date has been frustrated. Red Bull Powertrains (RBRP) are the second new manufacturer and are expected to partner with Honda who will deliver their electrical solutions whilst RBRP will focus on the mechanicals such as the combustion engine and the gearbox.
New F1 regulations failed to deliver expectations
To a certain degree the failure to attract any real new power unit suppliers other than Audi is a potential failure for the FIA. With Formula One rapidly growing in the USA they had hoped to attract an American manufacturer but despite the rumours of Ford showing an interest, to date none is committed.
However, in a twist to the story that has seen the Andretti Organisation unsuccessfully knocking on the door of Formula One it could be that all this is about to change.
It was announced last night that General Motors and Andretti Global had agreed a partnership application to be made to Formula One. Whilst a place behind Ford in the automotive global revenue rankings as the world’s 5th largest builder of vehicles General Motors (GM) is exactly the right fit for Formula One.
American F1 engine supplier in the wings
GM compete alongside Honda in the premier North American single racing seater series, IndyCar under the Chevrolet brand and a Formula One entry promotes their brand’s sporting characteristics even further.
This collaboration is almost certain to meet the FIA and FOM’s application criteria and it appears Andretti has hot Mercedes AMG F1’s Toto Wolff with a sucker punch.
Andretti has been keen to join Formula One for some time, though there has been a resistance in certain quarters let by Toto Wolff to an 11th team joining the grid.
The argument Wolff initially proposed was the prize money would be diluted as 11 now share the purse that 10 once did. However, the new Concorde agreement between the teams the FIA and FOM requires any new entrant to pay a fee of $200m which would be distributed amongst the teams as compensation for the dilution of funds.
Wolff opposes Andretti F1 entry
Speaking at the team principals’ press conference in Miami last season, Wolff explained his position.
Any new entry onto F1 “needs to be additive. If a team comes in, how can you demonstrate that you’re bringing in more money than it’s actually costing? Because an 11th team means a 10-percent dilution for everybody else.
“So, if one is able to demonstrate that, then we should all be sitting at the table and cheering for such an entry.
“But that hasn’t been demonstrated yet. And that may sound a bit dry because it comes down to the numbers but the value of Formula 1 is that it’s a limited amount of franchises, and we don’t want to dilute that value by just adding teams.”
Wolff’s position is simple. Whilst the Andretti name is indeed a global racing brand but as a mere racing team in F1 it cannot compete in terms of marketing and spend with the likes of Mercedes. Toto was sitting beside the CEO of McLaren and Renault at the media event and concluded:
Its all about the money
“We [all] have invested considerable amounts over the last 10 years, each of the organisations sitting here on the podium have probably put more than a billion into their Formula 1 projects over the years.
At the time Audi had yet to clinch a deal to partner with Sauber and it was believed the German VW brand would enter an 11th team as well as design a power unit.
When pressed on why an Audi entry should be favoured but the Andretti application refused, Toto revealed his true hand.
“I think whoever joins as an 11th team, whoever gets an entry needs to demonstrate how accretive they can be for the business.
Toto only wants manufacturer works teams to join F1
“Andretti is a great name, they have done exceptional things in the US but this is sport and this is business.
“We need to understand what it is you can provide to the sport and if an OEM or multi-national group joins Formula 1 and can demonstrate they are going to spend X amount of dollars in activating, in marketing and in various markets, that is obviously a totally different value proposition for all the other teams.
“We have 10 franchises that we hope can increase the value and you are certainly not going to increase the value by issuing new franchises to people who cannot increase the overall value of Formula 1.”
Toto was in effect advocating any new team would require the backing of a new engine manufacturer to be allowed onto the grid in Formula One.
Andretti says Wolff too powerful
Both Mario and Michael Andretti have been particularly vocal about Wolff’s objections to their application and the legend that is Mario was candid in his response to the following tweet.
“Toto Wolff too powerful for F1? Is he? Worth asking questions in this age of transparency and boom times?”
Mario replied: “This needed to be said; it’s about time”.
The sucker punch for Toto
Of course behind the scenes Andretti was about to tick the box that Wolff and others have demanded for a new F1 team, which was the preference for a manufacturer works based team.
Now with Cadillac onboard, Andretti looks to have ticked that box.
“We’re bringing one of the biggest manufacturers in the world now with us with General Motors, motors in Cadillac,” Andretti said.
“So we feel that that was the one box we didn’t have checked that we do have checked now.
“That, I think, will be bringing a tremendous amount of support now to Formula 1.
“It’s hard for anyone to argue with that now.”
The question being asked now is whether the FIA regulations allow for a reduced entry fee when a manufacturer enters an F1 works based new team.
And with that the 2022 season comes to an end 🏁👑pic.twitter.com/BkDKor8AwM
— Oracle Red Bull Racing (@redbullracing) January 5, 2023