The Formula One establishment has issued what may be described as a ‘muted response’ to the FIA’s approval of the Andretti application to join the sport. As TJ13 argues in What the stoney silence from F1 means for Andretti we may be set for months of messy conversations over the commercial aspects of the teams inclusion.
Andretti has stated will be ready to join the grid for 2025 and with good reason given the current Concorde Agreement allows for a new team joining the sport to pay a fee of $200m. This will be reviewed for 2026 when the next Concorde Agreement will be signed and is expected to increase to around $600m.
Andretti sign with Renault
In a bid to add credibility to their request to join F1, which began early last year, Andretti signed a deal in principle with Renault to supply them power units and suggested they would be ready to compete for the 2024 season.
At the time Renault were probably the only team other than McLaren who were positive about the arrival of a new American based team and at the time Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi said in May 2022 he had spoken with Andretti and supported their bid to join F1.
“We have formal agreement now on the engine supplier and it’s out there, it’s going to be Renault and I’m allowed to say it now,” Andretti confirmed in January 2022.
“There was a lot of speculation from Toto Wolff, he was concerned about potentially it being Ferrari, Ferrari would have more votes than he would have, so on and so forth.”
Wolff moves goal post
There was indeed a lot of noise at the time from the likes of Toto Wolff who pioneered the argument that any new F1 team should bring added value to the sport. The Mercedes boss questioned whether the Andretti name was enough to fulfil this criteria.
“Andretti is a great name, they have done exceptional things in the US but this is sport and this is business,” Wolff told assembled media in August 2022.
“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.”
“Added value” required from new F1 team
Since then the mantra from team bosses and even F1’s CEO Stefano Domenicali has been focused around questioning what kind of value can any team bring to the F1 party to make the whole of the money pie bigger for everybody.
Andretti then announced they had struck a deal with General Motors to provide them with a power unit, which from their perspective delivers on the added value as the statement from Michael made clear.
“One of the big things was ‘what does Andretti bring to the party?’,” Andretti said. “Well, we’re bringing one of the biggest manufacturers in the world with us now with General Motors and Cadillac.
“We feel that was the one box that we didn’t have checked that we do have checked now. I think we’ll be bringing a tremendous amount of support to Formula 1 and it’s hard for anyone to argue with that.”
GM fills the void
General Motors is the biggest of the road car manufacturers in the USA and their Cadillac brand has a rich racing history.
FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem was quick to suggest this news vindicated the FIA’s net zero targets and validated the new power unit Formula due to arrive in 2026.
“Today’s news from the United States is further proof of the popularity and growth of the FIA Formula One World Championship under the FIA’s stewardship,” noted the FIA president.
“It is particularly pleasing to have interest from two iconic brands such as General Motors Cadillac and Andretti Global.
“Any additional entries would build on the positive acceptance of the FIA’s 2026 PU regulations among OEMs which has already attracted an entry from Audi.”
Renault interim supplier
But what of the Renault deal previously announced? Was it dead in the water or merely a transitional arrangement?
Andretti and Cadillac quickly covered off the questions over the power plant and clearly were the team to fulfil its plan and join the sport before 2026 it required an existing engine.
“It’ll be more of a collaboration with another manufacturer,” Michael Andretti revealed, while General Motors president Mark Reuss confirmed there is a “signed agreement with a power unit supplier to begin with”.
The implication is that GM will build a power unit for the new 2026 regulations but in the meantime the Renault deal would bridge the transition.
Rumours Renault deal expired
Of course in the world of Alpine and Renault there has been a sea change since these conversations and deals were done. Gone is Laurent Rossi as CEO along with the team principal and other key personnel.
Renault’s board member – Bruno Famin – now overseeing the F1 project has made no comment on the future of the Andretti-Renault power unit arrangement, merely to refute claims that the Americans were set to buy the Enstone based Formula One team outright.
However, F1 writer Joe Saward floated rumours that the deal struck with Rossi for a Renault power unit was based upon the Andretti team joining the sport in 2024 and there is no provision for them using Renault F1 power units as a stop gap for 2025 alone.
Joe also argues that Renault are now more interested in restructuring their F1 team and the Andretti project is now a low priority.
Cadillac ‘fake’ power unit?
So is this the stick FOM can use to beat down the Andretti application – no power unit – and then the can will be kicked down the road until 2026 when Cadillac have joined the party?
Since Red Bull and Renault fell out and the world champion team was facing a future with no beings supplier, the FIA regulated to prevent this and the manufacturer with the fewest customers must supply any team which finds itself with no F1 power train.
Yet were the FIA to compel somebody to provide Andretti with a 2025 power unit, the team must be registered as a competitor by 1 June 2024. At present the status of Andretti does not meet the criteria.
Of course the FIA will time limit the messy deliberations FOM will now engage in, and could easily confirm the Andretti entry and force F1 power unit supply, without FOM reaching any commercial agreement.
Andretti ultimately a works team
The argument FOM and the teams will now frame is around whether Cadillac and GM are genuine new partners in Formula One. Or whether they intend to merely badge up a power unit produced by Renault or whoever the FIA mandate in an attempt to satisfy the “added value” criteria with the huge name of General Motors.
General Motors are late to the party to develop the 2026 power units in time, but the stand out quote from GM boss Ruess at the time of the Andretti-Cadillac announcement was as follows:
“We have a signed agreement with a power unit supplier to begin with and then as we move forwards we bring a lot of our expertise to create things for the future as well,” he said.
A pretty huge hint the Andretti team will be backed by GM with a full works programme in the future and Cadillac will eventually build its ow F1 engine.
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