The focus for Formula One has for weeks been on this weekends return to Las Vegas 41 years after the last visit. In reality it is almost like F1’s debut in sin city given the chalk and cheese comparisons to when the sport last visited and raced in Caesars Palace car park.
Vegas has sucked in all the oxygen around the sport, though there are huge issues in the back ground which will affect the future of F1 in significant fashion.
Andretti entry raises its head in Vegas
The final driver lineup for 2024 and the new cars have yet to be finalised and Logan Sargeant’s future at Williams is seriously questionable. Sergio Perez appears for now to have enough support from Red Bull to continue with the team Ito the final year of his contract.
However, the huge back story is the future of the Andretti 11th entry which was approved by the FIA in the last two months. Liberty Media have failed so far to comment in detail on how they will handle this in terms of prize money or whether they will indeed push back against the governing bodies decision to admit the household name American racing team.
As Formula One returned for the third time this year to the USA, the topic of a new American team and an 11th entry surfaced once more, though was eclipsed by the psychodrama of the first day of track action in Las Vegas.
The topic was raised at the team principal press conference which was held following the nine minutes of he red flagged practice ice session. For those following the story it appears little has changed in terms of the teams’ opposition to Andretti joining the sport.
General Motors Vegas statement
One of the sticking points is how Andretti is going to power its car given they wish to join the grid for 2025 and their power unit partner General Motors do not have a current V6 hybrid unit to fit into their car.
The American car manufacturing giant this weekend confirmed the timeline for its readiness to deliver one of the new breed power units set to be introduced Ito F1 in 2026.
“We are thrilled that our new Andretti Cadillac F1 entry will be powered by a GM power unit,” said GM president Mark Reuss
“With our deep engineering and racing expertise, we’re confident we’ll develop a successful power unit for the series, and position Andretti Cadillac as a true works team.
Cadillac risk Honda experience
“We will run with the very best, at the highest levels, with passion and integrity that will help elevate the sport for race fans around the world.”
Formula One has at times struggled to attract the interest of the big global car companies and in the late nighties, the loss of Toyota and Honda was of serious concern.
For 2026 the power unit suppliers confirmed are Mercedes, Honda, Ferrari, Renault, Audi and Red Bull-Ford. The new V6 hybrids will run on fully sustainable fuels and deliver 50% of their power from the electrical systems.
Cadillac are taking a risk joining the sport two years after the others have delivered their new breed of power unit and as Honda found out last time around, the catch up process is long and arduous.
Williams boss questions GM/Andretti relationship
Andretti claimed to have a deal with Renault to run their power units in the interim period though recently Alpine boss confirmed the contractual options for this had now expired. Even so, Renault would be delighted to expand their customer portfolio which at present is zero, while Mercedes are running units in six other cars besides the Brackley based works team.
When questioned about the latest news from General Motors, Williams boss James Vowles appeared less than impressed. He questioned whether there was in fact a real commitment from GM and queried the lack of clarity over the Andretti-Cadillac relationship.
“I don’t know what the relationship is between those two entities,” he said in Las Vegas.
“GM, I think, is a good company to bring into our sport. But my view hasn’t changed on the addition of an eleventh team,” Vowles added.
Dilution of sponsorship now questioned
The teams have claimed they are concerned over the dilution effect of the prize money being split between 11 instead of 10 teams and Liberty Media have never indicated they will increase the money pot to compensate teams for this.
Yet further concerns press one the mind of Vowels. One being the dilution of the current sponsors who may ditch an existing F1 team to partner with Andretti.
Toto Wolff has consistently been the most vocal amongst the team bosses in resisting an 11th team being included, deploying a range of arguments over the last year or so based around the questionable ‘added value’ Andretti brings to F1.
Now Andretti have been approved by the FIA, the Mercedes boss seems content to kick the decision down the road for Liberty Media to resolve.
Mercedes opposition to Andretti continues
“You know, we need to see whether the commercial rights holder deems this to be a good entry or not,” said the Austrian. “For many teams it is big dilution that can make the difference between, you know, big losses or less losses.
“I haven’t changed my opinion on that. We haven’t seen any data. Where’s the case? What are the numbers? How much can we gain in popularity? What’s the name worth? How much more can the sport be attractive? What are the facts?”
The case has of course been made by Andretti as they fulfilled the arduous process set out by the FIA for their application.
Formula One has been known for developing economic impact models over the past two decades, particularly when the sport has been keen to prove to a new venue that the huge initial set up cost is worth the investment.
Economic value add modelling required
Most recently it has claimed that Las Vegas will received economic benefits from this year’s race totalling $1.2bn and juxtaposed this against the upcoming Super Bowl weekend which is expected to deliver just $500m of benefit to sin city.
Fred Vasseur of Ferrari put a new spin on the GM announcement claiming while General Motors is welcome it does not necessarily mean Andretti will be afforded the same open arms.
“It’s not the same story as the eleventh team,” he told the assembled media. “It’s two separate questions.”
The clock is ticking for 2025 entry
It is true the General Motors relationship was late to the Andretti application party as it was suggested they needed to demonstrate how their participation inF1 would add value to the sport.
How long Liberty Media will take before announcing their final position is any one’s guess, though if Andretti wish to be on the F1 grid in 2025, they need to be registered with the FIA together with an power unit partner in just over six months time.
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