Should Formula 1 let Andretti Autosports’ latest bid into the pinnacle of motorsport? LWOS’ Jack Smith makes the case for their addition.
Long before you kids can remember, Formula 1 was heaving with teams. Most of them were led by clueless chancers with budgets topped-up with coins found in the back of the sofa. In fact, there were so many, that some of the teams had to pre-qualify. Literally, qualify for qualifying. Those were the days.
F1’s Current State
Today, there are ten teams, the last completely brand-new constructor being Haas in 2016. And it’s gotten a bit boring. New teams bring identity, colour, and attract fondness from neutrals and fans of other teams alike purely for being new and interesting. Plus they garner a level of sympathy for most likely being awful. It all feels a bit stale. I want new team bosses to either love or hate, another two cars with seats for two hopeful new drivers to get into. And perhaps a new team for Rich Energy to try and sponsor.
Enter Andretti, who is looking to extend their vast interest in motorsports to Formula 1, and why not? They are boasting enough money, a partnership with Cadillac, a hope of getting Colton Herta into the car, and the name is steeped in motor racing heritage. [Not withstanding owner Michael’s woeful foray into F1 racing.] But there is a pushback from the majority of the current teams, with Zak Brown, McLaren CEO, and Alpine allegedly the only ones to back the idea. So far, the only public support for Andretti has come from the FIA President, Mohammed Ben Sulayem. Sulayem is looking to plough on with their application to get onto the grid.
There have been a fair few wheelbarrows full of mud being slung between Andretti and the others. Notably, Mercedes supremo Toto Wolff has voiced his opposition so loudly that Netflix’s microphones have picked-up audio from Wolff’s house for the next instalment of Drive to Survive. The question is this: am I going to look at it, or even try to, from Wolff’s, and all other opposition’s, point of view? No. No, I’m not.
When all said and done, I’m an anorak. A Formula 1 nerd. A trainspotter. I want Andretti to do what they want – which is put their money where their mouths are, and get to it, with the FIA having the overruling say. There are plenty of reasons why F1 needs Andretti, let’s examine a few.
Isn’t Formula 1’s modus operandi these days to promote the sport in America and get more star-spangled support? Adding one of the most famous names – perhaps the most famous name – in American motorsport, into Formula 1 seems straightforward. Andretti Global has entered just about all other forms of racing, and their biggest aim would be F1. They seem far more thorough in their planning than past hopefuls [US F1, anyone?]. Plus, the team’s identity would hoover up American support, as well as a fair bit elsewhere.
An Andretti-Cadillac, driving through the streets of Las Vegas with Colton Herta potentially in the car? That’s as American as an apple pie stuffed with a cheeseburger. Liberty Media wouldn’t be able to turn that down.
Andretti fired some pretty specifically-aimed shots at Haas recently, calling their partnership with Cadillac a “true American F1 bid”. It’s been well-documented that Andretti spent a long time attempting to buy Haas to no avail, and it appears the feeling is still a little strong. Some could say it’s a low blow, but taking pot-shots at Haas is a pretty low bar. If you can’t beat Haas, then there should be a democratic process to have them booted back out again.
Also, imagine the drama Drive to Survive could make out of two American teams hating on each other. Juicier than a ripe orange; spicier than a scotch bonnet, and so deliciously entertaining that even Will Buxton’s banal analysis would be worth withstanding.
Saying no sets a precedent
Formula 1 was once known by many team principals as “the piranha club”. And this was when any Tom, Dick or Harry with a bit of money could rock up with a car and a bunch of mechanics holding spanners by the wrong end. It seems the toxicity in the sport is even more corrosive and off-putting right now, and if all – or most – of the teams are going to say no to any team that is hoping to enter, then what will it say to those potential constructors exactly? It’s like a bunch of 10-year-old boys putting a “no girls allowed” sign on their treehouse.
I understand the sport needs to exercise its due diligence on any potential teams to be sure whether their time is being wasted, but if they can successfully navigate such a hurdle, then, as long as the grid isn’t so long that new grid slots need to be painted halfway around the circuit, why can’t we have new teams that would possibly bring some competition, and provide freshness from the same-old every season?
It seems Michael Andretti is navigating these hurdles fairly well, and I wish the team good luck in reaching Formula 1. Go, go, go, Team America!