So far F1 owners are giving the cold shoulder to the idea of a new team.
- There are 10 teams currently on the F1 grid.
- Right now, the only American team is Haas.
- Andretti has already secured $200 million in funding, but according to existing owners, that may not be enough.
It’s no secret that Michael Andretti, a former IndyCar and Formula 1 driver and current IndyCar team owner, wants to add an F1 team to his substantial holdings, be it through buying an existing team – though it seems there isn’t a suitable one available – or starting a new team, possibly with IndyCar’s Colton Herta as a driver.
Andretti and his father Mario, a former F1 champion and a grand marshal for Sunday’s Formula 1 Grand Prix of Miami, are here in town trying to drum up support for Michael’s effort. He says he has the $200 million buy-in ready to go, but F1 royalty hasn’t decided whether to let Andretti start an 11th team, and it could be months before they decide.
In a press conference Saturday with F1 team principals Toto Wolff of Mercedes, Zak Brown of McLaren and Laurent Rossi of Alpine, the message to Andretti seems to be twofold.
One, don’t hold your breath.
And two, what’s in it for me?
“F1 isn’t, for god’s sake, a charitable organization”
To be fair, F1 isn’t, for god’s sake, a charitable organization – it, and its teams, run on pure 110-octane money. And beyond that initial $200 million, the three executives want to know how a team headed by Michael Andretti would put money in their pockets, instead of taking some away.
Wolff explains that: “We have 10 entries today, and we divide the prize fund among those 10 entries. We have invested considerable amounts over the last 10 years. I mean, each of the organizations sitting here on the podium has probably put more than a billion into Formula 1 projects over the years, so it needs to be accretive. If a team comes in, how can you demonstrate that you’re bringing in more money than it’s actually costing, because the 11th team means a 10 per cent dilution for everybody else?”
Fair question. A possible answer: F1 is booming in North America right now, with three races – Circuit of the Americas, Miami, and soon Las Vegas, in the U.S. Might not a true American team, with at least one American driver, not add to the popularity? Popularity is profitable.
(L-R) Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff, McLaren Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown and Laurent Rossi, CEO of Alpine F1 attend the Team Principals Press Conference prior to final practice ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at the Miami International Autodrome on May 07, 2022 in Miami, Florida.
Clive MasonGetty Images
Still, Rossi seems unconvinced. An American team “will directly generate, I guess, interest in the U.S. And therefore, revenue. [But] we need to demonstrate that it’s enough to compensate for the dilution that Toto was mentioning.”
“As long as it’s a team that helps build the sport – unlike some of the other entries that we’ve seen over the years that have come and gone in year two or three – I think we can’t accept teams like that,” Brown said. “But a very credible racing team with a credible brand, with the right resources, I think is additive to the sport.” And he said he thinks Andretti might be able to check that box.
There’s no denying that 10 is a nice round number, and it makes the math easy: Lots of money, divided by 10. But having a home team to cheer for – and we’re well aware that Haas F1 is American-owned, but Gene Haas has done confoundingly little to remind us of that – is an opportunity Formula 1 should not discount.
Michael and Mario Andretti have to walk on eggshells when talking about that, for fear of offending the delicate sensibilities so prevalent in F1.
But we don’t. Get off the pot, and give Andretti a shot, and give us one more tangible reason beyond a potboiling Netflix series to follow Formula 1. The racing is excellent right now but having a team that knows how to truly activate in the U.S. would make it that much better.
Keyword: Why F1 needs Michael Andretti