In an exclusive interview with Michael Andretti, the prospective Formula One team owner sounded off on the pushback many team principals are doing to keep his General Motors GM-backed team from getting accepted for the Formula One World Championship.
I spoke with Andretti on Monday, and he denied the Cadillac engine is a “badging exercise” as some F1 team owners have claimed.
Andretti has a simple explanation why so many team owners in Formula One don’t want to see his team participate in F1.
“It’s all about money,” Andretti told me. “First, they think they are going to get diluted one-tenth of their prize money, but they also get very greedy thinking we will take all the American sponsors as well.
“It’s all about greed and looking at themselves and not looking at what is best for the overall growth of the series.”
Andretti also revealed to me that he intends to pursue a Nascar Cup Series team, once he gets a Formula One team admitted into the Formula One World Championship.
“We have to make sure we get into Nascar in a few years,” said Andretti, who pursued a Dodge team over a decade ago. “We are very much looking at it and monitoring it. We are looking for a couple of situations and hopefully in a couple of years, we will be there.”
The NTT IndyCar Series team owner also said McLaren’s Zak Brown is one of his best friends and solidly behind his efforts to help Andretti get a Formula One team by 2025.
“Zak wants to do whatever he can to help us get there and so has Alpine as well,” Andretti told me. “Zak Brown and Alpine are two very good allies. Zak has been very supportive.
“Zak has been a great friend and ally. He gives me advice and is there to help. We help each other. I’ve been helping him a lot when he came to IndyCar racing. It’s a friendship that works both ways.”
Andretti announced on Thursday, January 5 that General Motors was joining forces with Andretti Global to put a Cadillac entry to the Formula One starting grid.
“We’ve been working on this for quite a while, but when the President of the FIA Mohammad Ben Sulayem issued his tweet supporting our effort, that’s when we decided to make the announcement,” Andretti told me. “Once they make an expression of interest, then we are in competition with other teams, and we are on our way because that means we will do an extra team. We were very, very excited when we saw that. It all came together very nicely.
“We check all the boxes. The only box we didn’t have checked when we were working on our entry was, we didn’t have an OEM behind us, but now we have GM and Cadillac behind us. They are going to bring a lot to the party to help us get a race car on track. We are very bullish at this moment.
“There is still a long way to go, and we are willing to follow every procedure that needs to be done. We are in a good position for it.”
Ever since Andretti and GM President Mark Reuss made the announcement last week, F1 team principles except for McLaren and Alpine have started to pick apart the American team’s bid.
According to a news report by Andrew Benson of BBC Sport, On Sunday, Ben Sulayem put out another statement on Twitter.
“It is surprising that there has been some adverse reaction to the Cadillac and Andretti Global news,” he wrote. “We should be encouraging prospective entries from global manufacturers like GM and thoroughbred racers like Andretti and others.”
An FIA spokesperson said on Monday: “The FIA has not made any indication or comment on the potential success or otherwise of any organizations who express their interest in entering the championship.”
They added that the process would “follow strict FIA protocol and take several months.”
I asked Andretti if he is surprised that F1 keeps moving the goalposts in his efforts to bring a team to Formula One?
“I’m not surprised,” Andretti told me. “In Formula One, the owners look out for themselves; not what is best for the series. That is the difference between President Mohammad’s position and the team owner’s position. President Mohammad is looking out for the future of the sport.
“Mohammad gets it. He’s a racer and he understands the series needs to have one or two more teams. It is an FIA championship, and it holds most of the cards to get the expression of interest going.”
Andretti admits there are other commitments that must be met with Formula One. His group has spoken to F1 president Stefano Domenicali. But first, Andretti must win over the FIA before convincing the team owners.
“Stefano was very happy when we brought up the name, Cadillac,” Andretti said. “It’s going to be huge for Formula One as well. Formula One is growing so much in the United States, to bring General Motors and Cadillac into Formula One was very big for all sides considered.
“It’s a powerful thing to bring Formula One into the United States.”
According to Benson’s report on the BBC, some F1 principals believe Cadillac is slapping its name on an engine prepared by another automaker, such as Renault. Andretti said that couldn’t be further from the truth, although he admits the Cadillac-prepared engine would not be able to participate until 2026.
“It’s a rumor – it’s not true – Cadillac will be very much involved in the manufacturing of the car,” Andretti told me. “If we get in, in 2025, there won’t be a new engine yet, so we would have to go with a formula that is used now, but in 2026 there are various things we can do with another engine manufacturer. It would not be a badged engine, because there would be intellectual property from Cadillac in that engine, so that is not a badged engine.”
Andretti Global is currently constructing one of the most advanced racing facilities in the world in a massive new complex in Fishers, Indiana – a suburb on the northeast side of Indianapolis.
The idea of joining Formula One started in 2016 for Andretti. He believed it was the next step to make for his brand. He started looking for partners back then and that has brought him to 2023, which happens to be the 20th Anniversary of Andretti Autosport.
That team began as Andretti Green Racing in the Indy Racing League after Andretti bought out Team Green’s CART operation along with then partners Kevin Savoree and Kim Green. Those two departed in 2009 when the team became Andretti Autosport.
“If you had told me back in 2003 that we would be where we are and where we are headed, I would have laughed in your face,” Andretti said. “It’s amazing and exciting and a dream come true for all of us the way it has come about.
“I have to pinch myself every day.”
Since joining IndyCar in 2003, Andretti’s cars and drivers have won five Indianapolis 500s with drivers Dan Wheldon in 2005, Dario Franchitti in 2007, Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2014, Alexander Rossi in 2016 and Takuma Sato in 2017.
The team has also won four NTT IndyCar National Championships including Tony Kanaan in 2004, Wheldon in 2005, Franchitti in 2007 and Hunter-Reay in 2012.
Danica Patrick drove an Andretti Autosport car to victory at Twin Ring Motegi in April 2008 to become the first female ever to win an IndyCar Series race.
As a racing driver, Andretti won 42 CART/IndyCar races and the 1991 CART championship. He never won the Indianapolis 500 as a driver but holds the record for most laps led by a non-winner in Indy 500 history.
The son 1978 Formula One World Champion, 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1967 Daytona 500 winner and racing legend Mario Andretti competed in Formula One for McLaren in 1993 but had a difficult season and returned to CART in 1994.
He remains determined to conquer Formula One, but as a team owner with an American driver, Colton Herta, behind the wheel of an Andretti Global/Cadillac entry.
“We are coming in, in a serious way,” Andretti said. “It will take a long time to get there, but eventually we want to be one of the top teams in Formula One. Our end goal is to be competing for the World Championship five or six years down the road.
“We are doing this just to be there. Who cares about that? We want to compete and race against the best in the world. We aren’t underestimating that. It will be a long, building process, but we have a good plan to eventually get us there.”
Andretti also credits Project 1001 with supplying the capital investment in his F1 venture. That company is run by Dan Towriss.
“Without them, it wouldn’t be happening,” Andretti said. “They are the backbone of the whole thing. It’s been a fun project with them because they are great people. We’ve really enjoyed each other’s company working through this and getting to this point.
“I’m very lucky to be in this position. It’s been a dream.”
If and when Andretti gets admitted to the Formula One paddock, he will feel tremendous redemption from those who have placed obstacles in his path.
“You have to stay focused on your job and not listen to the naysayers,” Andretti told me. “I actually use the naysayers as motivation.
“It’s always fun to shut them up.”