Formula 1 | A place for Michael Andretti and Cadillac?

It’s still a few weeks before the cars that will compete in the 2023 World Championship are shown and back on the track, but F1 is already in the news thanks to a new team project that is far from unanimous.


The recent announcement of an F1 team project led by American Michael Andretti, backed by General Motors, did not raise the enthusiasm many had expected.

In fact, with the exception of FIA President Mohamed Ben Sulayem, many stakeholders in the Formula 1 community have expressed reservations, even skepticism, regarding the project’s prospects. Nevertheless, Andretti comes from one of the “royal” families of motorsport – his father Mario was the world champion in Formula One in 1978 – and runs a company that participates in no less than seven series of competitions, in Formula E and the IndyCar series in particular.

Now 60, Michael Andretti hasn’t had the same driving success as his father, despite 42 wins and a CART Series title. However, he has brilliantly returned to running Andretti Autosport, an organization whose growth he has spearheaded and which he now considers ready to join F1’s great circus.

PHOTO PAUL SANCYA, Associate Press Archives

Michael Andretti at the IndyCar Detroit Grand Prix in 2021

After a failed attempt to acquire the Sauber team – which was instead taken over by Audi – Andretti has indicated he wants one of the two spots still available in F1 (the field is limited to 12 teams).

However, he was soon told that he would have to enlist the support of the manufacturer, which explains his association with General Motors through the Cadillac brand.

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In this context, Ben Sulayem welcomed on his Twitter account the possibility of the arrival of the American giant, good news at a time when Formula 1 is expanding completely in the United States, with no less than three events planned for 2023. This gesture, however, was very poorly received. by many key figures in F1 who saw him as meddled by the FIA ​​in a file where he usually only plays a minor role.

FOM (Formula One Management, owned by Liberty Media) runs F1 in partnership with the teams. The FIA, which leases out its rights, exists only to arbitrate disputes. Since his election in December 2021, Bin Sulayem has been more active than his predecessors, and more talkative as well. His interventions quickly highlighted the power struggles and fragile equilibrium that surrounds control of F1.

Despite themselves, Andretti and Cadillac found themselves at the center of these conflicts and several speakers did not fail to highlight the “weaknesses” of their candidacy.

Many doubt the Andretti-Cadillac team is strong enough to be competitive in F1.

We also wonder about the intent to base the team in the US, with only a ‘satellite’ in Europe, while all teams have their base on the Old Continent, mostly in the UK.

And we must remember that at first Cadillac will only be a sponsor, the cars are powered by Renault engines, which is a useful way to get a lot of visibility without having to invest hundreds of millions in development, like Ferrari or Mercedes, for example.

opponents

Money is also the main argument of many opponents of the Andretti project. Any new team is currently required to pay an anti-dilution sum of 200 million to compensate other teams for lost revenue. Some consider this amount to be very insufficient and would like to increase it to at least 600 million.

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In an interview with ForbesMichael Andretti denounced the greed of the teams, saying: “They say that their income will decrease, that we will monopolize all American sponsors. In fact, they only think about themselves and not about what is best for F1.”

In a recent press briefing, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said he was positive about GM’s potential involvement, but also noted that Formula 1 was increasingly prosperous and that the new team had to ensure the growth necessary for all other teams to find it. themselves in a better position.

In this context, the Andretti-Cadillac candidacy may not be the only one and the competition promises to be fierce with the already planned arrival of Audi, but also with Porsche.

And we’re talking more and more about projects by Ford, the other American manufacturer, which has a strong F1 pedigree.

It’s clear Andretti will not make it through the long selection process and land in F1 as early as 2024, as he has expressed his desire. It remains to be seen if he will have the patience and arguments to achieve his goal.

Musical chairs at the top

More than the driver changes, it is the moves of the teams’ managers that have attracted attention during the off-season. No less than four teams have new bosses, the most exciting of which was certainly the departure of Mattia Binotto from Ferrari, who was clearly forced to resign, and the move of Frédéric Vasseur from Sauber-Alfa Romeo to Scuderia. The Frenchman has a wealth of motorsport experience – he notably managed Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in F2, before becoming Renault team principal – and seems better equipped than his predecessor to put some order into running an often chaotic team. It was Andreas Seidl who took his place at Sauber to prepare for Audi’s arrival in 2026, leaving the management of McLaren to his right-hand man, Andrea Stella, a former Ferrari employee. The last move in this game of musical chairs, after the “firing” of Just Capito, James Fowles became the Williams boss. He was a close partner of Toto Wolff at Mercedes. If we add the arrival of Otmar Szafnauer (Alpine) and Mike Krach (Aston Martin) at the beginning of 2022, more than half of the teams have changed bosses in less than a year!

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Michael Marois, Journalism

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