ST PETERSBURG, Florida – Michael Andretti said his dream of entering Formula One with a new team in the 2024 F1 season is predicated on the series’ U.S. momentum.
Owned by an American company, adding a second U.S. Grand Prix this season and experiencing spikes in viewership with the popularity of the “Drive to Survive” series on Netflix, F1 seems primed for the arrival of Andretti Global, which would move star Colton Herta over from IndyCar.
That’s our case,” Andretti said Friday on the opening day of NTT IndyCar Series practice for the St. Petersburg Grand Prix. “The American market is still untapped, but obviously with the Netflix series, that’s really brought a lot of popularity, and I believe we can bring more longevity to the Netflix series to have a real American team with an American driver.
“I believe with our brand it could keep a lot of interest going for a lot more years. Because everything fades out over time, but I think this would help the longevity of Netflix series.”
In his first expansive comments since his legendary father revealed the F1 plan last week, the Andretti Autosport team owner said he hopes to gain approval within a month “otherwise we’ll be thrashing.” After his deal collapsed last October to buy a majority stake in the Sauber/Alfa Romeo, Andretti began talking with the FIA on forming his own F1 team and submitted paperwork in December.
Andretti said he had expected to have received approval already, but the process apparently has been delayed by the controversy around the 2021 season finale in Abu Dhabi and “a lot of pushback” from teams wary of expanding the 10-team grid of 20 cars.
Andretti said that was the reason why Mario Andretti sent the tweet Feb. 18 revealing the F1 plan.
Michael has applied to the FIA to field a new F1 team starting in 2024. His entry, Andretti Global, has the resources and checks every box. He is awaiting the FIA's determination.
— Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) February 18, 2022
“We wanted to get it out there,” Michael Andretti said. “We wanted them to see that we feel that we can get a lot of support from the fans and hopefully that can help Formula One see how it could help the series. We feel we bring a lot to the party, especially with Liberty and what they’re doing in the U.S., pushing the U.S. market. If we were to have a U.S. team, a U.S. driver, I think that would go a long way for the popularity of Formula One in the United States.”
While declining to name his investors, Andretti said he has assembled a group that can pay the $200 million entry fee that would be shared among F1 teams (and that he estimated as four years of prize money).
“They’re in sports already and they think Formula One is very attractive at the moment with what they’re all doing with the cost cap, the popularity in the U.S. growing,” Andretti said. “The timing is perfect, and they think it’s a great series to be involved in.
“It’s great for our brand. We always wanted to get to the pinnacle. This is the pinnacle of auto racing. For us, there are other series I’m looking at getting involved in, too, and being in all the top races and series in the world, that’s our goal and my partners’ goal.”
Andretti was optimistic about swaying the opinion of Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, who recently said Andretti would need to prove worthy of joining the F1 grid and “probably would need more like a billion” to be competitive.
“I think once we can get to him and explain to him where it’s going to bring more value to the series and hopefully raise the price from having us involved and getting more American companies involved,” Andretti said of Wolff. “The biggest sponsorship in the history of racing was an American company. I think there’s a lot more out there if we can continue to grow the popularity here.”
Andretti said the F1 team also is “a long way down the road with a manufacturer” (there has been speculation that Alpine would be the most likely candidate to build its engines).
“I think we check every box,” Andretti said. “There’s nothing we should us hold back from being accepted.
Other details that Andretti revealed Friday:
–The new team eventually would be headquartered in Indianapolis (where Andretti wants to have all of his teams – IndyCar, IMSA, Extreme E, etc. – under one roof for the first time) with an engineering staff in England. He expects to hire more than 500 team members for F1.
“I’m very excited about the talent I think we can get in the team,” he said. “There’s a lot of interest. We’ve talked to a lot of people. They’re just sitting on the sideline waiting to see this thing go, and we can build a real credible team. I’m excited if we can get the approval, we can come in looking good.”
–He talked as recently as last October with Gene Haas about buying the only current American-owned team in F1, but Haas didn’t want to sell. With Haas F1 having been affected by the ongoing Ukraine invasion because of its Russian sponsors, Andretti remains interested and estimated he could close a deal in three months and enter F1 by 2023 if Haas changed his mind.
“If he wants to sell, tell him to call me,” Andretti said. “That makes it a lot easier for us.”
–Mirroring the ladder structure of his Indy Car/Indy Lights organization, Andretti also would like to run in F2 and F3 to support his F1 team.
“I’d really like to get the kids, when they’re out of go-karts, get them over there and get some good Americans,” Andretti said. “And then we’d support one driver that we thought could be the next ‘Colton’. That’s our ultimate goal. We know how to do those types of teams and cars pretty well. It’s no different than doing an Indy lights team.”
–Asked if a lingering jump to F1 would be a distraction for Herta, Andretti said, “No, I think it’s good for him. It’s good for his head to know that he’s got that; that he’s wanted in that way. I was all abuzz when I was in my heyday and talking about going to F1 for years, and that’s when I won most of my races. So I think it’s a positive thing.”
Andretti indeed scored 27 of his 42 career CART/IndyCar victories before his brief foray into F1 in 1993.