As F1 arrives in Miami, will Andretti Global still find its way to the starting grid in the future?

F1 Andretti Miami
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If things had gone according to the F1 plan for Michael Andretti, Colton Herta would be in Miami preparing for the fifth Formula One race of his career.

Instead, the 22-year-old Californian is headed to the inaugural Miami Grand Prix as a spectator. His boss, meanwhile, awaits word on his request to start a Formula One team (which would be known as Andretti Global) and bring a true American team to the grid.

Michael Andretti fell short in his bid last fall to purchase the Sauber team when negotiations fell apart over control of the organization. He refuted speculation that he didn’t have the cash needed to complete the deal.

“No, 1,000% no, that’s not what happened,” Andretti told The Associated Press. “It fell apart because all of a sudden they changed the terms and they wanted to control everything. They wanted veto power on every decision. They changed that two days before the deal was supposed to be signed. So I don’t give a crap what anyone says, we were never going to do a deal in which we bought the team but didn’t have control of the team.”

In February, his father Mario, the 1978 F1 champion, revealed that his son had asked F1’s governing body to expand the 20-car grid and admit Andretti into the top series in motorsports. There’s been almost no movement since; the FIA, F1 and Liberty Media, the American company that owns the series, have said very little publicly about Andretti’s quest.

Several F1 teams have publicly said they are against expansion because adding two cars will dilute the purse, and there are indications that Andretti isn’t the only one asking about starting a team.

With each passing day, Michael Andretti’s hopes dwindle of reaching the grid. He said he has the infrastructure and plans in place but the longer the process takes, the less time he would have to properly prepare a team. In revealing his F1 plans Feb. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Andretti said he hoped to be a month from gaining approval.

“I talked to (Liberty Media CEO) Greg (Maffei) and I asked him, `Just let it go to a bid, we’ll beat everybody,’ ” Andretti told AP last week. “That’s all I’m asking. Not that they give it to us. Let us have a shot and we will beat anybody else that’s out there. We have great backers. Money is not the issue.”

Andretti said he doesn’t have the personal funds needed to launch an F1 team – there’s an initial $200 million buy-in fee – and he won’t reveal his backers. But it’s widely believed his support comes from the Guggenheim group, which owns the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Andretti did confirm his backers are already involved in professional sports.

Andretti, who spent 1993 commuting between the U.S. and Europe as an F1 driver for McLaren, believes the return of the Andretti name would be a boon to the series as its popularity soars in North America. F1 took a four-year break from racing in the U.S. before returning in 2012 in Texas, and Miami this weekend is one of the hottest tickets in sports.

At a news conference in March to announce a 2023 race in Las Vegas – a third U.S. event on the F1 calendar – Maffei was quick to note that F1 already has an American team in Haas. The team is owned by California businessman Gene Haas and run partially out of its North Carolina headquarters, but driver Kevin Magnussen is Danish and Mick Schumacher is German.

Until Russia invaded Ukraine, the Haas cars were sponsored by a Russian company, sported the colors of the Russian flag and Magnussen’s seat was filled by Russian driver Nikita Mazepin. Haas has since cut ties with its Russian partners.

“We have 10 great teams already and we have the potential over time to add more teams,” Maffei told AP. “We have a lot of demand for people who want to add teams, either by buying a team or expanding teams. We’ll look at that over time and see what they can add, and we’ll try to build a consensus among the teams and the FIA about who to bring in and what qualifications they need.”

With multiple suitors, AP asked Maffei if being an American gave Andretti an edge considering Liberty and F1’s aggressive efforts to expand its North American footprint.

“I think there would be a lot of factors, and being an American can be a positive,” Maffei told AP. “But we’d look at all things that a new team could potentially bring and that’s not just access to new markets. Capital opportunities that they know something about, marketing, technology, all of those things would be interesting to us.”

Andretti frankly doesn’t have much time to wait, particularly as it pertains to his star driver. Herta tried the European path as a teenager but returned to the U.S. when the road to an F1 seat seemed too daunting for an American.

Andretti has since given Herta permission to test an F1 car this year for McLaren, an opportunity that will help him secure the points needed for a license to race in F1. But McLaren is also evaluating Herta for its own plans and his contract with Andretti runs only through 2023.

Should nothing pan out with Andretti and F1 by the time Herta begins talks on a new contract, he’d be free to return to Europe and race for McLaren or anyone else.

“I want Colton to stay with us forever,” Andretti said. “But if he’s got an opportunity and we don’t have that to offer, I can’t stand in the way.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.