In bid to start new F1 team, Michael Andretti encouraged by receiving direction in Miami

Michael Andretti Formula One
Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

MIAMI GARDENS, Florida — Michael Andretti walked through the Formula One paddock quite literally going door-to-door. He wants into the most exclusive club in motorsports and figured pleading his case to the current team bosses was his best shot.

Andretti carried with him a white Miami Dolphins folder – he said he borrowed it from the promoters of the inaugural Miami Grand Prix last weekend – and inside was a piece of paper asking the 10 current F1 team leaders to support the addition of Andretti Global to the grid.

By the time he made it to the end of the paddock, Andretti’s chances seemed grim. He left his conversation with Red Bull principal Christian Horner – held in the outdoor, open area of Red Bull hospitality – with only two signatures. Horner did not sign.

MAY IS HERE AT IMS: Details, schedules for watching the Indy 500 and prelims on NBC Sports

BUDDING RIVALRY? Graham Rahal on what’s ahead with Romain Grosjean

Andretti didn’t even bother going next door to Mercedes, where boss Toto Wolff has not wavered in his opposition to adding teams because he believes that would dilute profits for those on the grid.

Andretti, who also mingled with other celebrities at the event, was discouraged but not defeated. By the time Sunday’s race began, he felt a lot better about his chances of returning the Andretti name to F1.

Andretti told The Associated Press he had an encouraging meeting with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali. He said the same thing to new FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem when they spoke before the race.

“We finally have some direction,” Andretti told AP. “It’s the first time we’ve been given any direction on how to make this happen.”

Just when it seemed that Andretti had no shot at cracking the country club – there’s a $200 million buy-in fee – he was given hope. It had to have been encouraging that Sulayem, who was elected head of F1’s governing body in December, not only recognized Andretti but stopped to lean into his ear for an exchange in which Sulayem did most of the talking.

The Andretti effort to field an American team was the talk of F1’s first race in Miami. The North American market at last has embraced the series – Sunday’s race on ABC was the most-watched live F1 race in U.S. history – and Andretti wants to expand the famed racing name.

Mario Andretti, Michael’s father, is the 1978 F1 champion and one of the greatest drivers in motorsports history. But there has not been an American driver in F1 since Alexander Rossi in 2015. The only current American team is Haas F1, which is owned by California businessman Gene Haas, partially headquartered in North Carolina but does not employ any American drivers.

Michael Andretti, who spent the 1993 season commuting back and forth from the U.S. to Europe to drive for McLaren in F1, wants to put IndyCar driver Colton Herta of California in his seat.

Andretti maintains he’s committed to a true effort and argues an American team with an American driver can only add to F1’s financial worth. He figures Andretti involvement will help all existing teams court North American sponsorship.

Wolff has yet to see any benefit to expanding the grid to anyone and estimates F1’s current successful teams have “put more than a billion into the Formula 1 projects over the years.”

“We have 10 entries today, we divide the prize fund among those 10 entries,” Wolff said. “If a team comes in, how can you demonstrate that you’re bringing in more money than it’s actually costing? The 11th team means a 10% dilution for everybody else. So, if one is able to demonstrate that, then we should all be sitting on the table and cheer for such an entry. But that hasn’t been demonstrated yet.”

Zak Brown, the head of McLaren Racing, joined Alpine CEO Laurent Rossi as the only F1 team leaders to sign Andretti’s form in Miami. Brown, a Californian, has a long relationship with the Andrettis and announced Tuesday he will let Mario Andretti drive a McLaren F1 car at the U.S. Grand Prix in October.

He believes Andretti Global would be a benefit.

“A very credible racing team with a credible brand, with the right resources, I think is additive to the sport,” Brown said. “That appears to be what Michael has put together. So, on that basis, we are supportive.”

Rossi said he believes adding an American team “goes along with the expansion in the U.S.” There are two F1 races in the United States this year for the first time since 1984, and a 2023 trip to Las Vegas will make three American races on the schedule.

“An American team will directly generate interest in the U.S., and therefore, revenue,” Rossi said. “We need to demonstrate that it’s enough to compensate for the dilution that Toto was mentioning. Gut feeling? I think he would.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup

IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.



Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III