GM joins Michael Andretti’s Formula One bid; wants to race the Cadillac brand in F1

Andretti Global Cadillac

Michael Andretti gained a major ally in his quest to join F1 as General Motors announced Thursday morning its desire to race in Formula One with GM Racing’s Cadillac brand joining Andretti Global.

Michael Andretti, who has been trying since at least 2021 to enter Formula One, held a news conference with GM president Mark Reuss, confirming the deal after about four months of discussions. If the team is approved, it would be the first entry into F1 for GM.

Reuss said F1’s increasing popularity (and desire for continued audience growth) in the United States was intriguing but mainly credited Andretti for spurring GM’s involvement in the project.

“At some point, GM would have loved to have gotten into Formula One,” Reuss said. “For various reasons, it was pretty tough to do that. Whether the leadership or the amount of money at that time or where the economy was or where the company was. This opportunity and Michael (were) just really, really important to us. We weren’t searching necessarily to do it, but Michael kicked it off. I was personally really over the moon, and it just evolved in a really positive way.

“Today is the first step in what we hope to be the historic entry of General Motors into F1,” Reuss said. “Never happened in our history. It’s very, very exciting for us to be with Andretti. And if given the opportunity, GM and Cadillac will compete with the very best at the very highest levels with passion and integrity that will continue to elevate the sport for the FIA and race fans around the world.”

Andretti said his F1 bid just “evolved in a positive way” into negotiations with Cadillac.

“To have an American manufacturer behind an American team with an American driver is going to be the biggest story of the year,” Andretti said. “So it just happened naturally. The great thing is GM has great people and resources ready to help us get up and running even quicker. We’re in a really good position.”

The proposed team’s powerplant initially would be built by a third party. Reuss said GM and Andretti had a signed agreement with a power unit supplier and hinted GM could build F1 engines in the future. GM has a longtime technical partnership with Honda that recently has focused on electric vehicles.

“We also compete against Honda in IndyCar as well,” Reuss said. “We have that natural respect and relationship (with Honda), which isn’t problematic at all. We’ll talk about the engine piece at a later date.”

Andretti Global, which has been building a new 575,000-square-foot headquarters in Fishers, Indiana, had been aiming to enter Formula One with the 2024 season, but it likely would be no earlier than 2026.

Andretti said Thursday morning there was no timetable for entry, which would depend on the selection process (known as “the expression of interest”) with the FIA. “We all want to be on track as soon as we can be on track,” said Andretti, whose F1 team would be based primarily at his new U.S. shop with a satellite facility in the U.K.

In a release, Andretti said it would be seeking an expression of interest when the FIA opens the formal bidding process for new F1 teams. He spent last year’s Miami Grand Prix lobbying the F1 paddock.

Though the bid has hit some snags (and caused frustration for racing legend Mario Andretti, who went public with the bid a year ago), Michael Andretti said having the support of Cadillac “checked the last box” for a full-fledged F1 bid.

“One of the big things was `What does Andretti bring to the party?’ ” Andretti said. “Well, we’re bringing one of the biggest manufacturers in the world with us now with General Motors and Cadillac. We feel that was the one box that we didn’t have checked that we do have checked now. I think we’ll be bringing a tremendous amount of support to Formula One, and it’s hard for anyone to argue with that now.”

Thursday’s announcement came not so coincidentally three days after FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem had tweeted that he planned to launch the process for recruiting new teams to F1.

Andretti expressed faith that his bid would be successful with the support of Ben Sulayem, whom he mentioned multiple times during the news conference Thursday.

Andretti said he felt “very confident” he was “ahead of our competition” from other prospective teams vying to enter F1.

Ben Sulayem also tweeted his support of the GM announcement Thursday morning.

“He is a racer and understands the importance of that for the series itself,” Andretti said of Ben Sulayem. “We feel very confident once the expression of interest goes out, having a great partnership with Cadillac, we have a very good shot of checking every box and being on the grid very very soon.”

Formula One, which approves new F1 teams in conjunction with the FIA, released a statement that “a number of conversations (are) continuing” with prospective teams “that are not as visible as others.” F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali seemingly downplayed the Andretti bid in interviews last year.

But it’s unlikely any bid could exceed the sway of General Motors, which is the leading automaker in the United States and among the biggest in the world.

Andretti said the team already has done much of the hiring for its F1 team, adding several main engineers and a technical director whom would be announced “down the road.” Andretti said his plan remains to have an American driver for the U.S.-based team with Colton Herta being a leading candidate.

Herta, who tested an F1 car with McLaren Racing last year, recently signed a contract extension with the Andretti Autosport IndyCar team through the 2027 season.

“We definitely have a plan to have an American driver,” Andretti said. “I think you all know who is leading the pack on that one. Colton, we have under contract right now in IndyCar. We want to make this an all-American effort to make sure we have an American driver in the seat.”

Michael Andretti said the partnership with Cadillac leading to an entry to F1 could be “the biggest story of the year” in motorsports.

“It happened naturally, and the great thing is GM has great resources and people ready to get up and running even quicker,” he said. “We’re in a really good position right now.”

Reuss said GM would provide technical support to Andretti’s F1 team for aerodynamics, chassis and combustion from a base in Warren, Michigan, and its racing technical center (which primarily supports its NASCAR and IndyCar programs) in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area.

GM Racing has been competing with Cadillac in the premier division of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Series since 2017 and also will move into the FIA World Endurance Championship this year with the new Cadillac V-LMDh hybrid prototype sports car.

Andretti also recently expanded its involvement with sports cars, forming a new IMSA partnership last week with Wayne Taylor Racing’s Acura team. Andretti also will continue to race Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series, which is owned by Roger Penske — who had an F1 team from 1974-75.

“Congratulations to Andretti Global and Cadillac on today’s announcement and their collective efforts to enter and compete in Formula 1,” Penske said in a statement Thursday to NBC Sports contributor Bruce Martin. “Michael and General Motors are long-term partners of IndyCar, and I am excited to see what they can accomplish in Formula 1.”

With the addition of Las Vegas joining Austin and Miami, Formula One will have three U.S. races next year, which Reuss said were “very important” along with an increasingly international vision for Cadillac.

“As we expand Cadillac into a global brand into places we haven’t been in a long time or never been, (F1) offers exposure for Cadillac and the brand as it grows,” Reuss said. “That’s a big component of it as well. Our IndyCar series and IMSA series also are very important. We’ll keep all those facets intact and very much healthy from a series and brand standpoint.”

IndyCar Preseason, Day 2: Helio Castroneves addresses racing future, says 2023 is ‘huge’

Helio Castroneves IndyCar futur

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Entering what could be the final season of his NTT IndyCar Series career, there is one race that Helio Castroneves of course has circled as key to the future.

And it surely could cinch his plans with another record-breaking win.

“It’s obviously the big one – it’s Indianapolis 500,” the four-time Indy 500 winner said during preseason media interviews last week. “That’s the one that we feel that we have the same car. We have all our bets onto that. However, I’m not going to give up on the other ones, either. I feel that we have as much of a chance as anybody in some places that I feel comfortable. Finishing in the top 12 (in points) would be a great goal.

“However, we want to be able to have a podium. We want to be able to show what we can get, and we can.”

Castroneves signed a one-year deal to return to Meyer Shank Racing’s No. 06 Dallara-Honda after finishing 18th in the 2022 standings, a career worst for the Brazilian over a full year in IndyCar. Castroneves managed a season-best seventh in the Indy 500 and only two other top 10s in 17 starts. It marked the first time since Castroneves entered the CART ChampCar Series in 1998 that he failed to finishi on the podium during a full-time season (he competed part time in 2018-20 while running full time in IMSA).

A MAN IN FULL: Helio Castroneves as the businessman and budding team owner

Though he dodged questions about how critical results would be to keeping his seat beyond 2023, Castroneves concedes it’s a “huge” season for him. MSR has reshuffled the lineup with new “data people” and a new engineer for Castroneves, who will turn 48 in May. Though MSR already was facing challenges last season in adding a second full-time car along with Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, the expectations are high for a swift turnaround.

“Everyone understands when you’re going through, even if it’s one year, people think it’s a long time, but hey, we’re talking about teams that’s been together for a long, long time, years of experience and communication and everybody is in sync,” said Castroneves, who made six starts (including his fourth Indy 500 win) for MSR in 2021. “Even though for us we did 2021, all those people were part-timers, and we have to start all over again. That was the first time that we had two cars in the team. There was a lot of dynamics changing. Now we are continuing to move forward. It’s important for us to be part of this process, be patient. Yeah, I can’t wait when things start to connect so we can show at the racetrack.”

Beyond coming off a dismal year and racing into his late 40s against drivers who are more than 20 years his junior, the stakes also are high for Castroneves because there’s a high-profile and obvious candidate to supplant him in 2024.

Tom Blomqvist, who teamed with Castroneves to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona for the second consecutive season, has drawn high praise for his championship-level performance in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s premier prototype category. He also has a keen interest in racing IndyCar and tested for MSR last October.

It’s led to some speculation that MSR could broker a trade between its IndyCar and IMSA teams that could swap Blomqvist for Castroneves next year.

“First of all, it’s too early to say,” Castroneves said. “Second, I don’t want anything more than great things for this team. This team is incredible. They already stamped that they’re not just a small team. They stamped that they’re an incredible team. That things amazing (are) about to happen in the future.

“Tom, come on, the kid is a superstar. He’s really quick. He’s doing an amazing job. Last year he did a great job; this year continued doing it. Let’s see. Everything happens and falls natural. But as of right now, it’s too early in the season to predict and think what’s going to happen. Our goal is to have a phenomenal result with MSR so that we can show what this team is capable.”

Castroneves already has resurrected his IndyCar career once (it seemed he was done as a full-time driver after 2017 until his Brickyard triumph), and the “Dancing With The Stars” winner seems ageless, so it’s hard to bet against him or his will to keep driving – especially after three consecutive Rolex 24 victories.

“Do you think I’m thinking retiring right now?” Castroneves said while cracking a smile. “There is no … there isn’t a thought of that. It has to feel natural. I can’t force myself. I can’t put a number or date that I can say this is it. As of right now, I am enjoying very much what I’m doing. I’m about to start a great season with IndyCar, and my mind is only thinking about that. I’m just going to continue working and get that result that I really want, that I know I’m capable and I know what the team is capable. Whatever happens in the future remains to be seen.”

In the short-term, he is taking a positive outlook that he and Pagenaud can improve on MSR’s struggles with tire wear last season. Though his speeds were average in preseason testing at The Thermal Club (Castroneves was 18th fastest on the second day), Castroneves believes the alliance with Andretti Autosport will bear more results in 2023.

“You’re always looking for improvement,” he said. “The good news is we finished 18th last year in the championship. That’s not a place that we want to be. However, we feel there was some areas that we felt we could have better results, but racing is unpredictable, as always. But we’re only looking forward, and we feel we’re going to have a much better season. The expectation is obviously always to do well, but also we understand the possibility of things not going according to the plan.

“But I feel the plan is that. It takes some time to collect some of the informations that we want, our alliances with Andretti Autosport also is still very strong. They also know that they need to improve. It’s not only in our organization. We still keep pushing each other so that we can have a better result like we had or that Andretti had in the past. They have their own engineers, their own resources, they translate it to us, and we’re looking forward to having a much better season, and let’s hope for the best.”

A roundup of other nuggets from the second day of IndyCar’s preseason media availabilities Feb. 1 at the Palm Springs Convention Center:

With Team Penske having announced a sponsor extension with Verizon, the future seems secure for defending series champion Will Power (who had signed a long-term extension in 2021) after a tumultuous offseason for the No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet driver. Power fractured ribs in a go-karting crash (but was able to heal quickly) and also had to withdraw from his Rolex 24 debut last month after his wife, Liz, was hospitalized.

Will Power confirmed she was back home and “much better than (mid-January), but I think we’ll know for sure in five weeks whether her blood stays sterile. She’s improved significantly from (being) in pretty bad shape.”

The elimination of double points for the Indy 500 could change the calculus of this season’s championship race, but Josef Newgarden already had designs on a major alteration. The two-time series champion, who has finished runner-up in three consecutive seasons, said his 2023 goal is to end IndyCar’s 17-year streak of determining the champion in the season finale.

“It gnaws at me for sure,” the Team Penske star, who had a series-high five wins to Power’s one in 2022, said of his recent misses to add a third title. “It’s annoying, there’s no doubt. How could you not be frustrated by it? I try and take the frustration and just put it into motivation. How are we going to build a bigger (points) gap where that’s not even possible? I don’t even want to be messing with it at the end of the year. In an ideal world, if we get to the end of a season where we don’t have to mess with the gap, if we can just get that out of the way, that would be ideal. That’s where my mindset is at, how do we get to that place where it’s not even on the table. It’s just done.

“I’m not arrogant enough to believe that that’s easy. It seems near impossible these days to do that. I think that’s valid. It’s very difficult to do that. I understand that. But I still want to find a way where we can get to a place where we don’t have to mess with it. I do not think that will be easy whatsoever, but we need to figure out how to do that. I am so positive, when we get a year where we get good timing paired with great speed and decisions, it will be a great year. It will be really great. Much better than what we had last year.”

The announcement of Conor Daly attempting to make his Daytona 500 debut (along with other Cup races for TMT) had been foreshadowed last week by the Ed Carpenter Racing driver. Unlike Castroneves, who had mulled racing Daytona with the same team, Daly said he can’t be selective about his opportunities. “I chatted with a young man by the name of Helio Castroneves earlier, and I think for him an opportunity like that could probably come about really anytime,” Daly said. “But for me, I don’t know if an opportunity like that would come again. I have done a lot in my life by (saying) ‘You know what, if there is a chance to do it, might as well do it.’ So who knows what might happen. But if there is a chance, I feel like I can’t not do it, or not try to do it at least.”

Daly finished 34th at the Roval in his Cup debut last year with the team and also has starts in the Xfinity and truck series. “The Cup car isn’t as physical to drive, but it’s still hot and still gets the heart going,” he said. “So, yeah, it was a great experience to be able to do. Not the smoothest experience, I will say, but really cool to get to do that and be a part of the NASCAR Cup Series and hopefully obviously shine some light on the IndyCar Series as well. I think we deserve more attention than we have got in the past. I hope we continue to get more in the future. Obviously people still want to do these races in this series that we’re a part of. Kyle Larson is coming to do the Indy 500. Everyone wants to see that.”

Though Jimmie Johnson has admitted he “never found the knife’s edge” during his two-year stint in IndyCar, Scott Dixon said he’ll be missed as a teammate. “I think anybody that knows Jimmie well, he’s a great person,” Dixon said. “He’s a fun guy to hang out with. I think what he brought to the team, whether it was on the sponsor side to his competitiveness and competition side and info, not just information but kind of his history of being so successful I think really helped with the team.

“For me it was probably more so on just the friendship side of hanging out with him. I think that was in Nashville where he was kind of talking about maybe not coming back, but I was like, ‘Come on, man, you’ve got to make sure you can get the deal together and come back.’ Obviously we can see that he’s moved on to different pastures, and a lot of exciting stuff for him that’s coming up.”

Dixon still believes Johnson could return for the Indy 500 but probably not until next year with NASCAR and Le Mans on his plate for 2023. “Maybe he’s already punted until next year, I don’t know,” Dixon said. “But he wants to do (the Indy 500 again). It’s just timing. It’s very difficult, and especially with the Garage 56 entry and all that kind of stuff, there’s a lot going on, especially around that period of time.”