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.”

‘It’s gnarly, bro’: IndyCar drivers face new challenge on streets of downtown Detroit

IndyCar Detroit downtown
James Black/Penske Entertainment
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DETROIT – It was the 1968 motion picture, “Winning” when actress Joanne Woodward asked Paul Newman if he were going to Milwaukee in the days after he won the Indianapolis 500 as driver Frank Capua.

“Everybody goes to Milwaukee after Indianapolis,” Newman responded near the end of the film.

Milwaukee was a mainstay as the race on the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but since 2012, the first race after the Indy 500 has been Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

This year, there is a twist.

Instead of IndyCar racing at the Belle Isle State Park, it’s the streets of downtown Detroit on a race course that is quite reminiscent of the old Formula One and CART race course that was used from 1982 to 1991.

Formula One competed in the United States Grand Prix from 1982 to 1988. Beginning in 1989, CART took over the famed street race through 1991. In 1992, the race was moved to Belle Isle, where it was held through last year (with a 2009-2011 hiatus after the Great Recession).

The Penske Corp. is the promoter of this race, and they did a lot of good at Belle Isle, including saving the Scott Fountain, modernizing the Belle Isle Casino, and basically cleaning up the park for Detroit citizens to enjoy.

The race, however, had outgrown the venue. Roger Penske had big ideas to create an even bigger event and moving it back to downtown Detroit benefitted race sponsor Chevrolet. The footprint of the race course goes around General Motors world headquarters in the GM Renaissance Center – the centerpiece building of Detroit’s modernized skyline.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

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Motor City is about to roar with the sound of Chevrolet and Honda engines this weekend as the NTT IndyCar Series is the featured race on the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street course.

It’s perhaps the most unique street course on the IndyCar schedule because of the bumps on the streets and the only split pit lane in the series.

The pit lanes has stalls on opposing sides and four lanes across an unusual rectangular pit area (but still only one entry and exit).

Combine that, with the bumps and the NTT IndyCar Series drivers look forward to a wild ride in Motor City.

“It’s gnarly, bro,” Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward said before posting the fastest time in Friday’s first practice. “It will be very interesting because the closest thing that I can see it being like is Toronto-like surfaces with more of a Long Beach-esque layout.

“There’s less room for error than Long Beach. There’s no curbs. You’ve got walls. I think very unique to this place.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Speeds from the first session

“Then it’s a bit of Nashville built into it. The braking zones look really very bumpy. Certain pavements don’t look bumpy but with how the asphalt and concrete is laid out, there’s undulation with it. So, you can imagine the cars are going to be smashing on every single undulation because we’re going to go through those sections fairly fast, and obviously the cars are pretty low. I don’t know.

“It looks fun, man. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s going to be learning through every single session, not just for drivers and teams but for race control. For everyone.

“Everybody has to go into it knowing not every call is going to be smooth. It’s a tall task to ask from such a demanding racetrack. I think it’ll ask a lot from the race cars as well.”

The track is bumpy, but O’Ward indicated he would be surprised if it is bumper than Nashville. By comparison to Toronto, driving at slow speed is quite smooth, but fast speed is very bumpy.

“This is a mix of Nashville high-speed characteristics and Toronto slow speed in significant areas,” O’Ward said. “I think it’ll be a mix of a lot of street courses we go to, and the layout looks like more space than Nashville, which is really tight from Turn 4 to 8. It looks to be a bit more spacious as a whole track, but it’ll get tight in multiple areas.”

The concept of having four-wide pit stops is something that excites the 24-year-old driver from Monterey, Mexico.

“I think it’s innovation, bro,” O’Ward said. “If it works out, we’ll look like heroes.

“If it doesn’t, we tried.”

Because of the four lanes on pit road, there is a blend line the drivers will have to adhere to. Otherwise, it would be chaos leaving the pits compared to a normal two-lane pit road.

“If it wasn’t there, there’d be guys fighting for real estate where there’s one car that fits, and there’d be cars crashing in pit lane,” O’Ward said. “I get why they did that. It’s the same for everybody. I don’t think there’s a lot of room to play with. That’s the problem.

“But it looks freaking gnarly for sure. Oh my God, that’s going to be crazy.”

Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing believes the best passing areas will be on the long straights because of the bumps in the turns. That is where much of the action will be in terms of gaining or losing a position in the race.

“It will also be really easy to defend in my opinion,” Palou said. “Being a 180-degree corner, you just have to go on the inside and that’s it. There’s going to be passes for sure but its’ going to be risky.

“Turn 1, if someone dives in, you end up in the wall. They’re not going to be able to pass you on the exit, so maybe with the straight being so long you can actually pass before you end up on the braking zone.”

Palou’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was at the Honda simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana, before coming to Detroit and said he was shocked by the amount of bumps on the simulator.

Race promoter Bud Denker, the President of Penske Corporation, and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri, sent the track crews onto the streets with grinders to smooth out the bumps on the race course several weeks ago.

“They’ve done a decent amount of work, and even doing the track walk, it looked a lot better than what we expected,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I hope not. That’ll be something to take into account.

“I think the track layout doesn’t look like the most fun. Maybe not the most challenging. But I love these types of tracks with rules everywhere. It’s a big challenge, and you have to build up to it. That’s the types of tracks that I love to drive. It’s a very much Marcus Ericsson type of track. I like it.”

Scott Dixon, who was second fastest in the opening session, has competed on many new street circuits throughout his legendary racing career. The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion for Chip Ganassi Racing likes the track layout, even with the unusual pit lane.

I don’t think that’s going to be something that catches on where every track becomes a double barrel,” Dixon said. “It’s new and interesting.

“As far as pit exit, I think Toronto exit is worse with how the wall sticks out. I think in both lanes, you’ve got enough lead time to make it and most guys will make a good decision.”

It wasn’t until shortly after 3 p.m. ET on Friday that the IndyCar drivers began the extended 90-minute practice session to try out the race course for the first time in real life.

As expected, there were several sketchy moments, but no major crashes during the first session despite 19 local yellow flags for incidents and six red flags.

Rookie Agustin Canapino had to cut his practice short after some damage to his No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet, but he was among many who emerged mostly unscathed from scrapes with the wall.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood, who was third fastest in the practice after coming off his first career IndyCar victory in the most recent street race at Long Beach in April. “I think a lot of people went off in the runoffs, but no one actually hit the wall (too hard), which actually surprised me. Hats off to them for keeping it clean, including myself.

“It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected. Maybe a little bit more bumpy down into Turn 3 than everyone expected. But overall they did a good job between the two manufacturers. I’m sure everyone had pretty much the same we were able to base everything off of. We felt pretty close to maximum right away.”

Most of the preparation for this event was done either on the General Motors Simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina, or the Honda Performance Development simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Now, we have simulators that can scan the track, so we have done plenty of laps already,” Power told NBC Sports. “They have ground and resurfaced a lot of the track, so it should be smoother.

“But nothing beats real-world experience. It’s going to be a learning experience in the first session.”

As a Team Penske driver, Power and his teammates were consulted about the progress and layout of the Detroit street course. They were shown what was possible with the streets that were available.

“We gave some input back after we were on the similar what might be ground and things like that,” Power said.

Racing on the streets of Belle Isle was a fairly pleasant experience for the fans and corporate sponsor that compete in the race.

But the vibe at the new location gives this a “big event” feel.

“The atmosphere is a lot better,” Power said. “The location, the accessibility for the fans, the crowd that will be here, it’s much easier. I think it will be a much better event.

“It feels like a Long Beach, only in a much bigger city. That is what street course racing is all about.”

Because the track promoter is also the team owner, Power and teammates Scott McLaughlin and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden will have a very busy weekend on the track, and with sponsor and personal appearances.

“That’s what pays the bills and allows us to do this,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500