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.
Proud to announce our Andretti Global partnership with GM @Cadillac as we pursue the opportunity to compete in the @FIA @F1 World Championship. #CadillacVSeries #AllAndretti pic.twitter.com/c1juJtra11
— Michael Andretti (@michaelandretti) January 5, 2023
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.
I have asked my @FIA team to look at launching an Expressions of Interest process for prospective new teams for the FIA @F1 World Championship
— Mohammed Ben Sulayem (@Ben_Sulayem) January 2, 2023
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.”
I welcome the news of the @Cadillac and @FollowAndretti partnership and the @FIA looks forward to further discussions on the FIA @F1 World Championship Expressions of Interest process pic.twitter.com/LQgbYDW0qM
— Mohammed Ben Sulayem (@Ben_Sulayem) January 5, 2023
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.”