In what seems a not-so-subtle dig at some unnamed Formula One executives, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem delivered a shot across the bow of those critics who might seek to undermine the bid by Michael Andretti to enter F1 with General Motors’ Cadillac brand.
In a tweet Sunday (tagging Cadillac, Andretti Autosport, General Motors, the FIA and Formula One), Ben Sulayem posted “it is surprising that there has been some adverse reaction to the @Cadillac and @FollowAndretti news. The @FIA has accepted the entries of smaller, successful orgnisations in recent years.
“We should be encouraging prospective F1 entries from global manufacturers like @GM and thoroughbred racers like Andretti and others. Interest from teams in growth markets adds diversity and broadens @F1’s appeal.”
.@Cadillac @FollowAndretti @GM @FIA @F1 pic.twitter.com/ziVL91FCec
— Mohammed Ben Sulayem (@Ben_Sulayem) January 8, 2023
With ambitions of expanding a racing empire that already encompasses IndyCar, Formula E, Extreme E and now IMSA, Michael Andretti has been trying to enter Formula One for nearly two years but has been met with resistance at nearly every turn.
After an attempt to buy into Sauber collapsed in late 2021, Andretti formed a bid for his own team. His legendary father, Mario, went public on Twitter with the plan for Andretti Global a year ago because of frustration with the response from Formula One Management.
Michael Andretti lobbied the paddock during the inaugural Miami Grand Prix last May and then announced plans to build a 525,000-square-foot shop (part of the nine-figure backing he had secured to pay the $200 million entry fee for F1). Last week, he revealed that General Motors had partnered with his organization and wanted to race F1 for the first time via its Cadillac brand.
GM is the No. 1 automaker in the United States, where F1 has boomed in popularity and will add a third race in 2023 with Las Vegas. But Thursday’s Cadillac news was met with immediate pushback by Formula One management, which released a statement noting it has several prospective team candidates and singled out Andretti for being the most public.
“There is great interest in the F1 project at this time with a number of conversations continuing that are not as visible as others,” F1 said in its Thursday statement to select media. “We all want to ensure the championship remains credible and stable and any new entrant request will be assessed on criteria to meet those objectives by the relevant stakeholders. Any new entrant request requires the agreement of both F1 and the FIA.”
F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali also seemed to downplay the Andretti bid in interviews last year. Reuters reported last week that “a senior team figure” said “a strong majority” of the teams were against expanding the 10-team, 20-car grid.
The pushback from Formula One (and many of its teams) increasingly has drawn scrutiny for its curious motives. General Motors is the type of deep-pocketed manufacturer craved by series such as F1, and the Andretti name already has strong F1 ties (Mario won the 1978 championship, and Michael briefly raced the series in ’93).
But in last Thursday’s news conference with General Motors president Mark Reuss, Michael Andretti expressed “1,000 percent” confidence that he would be successful entering F1 — and cited the support of Ben Sulayem (whom he called “a racer”) as a main reason multiple times.
Sunday’s tweet from Ben Sulayem, who also tweeted his support last week of the Cadillac news, was another indication that Andretti seems to have a strong ally in the FIA, the global sanctioning body that holds enormous sway over F1’s competitive operations and structure.
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
Though they came during a different era of F1 audience appeal and series ownership, previous (and much less established) American-based bids have been met with much less resistance than Andretti has faced.
Gene Haas’ team was approved about a year after he announced his intentions to enter Formula One, and Haas F1 joined the grid in 2016.
USF1 was approved for entry in June 2009, but the Charlotte, North Carolina-based team imploded several months later, failing to reach the grid for its 2010 debut.