F1 protecting Andretti from itself with bid rejection, says ex-Haas boss Guenther Steiner

Steiner: Andretti's Formula One bid likely denied for being 'too ambitious' (1:02)

Former Haas team boss Guenther Steiner explains why Andretti's Formula One bid was denied. (1:02)

Former Haas boss Guenther Steiner said F1's decision to block Andretti joining before 2028 shows the sport is in such good health it can no longer afford to have uncompetitive teams.

On Wednesday, F1 rejected the joint Andretti-Cadillac bid to join the grid in 2025 or 2026, although it has kept the door open for 2028 if General Motors follows through with plans to build its own engine.

Andretti had said it would be ready to race as early as 2025, likely with Renault engines, despite that being the year before a major overhaul of regulations. But F1 has questioned whether the entry could be truly competitive entering in such fashion.

F1 cited this in its decision, adding that the willingness to enter next year gave "reason to question their understanding of the scope of the challenge involved".

Steiner, who left Haas at the start of January, was speaking to ESPN's Unlapped podcast shortly after the decision had been made public.

"I think they looked at it and thought it was too ambitious," Steiner said.

He added: "I don't have all the information. Maybe they looked at it and they said we want them but we want to make sure they are successful when they come, protect them from themselves.

"I think F1 is protecting all the teams, everyone involved in the sport, they didn't close the door completely. They said '28 is a new day, a new year, it's quite a few years away, it's not tomorrow but the door is open. Show us you can get prepared and be competitive by then and I think we'd welcome them".

Steiner likened the decision to how football has safeguards such as relegation to punish uncompetitive teams, something which does not exist in F1.

"There's not an ideal number [of teams]. If you've got 11 or 12 very competitive teams, that's not bad, but also the commercial side of it needs to back it up. Just to have more teams, you need to share money with more people, which makes less for everybody. Then all of a sudden, even if you have 12 competitive teams, some will not end up with enough money and they will fall back. But then you have to keep these people around because they have the licence, because you cannot say you are not allowed.

"The thing with Formula One you do not have relegation... it's not like football. If in football you don't put the effort in and the financial means behind it, you are relegated and that's your destiny. But in Formula One once you're in you have the right to stay in... not forever, as nothing is forever, but for a long time. That is the difficult bit."

Steiner's former team Haas remains F1's newest entrant, having joined the grid in 2016. It has struggled to be competitive for large chunks of that time -- it has finished higher than eighth just once, and was last in 2023.

F1 has changed since Haas' debut -- teams are now bound by a yearly budget cap, while there are rules about wind tunnel development, with the champions getting the least allocated time the following year, and vice versa.

With that in mind and with F1 still experiencing a boom of global popularity, Steiner said the expectations around what a new team must bring to the table have changed drastically since Haas joined.

"When we came it was a completely different Formula One than it is now, to start off with. When we came in in 2016 I think it was a time when there were [other] backmarking teams, so it was expected there would be teams that were not so fast, so we had a lot less pressure than any other team that would come in now.

"The expectation is all the teams are competitive now, all the teams are stable now, when we came in there was a need for [new] teams, so it was a completely different scenario. But it is very difficult as a job to do it and it hasn't become any easier, especially now a budget cap is in place, so if someone wants to come in and be competitive by out-spending everyone the first year or two, you cannot do that. You cannot do more than the other ones. The only thing you have not got is the experience the other people have got.

"So it is very, very difficult. I'm not saying it's not doable but if you want to come in now you need to take your team and get yourself prepared and make sure when you get to Formula One you are as competitive as it is required by Formula One now.

"There is no weak team now, it's very competitive. You cannot fail. FOM [Formula One Management] would not allow anyone to fail. So you need to make 100 percent sure you can prove you will not fail."