Michael Andretti's dream of becoming a Formula One team owner was dealt a significant blow Wednesday when the sport's commercial arm rejected Andretti Global's proposal to join the grid in 2025 or 2026. The door has been left ajar for Andretti to enter F1 with a General Motors-built engine in 2028, but for a team that has claimed it is ready to make its debut next year, four years on the sidelines will feel like an awfully long wait.
F1's reasons, which were documented in a lengthy statement, boil down to a belief that an 11th team alone (i.e. without a power unit manufacturer) would not bring enough value to the sport to warrant the upheaval of its addition.
The underlying reasons were a combination of F1's doubts over the competitiveness of the Andretti bid, the fact that it would rely on an existing F1 engine manufacturer being forced into a supply deal until GM is ready with its own engines, and the belief that "F1 would bring value to the Andretti brand rather than the other way around." Part of the statement's conclusion stated that F1 was unable to identify "any material expected positive effect" on the sport's financial results as a result of the addition of Andretti to the championship in 2025 or 2026.
The series' decision was in part based on Andretti's responses to a series of questions about its application set out in what F1 called its process letter -- a document sent to the applicant outlining the process for applying. Andretti submitted its responses to F1's process letter questions on Oct. 24 but, according to F1, did not take up an opportunity to present its case at a proposed in-person meeting on Dec. 12.
F1 conducted an analysis of Andretti's proposal by consulting key stakeholders, such as broadcasters, sponsors and circuits, which represent the vast majority of sport's revenue stream. It went on to stress that its process did not consult F1's 10 existing teams, which are known to be against Andretti's addition for reasons largely of self-interest.
The primary argument from rival teams has been that Andretti's arrival would dilute the prize fund derived from F1's revenues and that the existing $200 million anti-dilution fee that Andretti would pay on entry to the sport has been set too low to adequately compensate them. However, the issues of prize-fund dilution and the anti-dilution fee (which will likely be hiked up by the time Andretti gets another shot at entering in 2028) were not mentioned in F1's reasons for rejecting Andretti.
F1 raises doubts over Andretti's competitiveness
The crux of F1's decision was based on its belief that Andretti would not be competitive if it joined in 2025 or 2026. It stated that for an 11th team to bring a significant benefit to the championship and be admitted, it would need to fight for podiums and race wins. The sport's research suggested that level of results would move the needle in terms of increasing fan engagement and therefore the value of the sport to stakeholders such as broadcasters and circuit promoters.
Peeling back the next layer of the onion, there were two main reasons F1 doubted Andretti's ability to be competitive: The fact that it would rely on an engine supply deal for the first few years of its existence and the fact that it would have to build two vastly different cars to two different sets of regulations in 2025 and 2026, when new rules will be introduced.
"We do not believe that there is a basis for any new applicant to be admitted in 2025 given that this would involve a novice entrant building two completely different cars in its first two years of existence," F1's statement said. "The fact that the applicant proposes to do so gives us reason to question their understanding of the scope of the challenge involved.
"While a 2026 entry would not face this specific issue, it is nevertheless the case that Formula One, as the pinnacle of world motorsport, represents a unique technical challenge to constructors of a nature that the applicant has not faced in any other formula or discipline in which it has previously competed, and it proposes to do so with a dependency on a compulsory [power unit (PU)] supply in the initial years of its participation.
"On this basis, we do not believe that the applicant would be a competitive participant."
On the face of it, that seems like an overly harsh assessment. Six of the existing ten F1 teams currently have engine supply deals and all ten will have to adapt to F1's new regulations in 2026 -- many of whom are unlikely to achieve anything close to guaranteed podiums or wins.
Andretti has already tested a 60% scale model in Toyota's wind tunnel in Cologne, Germany to comply with the current regulations and insists it would be ready to compete as early as 2025 if accepted. What's more, if the application were delayed by a single year to 2026, Andretti wouldn't have to build a car to the current regulations at all, and would then have the same amount of time as every other team from this point forward to develop a car for the start of the new era of regulations in 2026 (full details of which have yet to be published).
This is where the power unit argument comes in.
While six of the existing teams are customers of engine suppliers, none has reached those deals by entering the sport and demanding an engine supply in the knowledge that it will switch to a works deal three years later. A mechanism exists in the regulations to ensure every team in the championship has a power unit supply, whereby the engine manufacturer with the least customers is obliged to reach a deal with the team lacking a supply deal. The rule was introduced when Red Bull was struggling to find an engine supplier in the mid-2010s, designed to ensure no team was unable to compete because rivals had been unwilling to offer up a supply deal. For 2025, Renault, which currently only supplies its works Alpine team, would be the manufacturer in question and actually held talks with Andretti about a supply deal before GM was announced as a partner.
While that means an 11th team could guarantee itself a supply deal under the regulations, F1 argues that any manufacturer working with Andretti would be reluctant to form a close partnership with the team in the knowledge that GM plans to join in 2028 and could have indirect access to its intellectual property. Combined with the other difficulties Andretti would face getting up to speed, F1 believes a "compulsory" supply deal would make it incredibly difficult for Andretti to be competitive.
In its conclusion, F1's statement went on to claim that a compulsory supply deal would be "damaging to the prestige and standing of the championship."
And as an apparent word of warning to GM, F1 stated: "Coming to the sport as a new PU manufacturer is also a huge challenge, with which major automotive manufacturers have struggled in the past, and one which can take a manufacturer a number of years of significant investment in order to become competitive. GM have the resource and credibility to be more than capable of attempting this challenge, but success is not assured."
An entry in 2028 still possible
Regardless of whether you agree with F1's assessment of Andretti's bid, most of the arguments will be harder to apply in 2028 when GM has pledged to produce its own engines under its Cadillac brand, removing the need for a compulsory supply deal. Some of the concerns about competitiveness might still be made, but it's hard to imagine many stronger proposals to become an 11th team than one that has had more than four years to prepare with the help of one of the biggest auto manufacturers on the planet.
Although it was still fairly non-committal in its wording, F1 did acknowledge that a fully fledged Andretti-Cadillac deal could pass the test for added value.
"We would look differently on an application for the entry of a team into the 2028 championship with a GM power unit, either as a GM works team or as a GM customer team designing all allowable components in-house," the statement read. "In this case, there would be additional factors to consider in respect of the value that the applicant would bring to the championship, in particular in respect of bringing a prestigious new [Original Equipment Manufacturer] to the sport as a PU supplier."
Whether Andretti is prepared to wait that long following its latest snub remains to be seen. It's one thing running a team and benefitting from the income derived from sponsorship and prize money to support car development, but quite another to pour money into a project for another four years without a cast-iron guarantee that you'll have a place on the grid at the end of it.