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Michael Andretti

Andretti never thought he would 'have to beg' to join F1

Michael Andretti has spoken extensively about his struggle to launch an F1 team, and confidence he will achieve it.

Michael Andretti
Interview
To news overview © XPBimages

Michael Andretti has no doubt he will eventually convince F1 his team is worthy of an entry - but he never thought he would "have to beg" to achieve his aim.

Andretti, along with his father Mario, and Eric Warren, executive director of GM Motorsports Competition, will meet F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali for a second round of talks during this weekend's Miami Grand Prix after an initial meeting in London last month.

The discussions follow on from F1's decision at the end of January to deny Andretti a place on the grid, citing that it did not believe the team would be a competitive participant, just four months after the FIA had approved its application on technical and sporting grounds.

Andretti was convinced that in partnering with major automotive manufacturer General Motors, F1 would agree to his bid, despite the disparaging noises from the current 10 teams throughout last year that a new entrant would dilute prize money.

“We were initially told by Formula 1 that it would be hard for us to gain an entry, but that if we brought in an OEM (original equipment manufacturer), then we’re basically in,” said Andretti, in an interview with this writer for The New York Times.

"Unfortunately, the goalposts then started moving a bit, and I think it was because of pressure from the teams. When they started complaining, that was the big thing. It then put FOM in a bad position.

"It's been our job since to show that we're going to bring a lot more to the party than the piece of pie we're going to take out."

Undaunted, Andretti has continued apace. Around 130 staff have so far been recruited to work on the F1 project, whilst last month a UK base was opened at Silverstone to complement the work being undertaken at its headquarters in Indianapolis. Windtunnel testing is also taking place at the former Toyota facility in Cologne.

"I don't think people realise the effort that's being put in here, and that's what we're working on showing, that this is a huge effort," added Andretti. "It's going to be as big an effort as any of the big OEMs are putting into the series today.

"This is a true partnership with GM. They are not only doing the engine, but they're also very involved in chassis development.

"We've already run parts in the wind tunnel. We've crash-tested the nose, and we've done the side crash test. There's a lot that's been going on, and GM is very, very much involved in all of it."

An answer sooner rather than later

Following the latest round of talks in Miami, Andretti is hopeful F1 will deliver an updated response "in the next couple of months" as it seeks to join the grid in 2026, using a customer power unit for two years before GM joins the fray two years later.

The fact US Congress is now behind Andretti and demanding answers from Domenicali has added a fly in the ointment that may only serve to entrench F1's position as it will not be browbeaten into submission, no matter the weight behind the argument.

Speaking before the intervention from Congress, Andretti said: "Since they've seen what we're doing, I think they're analysing it differently. Hopefully, they're seeing it the way we are. It (the recent talks) sounded like it was definitely more positive.

"We're building the team as we speak. We are up to 120-some people. Like I said, we've got a car in the wind tunnel, we're designing and GM's started on the engine. We're going ahead as if we are going to be in.

"Obviously, for us, the sooner the better we get an answer because there is a lot of other good talent on the sidelines that would love to join us, but they're not going to give up their job unless they know we're in for sure.

"That's the biggest problem we have, but we still feel like we can easily make '26 from where we are. We're hoping to get an answer sooner rather than later. We never got a final no from them."

Following a storied career, both as a driver and team owner - Andretti runs teams in IndyCar, Formula E, Extreme E and Australian Supercars - he concedes he is currently embroiled in his toughest fight.

"No question about it," he said. "It's a fight I never thought we'd have to fight, to beg to get into the series, but hopefully the effort's going to be worth it, and when we finally do, it's going to feel that much more satisfying and gratifying."

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