Michael Andretti definitely wants to get into Formula 1. But there are many hurdles to get there. FIA and Formula 1 must agree, and the distribution of prize money would have to be adjusted.
Michael Andretti is serious. The former IndyCar champion and 13-time GP entrant is desperate to get into Formula 1. He's tried to buy the Sauber racing team, and he's also knocked on Haas's door on several occasions. And he still does. But the son of racing legend Mario Andretti has always failed. Now the 59-year-old American wants to take the more difficult path and compete with a new team. Haas last did that in 2016.
There was a rocky road before admission to the GP circus. Team boss Guenther Steiner worked on the project for two years and dug up a new model so that the plan could work at all. Because Formula 1 has become so technically complex, Steiner clung to Ferrari. In Maranello, Haas buys all the parts permitted by the regulations. The Americans only take care of the chassis, the aerodynamics and the cooler.
Andretti with model Haas
Andretti would have to compete with the same model if he wants to have a chance of getting admission. Starting a project of this magnitude from scratch would be suicide. Andretti Motorsport's experience from IndyCar, IMSA or Formula E doesn't help either. Formula 1 is in a league of its own. From everything we hear, Michael Andretti wants to follow the Haas path and ideally be at the start as early as 2024.
His partner would be Alpine. And there they would welcome cooperation with the Americans, as confirmed by team boss Laurent Rossi. Alpine is looking for allies. Alongside McLaren, the French are the only team without alliances. Andretti had even contacted former Aston Martin team boss Otmar Szafnauer for his project, but he ended up at Alpine. One of the drivers has already been determined. IndyCar star Colton Herta.
No official application process
The biggest hurdle for Andretti is admission. At the moment there is no official application process. The Concorde Agreement only outlines how the prize money would be distributed if the field grew from ten to eleven teams. The Formula 1 constitution allows a maximum of twelve teams in its system. However, Article 3.4.7 of the FIA Sporting Regulations states that a maximum of 26 drivers may take part in the races.
If the FIA and Formula 1 seriously wanted to expand the field, eleventh place would first have to be publicly advertised. There could also be other applicants. Each applicant must first pay an application fee of 15,000 euros. If it is accepted, a further 150,000 euros are due to the FIA, which then begins a thorough examination.
Applicants must demonstrate that they have the financial means, staff and resources to start a Formula 1 team. The premier class wants to exclude unprofessional candidates. Based on the experience with Haas, the review process takes three to six months.
20 million dollars extra per team
If Andretti was awarded the contract by the FIA, only the rights holders would have a veto right. If there are fewer than twelve teams, the other participants cannot simply block a new applicant. Andretti would then have to pay an appearance fee of $200 million, which would be split equally among the ten established teams.
20 million dollars extra in the till sounds tempting, but the teams would then have to fear that their prize money after deduction of the Ferrari special payment and the history bonus will be distributed to eleven and not ten teams. This year, participants are expected to receive a sum of 928 million dollars, which will be distributed according to a key. 14.5 percent for the world champion, seven percent for the tenth place.
Does growth catch smaller pies?
Unlike in Bernie Ecclestone's world, there is no rule that newcomers have to wait two years to get a base amount, which until 2017 was $35 million for each participating team. Ecclestone made a distinction between a fixed sum for everyone and the prize money that was only paid out to the top ten. At Liberty there is only prize money in addition to the special payments.
What happens when the field is expanded is in the Concorde Agreement. If Liberty took on an eleventh team, all other teams would lose about half a percent of the pie. At the current payout, that would be almost five million dollars per year.
So the 20 million donation for the Andretti entry would be used up in four years. Since Formula 1 is designed for growth, increasing revenues would probably soon offset the loss for the teams.
With so many hurdles, Andretti's envisaged start in 2024 is very ambitious. The echo in the Formula 1 community is divided. From welcoming to skeptical. While Alpine, McLaren and Williams welcome a team with the radiance of the Andretti name, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff curbs the euphoria: "Every new team has to increase the value of the sport and enrich the field."
In other words: Formula 1 is nothing like an applicant who gets into financial problems after a short time or who follows behind in a sporty way. Seen in this way, a works team like Audi would have it much easier. That would get the green light in no time.