As Andretti looks to enter F1 competition, pushback has stemmed from the fact that the team is simply an unknown entity — but take a closer look, and it’s clear that Andretti has much in common with McLaren Racing.
McLaren and CEO Zak Brown have been some of Andretti’s biggest supporters as the American team pursues entry into the world’s most advanced form of motorsport. That is, perhaps, because McLaren can see something of itself in Andretti.
Both teams share similar philosophies regarding worldwide expansion in light of a growing American audience, which could be a sign that Andretti is prepared to become a major force within F1.
Andretti is, without a doubt, best known for its long-running IndyCar program, but detractors that focus on the American open-wheel team’s just-OK performances in the past few years are forgetting just what a global enterprise the Indiana-based team has become.
In 2023, Andretti won its first Formula E driver title with Jake Dennis; the team has been participating in the sport since its inception in 2014. Competition in one electrified series led to another, with team boss Michael Andretti introducing an Extreme E program.
In 2018, Andretti entered the Australian Supercars Championship with Walkinshaw Andretti United — and yes, that “United” name points to United Autosports, the race team run by McLaren’s Zak Brown.
Andretti’s rapid expansion mimics that of McLaren, which has extended far beyond its F1 program to incorporate teams in FE, XE, and IndyCar; the only difference is where each team got its start.
The American element
Under Brown’s influence, McLaren Racing has come to appreciate the American audience in a nuanced way, which has helped it gain prominence in the United States while still maintaining its international flair.
Brown is a man who appreciates what sports like NASCAR have to offer in the global motorsport world, and that has helped ease the minds of Americans who are used to their racing being looked down upon.
Andretti, though, has even more credentials in the American sphere. The Andretti name is still a household one in the U.S. thanks to Mario Andretti’s long and prolific career, as well as his son Michael’s efforts to further embed the family name in the form of an open-wheel team.
McLaren is limited in its American appeal due to its origin, but Andretti has cut its teeth in the American open-wheel scene, where its support of young drivers through the lower rungs of the IndyCar ladder is something of the American equivalent to Red Bull Racing’s junior team.
F1 has certainly benefited from McLaren’s authentic pursuit of the American audience, and it shouldn’t shy away from the continued growth Andretti could offer.
An eye for the greater good
While it’s difficult to claim any F1 team — current or prospective — is ultimately altruistic, both McLaren and Andretti have looked beyond their singular short-term interests to focus instead on the greater long-term good.
Most current F1 teams have rejected the Andretti bid for one simple reason: the addition of an 11th team will cut into their prize winnings at the end of the year, since prize money is all pulled from one large pot. It’s an understandable frustration for many teams that may be scrimping and saving to make it to another year — but it’s also a very narrow viewpoint.
Andretti’s entrance, though, also promises to get more eyes watching the sport of F1: more fans and more sponsors from more diverse parts of the world.
F1 has witnessed a large spurt of growth in the American fanbase, but those gains aren’t guaranteed.
Andretti, with its promise of American drivers and American car companies, could not just cement that American interest but also help it grow — resulting in more money for everyone.