Andretti F1 bid gathers serious momentum with Mercedes and Red Bull staff poached

Jamie Woodhouse
Michael Andretti in front of the FIA logo at the United States Grand Prix.

Michael Andretti in front of the FIA logo.

Andretti is pushing full steam ahead with windtunnel testing, parts production and recruitment for their Formula 1 bid, technical director Nick Chester claiming staff from Red Bull, Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren have all jumped ship for this project.

Despite not yet having Formula 1 approval to match governing body the FIA’s, Andretti-Cadillac is nonetheless pressing on with preparations to bring their F1 team together, with the goal of joining the grid as early as 2025.

And already major progress has been made with the project, overseen by Chester, who contributed to Renault and Fernando Alonso’s 2005 and 2006 title doubles.

Andretti-Cadillac poaching staff from top four F1 teams

With a satellite base established at Silverstone, Andretti-Cadillac already has 120 people working on the project, including roughly 50 from technical partner General Motors, who have committed to upgrading to power unit supplier come 2028.

The senior technical structure is in place, Chester supported by head of aerodynamics Jon Tomlinson, who similarly played a key role in the Renault/Alonso title double, while John McQuilliam, whose F1 career has seen him work with Williams, Arrows, Jordan, Midland, Spyker, Marussia and Manor, is Andretti-Cadillac’s chief designer.

Parts are in production, with Andretti-Cadillac hard at work in Toyota’s Cologne windtunnel, the plan being to test a full-scale F1 chassis model by mid-2024.

Chester spoke with The Athletic about his satisfaction to see this project come together, one which he said has drawn in staff from 2023’s dominant force Red Bull, as well as Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren who combined created the top four in the 2023 Constructors’ Championship.

“It’s a team that wants to do it properly and wants to win,” Chester declared.

“You don’t want to be anywhere that doesn’t have that ethos. As I started talking before I joined, the resource behind it, the effort that was going to go behind it to make it win, just made it very, very attractive.

“I was pleasantly surprised, in a way, how easy it was to draw people to the project. There’s a real draw of a new team, the Andretti name. A blank sheet tends to have a very proactive culture.

“We’ve had people joining from Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren. They all wanted a new challenge. It’s that real potential to shape departments, which is very attractive.”

Prior to Cadillac’s parent brand General Motors committing to becoming an F1 power unit manufacturer, question marks were raised, especially among the existing 10 teams, regarding just how deep the GM influence would go with Andretti-Cadillac.

Chester though made it clear that their input is already vital, to the point where without them, Andretti-Cadillac could not have made half of this progress, GM having been involved with the windtunnel testing and now manufacturing of parts.

“We wouldn’t have got half of what we’ve got done now without GM’s involvement,” Chester declared.

“It’s not an arrangement where you throw things backwards and forwards, it’s much more like one team. It’s getting really nicely integrated.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

Stars and racing stripes: Six American teams that failed to crack F1

From F1 to NASCAR: The 10 F1 drivers who made the move to the US

Majority objection to Andretti-Cadillac exists among the current F1 teams, with the loss of revenue, as well as infrastructure issues at some stops on the F1 calendar used as reasoning for their opposition.

But, despite the F1 teams not yet being behind Andretti-Cadillac, while F1 president Stefano Domenicali has refrained from words of support, team owner Michael Andretti is showing his confidence that they will be accepted via pushing on with preparations, believing the only scenario is that the American outfit benefits F1 with their presence.

Formula 1 has enjoyed a rapid popularity surge in the United States, with 2023 marking the first time that three US-based rounds featured on the calendar, as Las Vegas joined Miami and Austin.

“As Mohammed [Ben Sulayem, FIA president] has said a number of times, the benefits we will bring to the sport and the championship are so obvious,” Andretti insisted.

“I can’t imagine anyone would want to try to stop us, and deprive racing fans of the opportunity to see a genuine American works team going head-to-head with the legendary names currently competing in F1.”

Formula 1 is preparing to return to action, with the Bahrain Grand Prix on March 2 set to kick off a 24-round F1 2024 schedule.

Read next: F1’s next new team boss? Andretti, Vettel and eight more names shortlisted