Exclusive: How Andretti’s FE assault helped spark F1 bid into life

Elizabeth Blackstock
Andretti Autosport logo, pictured in 2016.

The logo of Andretti Autosport on their factory.

Formula 1 can easily be classed in a league of its own when it comes to motorsport; everything about the series is bigger, more expensive, and more complex than anywhere else.

But taking part in a much smaller series like Formula E or Extreme E could help prospective F1 teams get a foot in the door.

At least, that’s according to Roger Griffiths, team principal of Andretti’s FE and XE teams. Griffiths has had ties to Michael Andretti that span decades, first beginning with Griffiths’ role at Honda and its IndyCar involvement. But when Andretti started to grow, Griffiths was right there with them.

Andretti has built ‘very strong relationship’ with FIA

“At the time, Andretti was invested in traditional American motorsport — IndyCar and the Road to Indy [ladder program],” Griffiths told PlanetF1.com in an exclusive one-on-one interview during Extreme E’s season finale, the Copper X Prix, in Chile.

“But IndyCar wasn’t in a great spot, and I think Michael [Andretti] could see that he needed to diversify his racing activities.”

Griffiths joined with Andretti roughly two months before the team’s first FE cars hit the track and has remained with the program ever since, helming Andretti’s international efforts in sustainable, electric championships. But that first move back in 2014 has had repercussions almost a decade down the road.

“We had no presence with the FIA before we got involved in Formula E, and through that, we’ve built a very strong relationship with them,” Griffiths explained.

“For two seasons, we were a manufacturer in our own right; it was a huge struggle, but I think the FIA really respected us for what we did and for the way we approached the team.”

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When the FIA opened the Expression of Interest for prospective F1 teams to apply to enter the F1 grid, there were no formal requirements that those teams must have competed in an FIA sanctioned series before — but it did ask for “the team’s experience and capabilities in the automobile and/or motorsport sector.”

Experience with the FIA would undoubtedly be of benefit.

Now that the international cat is out of the bag, Griffiths is confident that Andretti can only continue to grow.

“We’re becoming known globally; we’re no longer a domestic program in the United States,” Griffiths said.

“We use the Formula E team to pioneer at the IndyCar shop. We have a presence at the COP28. We’re trying to sew our programme to the rest of the world — and as a result, Andretti has become a more professional organisation.”

And the global ties have already proved of benefit for Andretti. When Avalanche — Andretti’s Formula E team title sponsor — first courted the team, it was at the Long Beach IndyCar race.

But when Avalanche personnel noticed an image of the FE car on the wall of the team’s hospitality centre, they found they were far more interested in the profile and sustainability benefits of the FE programme.

“Having these diverse programmes in different series gives sponsors an opportunity to say, we like the Andretti brand, but we’ve accomplished everything we want in a certain category. How can we grow?” Griffiths explained.

While Griffiths remained guarded about what he believed Andretti’s chances are when it comes to being formally approved for F1 competition, he also sounded confident.

If any team in the world is ready for F1, it’s Andretti Global, thanks to its already international experience.

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