F1 urged to reject Andretti entry bid if key criteria not met amid ‘future crisis’ warning

Oliver Harden
Red Bull's Max Verstappen holds onto the lead at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Max Verstappen holds onto the lead at the start of the 2023 Japanese Grand Prix.

F1 business expert Mark Gallagher has urged F1 to reject Andretti’s entry bid if the team’s business plan is largely based on prize money, warning a “crisis” could savage the sport if its popularity declines.

Andretti have made no secret of their determination to secure a place on the F1 grid in the near future, with governing body the FIA approving the team’s entry in October.

However, commercial rights holders Liberty Media and most of the existing 10 teams remain unmoved despite American team’s alliance with General Motors, which has committed to building F1 engines from 2028 via their Cadillac brand.

Should Andretti be granted an F1 entry? Not everyone is convinced

Former Jordan, Red Bull and Cosworth man Gallagher revealed last month that there is “a degree of personal acrimony” between Andretti and the current teams due to the aggressive manner in which team owner Michael Andretti has set out his plans, warning a legal battle could occur if the American outfit is turned away.

Gallagher went on to claim that a number of existing team principals are unconvinced that Mr Andretti himself “has the capacity or understanding of what is it really going to take to run a Formula 1 team.”

And he believes F1 chief executive Stefano Domenicali should turn away Andretti if the team’s financial plan is based largely on F1 prize money, insisting a “nice name” is not enough to secure an entry.

He told the Flat Chat podcast: “Basically, Andretti is supposed to outline how he’s going to fund and organise the first five years [with] a whole operational plan – the tactical plan and the financial plan.

“That financial plan is going to be fascinating because if he has got a big sum of money allocated each year coming from prize money, you’d have to say that Stefano Domenicali should reject it because you cannot possibly just imagine that your business plan is going to be predicated on Formula 1 giving you a tonne of money to come and do it.

“I understand the fans saying: ‘Well, Andretti deserves to come in, they’re a great name.’ There has been lots of great names in Formula 1 over the years. I’d love to see a Brabham team, I’d love to see a Lotus team.

“There’s lots of people that I would love to see have a Formula 1 team – people like Trevor Carlin who were desperate to come into Formula 1 and would loved to have done it.

“There are lots of other people I could mention who have run excellent teams and lower formulae who’d love to have broken through into Formula 1, so just because you’ve got a nice name over your door [it] doesn’t give you a right to come in. There needs to be a business plan.

“My view is that in the middle of all of what we’re seeing, the only solution isn’t that General Motors are going to make an engine, it’s going to be the dollars on the table.

“How much money is there going to be paid to secure the entry? Or how much money is not going to be taken out of the existing prize fund to enable Andretti to compete in the sport?”

Gallagher feels F1 must be responsible when it comes to expanding the grid, citing the examples of the Manor, Lotus/Caterham and HRT teams who all tumbled off the grid within seven years of gaining entries for the 2010 season.

And he warned that F1’s stakeholders will be wary of a drop in the sport’s popularity after a 2023 season in which Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races, claiming a dip in audience numbers could potentially prove catastrophic.

He explained: “The sport has been through a very long and shaky development at times where teams have come in and then disappeared very quickly.

“People talk about teams failing and they’re talking about the poor team principal or whoever was trying to do it. The thing that I always feel is that I have known suppliers to go bankrupt, I’ve known people to lose their houses because a Formula 1 team went under.

“And this has been in recent times. Those four teams that came into Formula 1 that I [through Cosworth] supplied the engines to in 2010, one of those teams had absolutely no clue what they were doing, a couple were living on a bit of a dream really and one had funding but didn’t really have the expertise to sustain it over any length of time.

“They all came in with the blessing of the FIA and were allowed into Formula 1 and they were all gone within a few years, so this is all quite recent history.

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“We also have a situation where a lot of the teams in Formula 1 today have quite recently faced an existential crisis and it’s only been through this Liberty era that stability has been achieved and we’ve had the benefit of the Netflix effect, the growth and sponsorship in the United States and everybody is suddenly smiling and all the rest of it.

“But what goes up very often comes down. If audience figures drop in any significant way over the next years, it’s not impossible to imagine a future crisis developing.

“All these things are cyclical and Liberty and Stefano Domenicali, as chief executive, will be keeping his eye firmly fixed on what do we need to do to sustain Formula 1 in the next decade.

“Formula 1 itself is promoter of the Las Vegas Grand Prix and have signed a 10-year contract to do that. They need stability in the sport for the next 10 years.

“Those are the fundamental considerations that they have, so it’s got it’s going to be an interesting few months to see how it pans out.”

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