Former Haas team boss Guenther Steiner believes Formula 1 rejected Andretti’s bid to become the sport’s 11th team to protect not only the existing teams, but also protect Andretti “from themselves”.
After months of deliberation, following the FIA giving the go-ahead to Andretti Formula Racing LLC to join the grid, Formula 1 bosses threw out their application on Wednesday.
The cutting statement read: “While the Andretti name carries some recognition for F1 fans, our research indicates that F1 would bring value to the Andretti brand rather than the other way around.
Was F1 right to reject Andretti’s bid?
“The addition of an 11th team would place an operational burden on race promoters, would subject some of them to significant costs, and would reduce the technical, operational and commercial spaces of the other competitors.”
However, and it’s a big one, F1 did not close the door on Andretti reapplying in a few years as the sport’s bosses “would look differently on an application” for 2028 alongside General Motors as a power unit supplier.
Andretti, having already employed senior staff and having put a model car in the wind tunnel, “strongly disagreed” with F1’s comments while Mario Andretti, the father of team owner Michael, said he was “devastated”.
But was it the right call? Steiner thinks so.
“I think they looked at it and thought it was too ambitious,” the former team boss said on ESPN’s Unlapped podcast.
“I don’t have all the information. Maybe they looked at it and they said we want them but we want to make sure they are successful when they come, protect them from themselves.
“I think F1 is protecting all the teams, everyone involved in the sport, they didn’t close the door completely.
“They said ’28 is a new day, a new year, it’s quite a few years away, it’s not tomorrow but the door is open. Show us you can get prepared and be competitive by then and I think we’d welcome them.”
‘You need to make 100 percent sure you can prove you will not fail’
The Italian believes Formula 1 was right to protect both the sport and Andretti.
“There’s not an ideal number [of teams],” he continued. “If you’ve got 11 or 12 very competitive teams, that’s not bad, but also the commercial side of it needs to back it up. Just to have more teams, you need to share money with more people, which makes less for everybody.
“Then all of a sudden, even if you have 12 competitive teams, some will not end up with enough money and they will fall back. But then you have to keep these people around because they have the license because you cannot say you are not allowed.
“The thing with Formula One you do not have relegation… it’s not like football. If in football you don’t put the effort in and the financial means behind it, you are relegated and that’s your destiny.
“But in Formula One once you’re in you have the right to stay in… not forever, as nothing is forever, but for a long time. That is the difficult bit.”
So too is succeeding in the sport, he added.
“When we [Haas] came it was a completely different Formula One than it is now, to start off with.
“When we came in in 2016 I think it was a time when there were [other] backmarking teams, so it was expected there would be teams that were not so fast, so we had a lot less pressure than any other team that would come in now.
“The expectation is all the teams are competitive now, all the teams are stable now, when we came in there was a need for [new] teams, so it was a completely different scenario.
“But it is very difficult as a job to do it and it hasn’t become any easier, especially now a budget cap is in place, so if someone wants to come in and be competitive by out-spending everyone the first year or two, you cannot do that. You cannot do more than the other ones. The only thing you have not got is the experience the other people have got.
“So it is very, very difficult. I’m not saying it’s not doable but if you want to come in now you need to take your team and get yourself prepared and make sure when you get to Formula One you are as competitive as it is required by Formula One now.
“There is no weak team now, it’s very competitive. You cannot fail. FOM would not allow anyone to fail. So you need to make 100 per cent sure you can prove you will not fail.”