Mario Andretti claps back at ‘too powerful for F1’ Toto Wolff

Michelle Foster
Mario Andretti in sunglasses and a mask. United States, May 2021.

Mario Andretti has hit back at Toto Wolff, responding to a tweet that suggests the latter has become too much of a powerful figure in Formula 1.

Wolff seems dead set against his son Michael Andretti joining the Formula 1 grid after the American applied to become the 11th team with Andretti Global, even entering talks with Renault about an engine deal.

Wolff told The Athletic in May that he doesn’t feel Andretti would bring any additional value to the grid.

“That hasn’t been demonstrated yet,” said the Mercedes motorsport boss, “and that may sound a bit dry, because it comes down to the numbers, but the value of Formula 1 is that it’s a limited amount of franchises. And we don’t want to dilute that value by just adding teams.”

 

A frosty reception for Andretti Global

Michael Andretti is surprised with the frosty reception he received after lodging an entry.

 

More recently the Austrian said he felt the likes of Audi would be better for Formula 1 than the former F1 driver and his proposed team.

“Andretti is a great name, and I think they have done exceptional things in the US,” he said, followed by “but this is sport and this is business and we need to understand what is it that you can provide to the sport.”

1978 F1 World Champion Andretti isn’t all happy with the Austrian, agreeing to a suggestion that Wolff has too much power in Formula 1.

Responding to a tweet that asked is “Toto Wolff too powerful for F1? Is he? Worth asking questions in this age of transparency and boom times?”Andretti replied: “This needed to be said; it’s about time”.

Andretti’s arrival, or non-arrival, is down to the money

Following the collapse in his negotiations to buy the Sauber team, which races under the Alfa Romeo branding, Michael Andretti announced that he would be creating his own Formula 1 team, Andretti Global and applied to the FIA to become the sport’s 11th team.

The American put together his plans, from the location of the premises, both in the United States and in England, to an engine deal with Renault. And then he waited, and waited, and waited.

One by one many of the existing teams began to speak out against having an 11th team, not so much because of the Andretti factor but rather, as Wolff explained, because their prize money earnings would go from being divided between 10 teams to 11.

“We have 10 entries today,” said the Austrian. “We divide the prize fund among those 10 entries. We have invested considerable amounts over the last 10 years.

“I mean, each of the organisations that’s sitting here on the podium has probably put more than a billion into the Formula 1 projects over the years, so it needs to be accretive.

“If a team comes in, how can you demonstrate that you’re bringing in more money than it’s actually costing: because the 11th team means a 10 per cent dilution for everybody else.”

While Wolff cannot be criticised for that, he is after all a businessman and money is business, Formula 1 needs an 11th team. It’s need more competition and, if Liberty Media’s race into America is anything to go by, it needs another American team other than Haas and you do not get bigger in US motor sport than Andretti.

It would also mean another two seats opening up on the grid for juniors who are pretty much blocked from entering Formula 1 given the limited number of teams.