Mario Andretti reveals ‘bullet through my heart’ comment over F1 team entry

Thomas Maher
Mario Andretti, 2024 Miami Grand Prix.

Mario Andretti says Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei ruled out an Andretti entry into F1 during the Miami Grand Prix weekend.

Mario Andretti says that he and Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei had an unusual discussion during the recent Miami Grand Prix weekend.

The 1978 F1 World Champion Mario Andretti claims Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei made a declaration against the entry of the burgeoning Andretti F1 team over the course of the Miami Grand Prix weekend.

Mario Andretti and Liberty Media CEO conversation revealed

With the Andretti F1 team, which is helmed by Mario’s son Michael, attempting to win over Formula One Management (FOM) in a bid to secure entry to F1 for 2026, Mario Andretti was on the ground for the Miami Grand Prix where he claims an incident occurred with Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei.

Speaking to NBC News, Andretti described the meeting he had with Maffei – whose Liberty Media is the commercial rights holder for Formula 1 and the parent company of FOM – in which he claims Maffei made a remark that he says he “couldn’t believe”.

Recently, Andretti was invited by lawmakers to speak outside the Capitol regarding F1’s rejection of the Andretti F1 team back in January, with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali asking Andretti about his visit to Washington as they headed for breakfast on Saturday in Miami.

Andretti told NBC that, at the invitation-only breakfast reception at the Palm Club, he had been in conversation with Domenicali when Maffei came over to interject.

“I was asked to go there,” Andretti said.

“And just as I was trying to explain that to Stefano, Greg Maffei, Mr. Maffei, broke in the conversation and he said: ‘Mario, I want to tell you that I will do everything in my power to see that Michael [Andretti] never enters Formula 1’.”

Andretti explained that Maffei then walked away and hasn’t since been in contact: “I could not believe that.

“That one really floored me. … We’re talking about business. I didn’t know it was something so personal. That was really — oh, my goodness. I could not believe it. It was just like a bullet through my heart.”

PlanetF1.com approached F1 on the matter, with FOM declining to comment.

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According to NBC, a source close to Liberty Media spoke on condition of anonymity and disputed Andretti’s version of events.

“Andretti approached Greg at the breakfast to have a discussion with him,” the NBC report quotes the source as saying, and that, during the conversation between the pair, Maffei told Andretti that the team’s application had been rejected for good business reasons.

The pressure on F1 to grant Andretti admission is increasing in the United States, with a group of bipartisan senators calling upon the Biden administration to investigate the issue under antitrust regulations.

“It is possible that such a refusal to deal – especially if orchestrated through a group boycott – could violate U.S. antitrust laws,” the senators wrote.

“Last year, F1 hosted three races in America, in Miami, Las Vegas, and Austin, while no other country hosted more than a single race,” they added. “Clearly there is a financial incentive to adding an American team to F1’s roster, and there is no reason they should be blocked unless [Formula 1 management] is trying to insulate its current partners from competition.”

It’s not the only political pressure Maffei currently finds himself involved in. This week, the US Justice Department is expected to file an antitrust suit against Live Nation, owner of Ticketmaster – Maffei the chairman of Live Nation.

Andretti has clarified that he “did not initiate” the approach to the Capitol, with him being invited to appear to explain the situation following a recent Red Bull F1 showrun.

Since Andretti’s meeting with lawmakers and Senators, the members of Congress have accused F1 of engaging in anti-competitive practices in denying Andretti’s application.

The Andretti team has also snaffled a senior staff member directly away from F1, with the sport’s chief technical officer Pat Symonds jumping ship to join the Silverstone-based squad later this year, following a period of gardening leave.

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