Exclusive: Mario Andretti responds to Stefano Domenicali’s ‘not smart’ comments

Thomas Maher
Mario Andretti PlanetF1.com exclusive, February 2023.

Mario Andretti gives an exclusive interview to PlanetF1.com. February 2023.

1978 F1 World Champion Mario Andretti has responded to Stefano Domenicali’s comments labelling Andretti’s approach as “not smart”.

Formula 1 CEO Domenicali recently revealed that he spoke with Michael Andretti about his eponymous team’s attempts to enter the series, with Domenicali labelling Andretti’s very public efforts to win over F1 as “not smart”.

While the FIA have opened up to allow for expressions of interest from prospective teams, Andretti Global have been publicly clamouring to be allowed to enter Formula 1 for the best part of a year.

Their overtures have met with a tepid response from F1 and most of the teams, with the likes of Christian Horner, Toto Wolff, and Guenther Steiner all expressing misgivings over the financial implications to the existing teams should Andretti be granted entry – an 11th team would dilute F1’s prize-funding, despite the 10 teams being given a slice of the $200 million pie Andretti would have to pay to enter.

“There were teams like Mario Andretti and Michael Andretti that were very vocal about the will to enter Formula 1,” Domenicali told Sky F1 last weekend.

Referring to comments from Michael Andretti labelling the existing teams as ‘greedy’, Domenicali said: “In my view, [it’s] not smart to say that the teams are greedy to protect themselves, but that’s my opinion, but there are others that are much less vocal that would like to come in Formula 1.

“So there is a process to respect and we will make sure together with the FIA that the person will be respected and, if all the elements are there, they will be very welcome. There will be a lot of dimensions to consider and we don’t have to overreact because someone is pushing the system.”

Mario Andretti: All Andretti have done is show excitement

“All we’ve ever done is shown excitement, maybe myself at the prospects of seeing Michael entering Formula 1,” Andretti told PlanetF1.com in an exclusive interview.

“I don’t think there should be anything wrong with that. For the rest, we’re following every bit of protocol, I think everything is in place right now.

“That’s all we can do. You can look at this thing in different ways, but I don’t feel that we have violated or have done anything wrong, just showing the excitement of doing this. So, if we’re a bit open about it, speaking with the press and so forth… that’s life, that’s the way we do things.

“But I don’t know where anyone could say we’ve done something really wrong, so that’s the way I look at it.”

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Andretti Global recently confirmed a tie-up with General Motors’ Cadillac brand, solidifying the team’s legitimacy further – an important step that Mario believes further proves the team are ‘respecting the process’.

“We’ve done everything ‘the system’ has asked, including bringing General Motors, the biggest US manufacturer,” he said. “A giant of a manufacturer making a long-term commitment. Of course we’re going to talk about it – because it’s big news. If others are less vocal, maybe it’s because they have nothing exciting to share.

“General Motors is really behind the Cadillac brand; you can see what they’re doing in sports cars. They’ve been very successful in American sports car racing with IMSA. Now, they’re looking at Le Mans. To me, that is very exciting – to see a company like that investing in our sport the way they are.

“This is a long-term commitment, which I think, looking at the investments from every party, should be hopefully welcome into Formula 1, or any other aspect of our sport. It creates stability, it creates a solid commitment. I mean, General Motors, a giant of a manufacturer making a commitment to Formula 1. Hopefully, that will make all the difference. And Michael brought that to the table.

“We’ve been told clearly, all along, if we have a manufacturer, it’s a different story. So GM should be a game changer. We’ll continue to fight for a place in F1. Every aspect of it. We’ve followed protocol, we have absolutely respected the process now for over a year, we’ve met the requirements, we’ve brought the manufacturer and we’re excited.”

Andretti unable to buy existing team: None are for sale!

Asked by PlanetF1.com about whether the tie-up with General Motors increases the pressure on F1 to say yes, given the status of GM as one of America’s ‘Big Three’, Andretti said bringing Cadillac on board should add further weight behind their bid.

“I would hope so. Securing Cadillac backing adds to the seriousness of the overall effort being made,” he explained.

A typical response from within F1 has seen figures, such as Red Bull team principal Horner, urging Andretti Global to purchase an existing team rather than attempt to enter as an 11th team. But this isn’t possible, according to Andretti.

“The fact is that there are no existing properties available,” he said.

“Michael and his team, they have pursued every aspect of that scenario. There is nothing available. There are no existing teams for sale.”

A cynical theory regarding the negative response from the teams has been a suggestion that Andretti could be denied entry until a new Concorde Agreement is thrashed out to come into effect at the end of 2026 – allowing time for negotiations to raise the entry fee for new teams from its current figure of $200 million.

“I don’t know what is in play right now,” Andretti said, when asked whether there might be grounds to this theory.

“The one thing that is paramount for us is to be able to be on the grid, at least, in 2025. That’s the commitment that was made clear. Cadillac wants to make sure that we have at least one season under our belt before the new rule comes into effect, where they come into play with their engine so that’s what has to happen for us to be able to have all the pieces in place.”

As for the enthusiastic response from F1 to the arrival of fellow American manufacturer Ford into the sport (albeit as what is effectively a branding exercise as an engine manufacturer with Red Bull Powertrains), Andretti said: “I share the enthusiasm about another manufacturer joining Formula 1.”