Formula 1 president and CEO Stefano Domenicali defended Mercedes boss Toto Wolff who remains cold on Andretti Global joining the series.
Ex-F1 racer and IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti has made no secret of his ambition to put a team on the Formula 1 grid, a goal he came close to accomplishing in 2021.
Andretti was in talks to purchase Sauber, operator of the Alfa Romeo team, but the deal would break down at a late stage, meaning a different plan of attack was needed.
It would later emerge that Andretti wanted to form a new team called ‘Andretti Global’, which would join the Formula 1 grid in 2024.
All the plans are said to be in place, but the green light has not arrived as of yet from the FIA, while not all of the current teams are onboard.
Mercedes principal and co-owner Wolff in particular is unconvinced by the Andretti bid, recently suggesting that a manufacturer like Audi would offer more to Formula 1 if they were to join, as it is rumoured they may from 2026.
Recently, Michael’s father Mario Andretti in a tweet agreed with the suggestion that Wolff had become too powerful in Formula 1.
This same theory was then put to Domenicali, who was far less inclined to agree, pointing out the weight which Wolff’s name carries as the boss of a team that has won the last eight Constructors’ Championships in a row.
“Well, I do believe that Toto has a position as team principal,” Domenicali told Motorsport.com. “He’s a 30% shareholder of Mercedes, he has a reputation of winning eight [titles] in a row. So I mean his credibility, there’s nothing to add.
“Mario, I know him very, very well, since a long time. He’s trying to present his idea in a way that he thought is the right way to do [it].
“But I do believe that, as you know, there is a governance in place. And the decision has to follow the protocol that is in place. And Mario is very vocal, Michael, too. And I spoke with them quite often, as you can imagine. And we need to respect that.
“We may have different opinions, at the end of the day it’s a matter of following the protocol. And there is someone that is to make the final decision. Today I don’t see a weakness in the number of teams in F1. That’s my opinion.”
From 2026, Formula 1 will introduce a new generation of power units, this project expected to open the door to Porsche who would work alongside Red Bull.
Audi are also expected to join from that season, perhaps as part of a deal with Sauber.
And looking ahead to these new power unit regulations, Domenicali says it is important that all Formula 1 teams are committed to sticking around for the long haul.
“Today we are talking about the new regulations, 2026,” said Domenicali. “And all the manufacturers involved in that, the incumbent or maybe the new ones we will see, are saying that the time is running very quickly, four years to do another power unit.
“We need to be prudent because when we’re talking about F1, we need to have an entity or a team or a manufacturer that is really solid, is really strong and has a full commitment for an incredible long-term future.
“So, this is what I really can add on what is the status of the art, but as I said today, I don’t see honestly the need of that increase, to have a big benefit for the sport of F1.”
It is hard to see a future for new, independent Formula 1 teams
Formula 1 has created this system where the teams are in control. There may be a $200m anti-dilution fee for any new team to pay to compensate existing ones, but this seemingly does not go far enough to convince the current outfits.
Instead, with Formula 1 in a very healthy state and teams plotting out their long-term futures, that fee is too short-term when it comes to assessing the financial impact of a new entry taking an extra slice of the pie, so this is bad news for any team not backed by a major manufacturer that is already a household name.
Wolff has spoken of how a global brand like Audi would offer more to Formula 1 than Andretti, so if the door is only slightly ajar for these worldwide automotive names, then an independent outfit like Andretti Global really has little chance of gathering the support to make it onto the grid.