In recent months the story of Andretti Global’s desire to enter Formula 1 has become a topical issue, and it is one that has important implications for the sport.
Most of us are aware of Michael’s attempt to buy out an existing concern in Sauber and how that plan didn’t quite work out because whilst it may have been possible for the Andretti’s to secure a degree of financial interest in the team, it wouldn’t have been a controlling one. So what’s the point?
At the time Michael and Mario Andretti might have been frustrated at not being able to finalise that deal, but I’m sure they held no grudges because for what it’s worth when you follow the complex financing trail related to Sauber’s ownership you end up with an extremely wealthy man.
Finn Rausing isn’t in F1 for the money or the power, believe me. The financial and boardroom influence that F1 could possibly provide this man would only be incidental to him.
Rather, his investment in F1 is of passion, and understanding that perfectly explains his reluctance to relinquish any control of Sauber as a going concern. He doesn’t need the money, nor an interest in posturing himself politically within the sport, so why should he relinquish control of something he’s financing himself to have some fun?
It is more than likely that because of this experience the Andretti’s decided that there was more risk for them in purchasing an existing team, and I agree.
It’s about money and little to do with racing
At a corporate level in F1 there is an old and overused adage that ‘we are all here because we are racers at heart’, but it is bullshit.
Instead, you will find that the F1 boardroom type is often narcissistic, ego-driven, power-hungry and always looking to increase their own net worth, it serves self-interest.
Understanding and acknowledging this then justifies the other option available to the Andretti’s, applying to start up their own new team, and I applaud the Andretti’s for going down this route.
It is no coincidence that the Andretti’s had already set up a company to raise the capital to set up a team because they had already thought long and hard about entering F1 and had put plans in place.
For the Andretti’s it makes all the sense in the world to go down the path of applying to be able to set up their own team because what it will do is give them all the control that they need to complete the process their way, and importantly to be the masters of their own destiny if and when their entry was accepted, and a team set up.
Nevertheless, even this process is overly complicated because F1 is littered with corporate egos in the teams that exude a self-entitlement to dictate the strategic direction the sport takes, like nasty little children who won’t let others play in the same sandbox because they were there first.
What is in it for me?
Recently though, some members of other teams have openly discussed in the media their sentiments regarding who should be accepted as a new entry in F1 and under what circumstances, the details of which aren’t important in the context of this article.
One team leader even suggested that it was up to the sports administrators to demonstrate to the teams the value any potential new entrant will add to the value of the sport, and specifically, what value it will add to their teams’ bottom line.
It has been an F1 thing forever and a day to respond to the potential for change with the question, “What’s in it for me?”.
Understanding why this is the case comes with understanding how F1 used to work commercially for the teams in the days before Bernie Ecclestone and FOM. It was up to the teams to individually negotiate appearance fees with event promotors to attend, and the prize monies were meagre at best.
It was critical to the survivability of a team to always be asking that question and to be looking after their own self-interests as opposed to the broader perspective of the sport in general.
Yet, in 2022 the teams find themselves in a much more secure position. The commercial interests of the sport are regulated by Liberty, and under the most recent Concorde Agreement monies are distributed in ever-increasing levels, in a much fairer and more inclusive manner.
The teams don’t run Formula 1, the FIA do
Not only are the financial returns afforded the teams better, but with the FIA’s financial cost cap, and the sport’s popularity in the United States at record levels, the value of each team has risen as well.
When a team signs up to compete in F1 it is also undertaking an agreement that it is willing to compete under the rules of the house. With that being the case, shouldn’t the FIA and Liberty exclusively be the ones to have any influence over any entry application that might be in process and the conditions under which it is to be considered?
In the example of the Andretti’s, the FIA and Liberty would have a plethora of gates for them to pass through before ever being accepted as an entry in the championship, and probably on a commercially sensitive level.
Personally, I am very surprised that teams coming out and discussing in public the validity of the Andretti entry application, that is in process, have not been warned by the FIA to cease and desist, because ultimately it isn’t really any of their business to be doing so, anyway.