Column: F1 bosses say Andretti snub isn't personal even though it feels like and looks like a grudge

Andretti Global is so committed to joining Formula One that it spent millions of dollars building a car to test this week at a wind tunnel in Germany.

Waste of money?

“We had to roll the dice," shrugged Michael Andretti, who shared photographs with The Associated Press of the F1 test car built to 2023 regulations.

Michael Andretti and top Andretti Global executives spent last weekend at the U.S. Grand Prix in Texas trying to drum up interest for their bid to join the F1 grid in 2025. Andretti hoped to come face-to-face with Stefano Domenicali, because an ambush seemed to be his only chance of engaging the F1 president in conversation.

Just days earlier, 1978 F1 champion Mario Andretti — Michael's dad — helped honor Domenicali at the National Italian American Foundation. Michael sent a congratulatory text to Domenicali that Andretti said went unanswered. In fact, Domenicali, Formula One Management and Liberty Media Corp. have pretty much ghosted Andretti since the FIA last month approved Andretti's bid to expand the F1 grid for an 11th team.

The next step is for F1 to approve the application, and the only formal response to the FIA approval was F1's declaration to “now conduct our own assessment of the merits of the (Andretti) application.”

Andretti and partner General Motors need to know, like, yesterday if they will be racing in F1 to be ready for the 2025 season opener. F1 knows this, and the longer the series ignores Andretti, another year goes by without one of the most famous names in motorsports on the grid. Michael Andretti's 13 races in a failed 1993 season was the last time an Andretti competed in F1.

Now he wants back in — to represent the United States as an American team with an American driver — and is beginning to take the pushback personally. The teams that have publicly objected to expanding from 20 cars to 22 have cited dilution of prize money as their reasons for resistance.

But the list of reasons against adding another team has grown to include a lack of room to accommodate newcomers in many paddocks, dubiousness over a new team's ability to compete and unfairness to the teams that have spent billions on F1.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem, in his second season as president of the FIA, opened the “expressions of interest” process that allowed outside parties to apply to join F1 and he has championed the Andretti/General Motors bid. Ben Sulaym said he believes excluding General Motors — especially at a time F1 has expanded to three races in the United States — is stupid.

He approved the Andretti application from a pile that started with seven interested parties. Told that Andretti thinks the resistance from the F1 and the teams is actually personal, Ben Sulayem agreed. But felt the issue is green and white.

“It's about the money. It's only about the money,” Ben Sulayem insisted to AP. “That's what's personal. They don't want to share the money.”

Andretti thinks it's a grudge and wants to knows what he has done wrong so he can fix it. The 10 current teams have no say in Andretti's fate, but he knows the long history of backroom politics that often plays a role in F1 decisions.

The AP asked four teams if they have a grudge against Andretti. Zak Brown of McLaren does business with Andretti and hosted the Andretti group at McLaren all weekend, so his feelings are clear. Aston Martin boss Mike Krack worked for Andretti in Formula E and is also pro-Andretti.

It got trickier with Mercedes boss Toto Wolff and Gunther Steiner, the principal at Haas, which considers itself the only American team (it is owned by California businessman Gene Haas).

“I don’t know him,” said Wolff. “I mean, he’s one of the great names of the sport. And I think Andretti, as a racing team, has been doing well in the United States. There’s no grudge. If you haven’t really met someone, you can’t have a personal grudge.”

Andretti said he's met Wolff. At last year's Miami Grand Prix, when Andretti went team-to-team seeking support, it was Mario Andretti who spent nearly an hour inside Mercedes hospitality with Wolff.

Steiner copped to knowing Andretti, “but not very well."

“It’s nothing personal,” said Steiner.

F1 and Liberty are heavily chasing the American market and its glamorous Las Vegas Grand Prix next month is the showcase of this year's 23-race schedule. The most hyped event in years is part of what Liberty and F1 insist is an aggressive push to grab a foothold in the lucrative U.S. sports landscape.

But this drawn-out saga with Andretti flies in the face of any American commitment. F1 and Liberty publicly treat his application as scrap paper, giving it little to no recognition.

Andretti can make a case that keeping him out of F1 is indeed personal: Three different people with direct knowledge of the conversations confirmed to AP that F1 asked General Motors if it would partner with someone other than Andretti.

For now, Andretti is focused on that car testing in Germany and his state-of-the-art shop underway in Indiana. (He doesn't have a Super License to get Colton Herta on the grid, but that's an entirely different topic.)

Andretti is clearly serious about F1 and the FIA found no legal reason to deny his bid to bring GM to the series.

But F1 doesn't seem to want him, and by excluding him, F1 is coming off as club racing. Not a series that showcases the greatest innovations in motorsports but a series for those invited to compete and be part of the club.

It might just be an argument Andretti needs to have decided in a court of law.


AP auto racing: