Word around the paddock is that Andretti Autosport is set to make its debut in Formula 1 by taking over Alfa Romeo Racing next year.
“I’d say we’re closer than ever, but we’re still not there yet,” CEO Michael Andretti told IndyStar.
“It only makes sense for us to try and get there. And I don’t just want to be there, just to be there. The only way I would do it, it’s important our name and our brand was attached to it.”
Back in March he took a first step towards the acquisition, when he launched a SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) – a public company to raise funds to buy other companies – that sees McLaren Racing’s CEO Zak Brown sitting in the board of directors and Mario Andretti – his father - as a special advisor.
Andretti is sure having an American team on the grid would be rather important for F1. In theory F1 already has a team that is owned by a US entrepreneur and is based in North Carolina, but Andretti believes Haas’ close ties with Russia – Nikita Mazepin and Russian sponsor Uralkali – suggest otherwise.
“It sure feels Russian to me,” he chuckled. “Liberty Media is really going after the American market hard and, obviously, to have a real American team, I think would be a real big deal for them.”
Andretti argues that US drivers don’t get valued enough in the F1 industry, hence a potential team of his would offer them great chances.
“And if I were to do it, I’d work on getting an American driver out there. I think that would be really important.”
If Andretti were to join F1 the driver to “get out there” would very likely be Colton Herta. The 21-year old is driving for Andretti Autosport and is the youngest ever IndyCar winner.
“I think we’ve got great talent [in the U.S.], and I think it’s just a joke the way Europeans look at themselves all the way up here – as Andretti reaches his flat palm high above his head – and we’re down here – as he motions near his chest-line, he continued.
“I think an American (driver) will never be treated fairly over there unless it’s with someone like us.”
Collecting points for a FIA Super Licence is easier for Formula 2 drivers than for IndyCar drivers and F1’s history doesn’t count many US drivers. Andretti is somehow linked with both the last win and the last US participation in a F1 Grand Prix. Mario was the last one to claim a win back in the 70s, while Californian driver Alexander Rossi was the last one to drive a GP in 2015 with Manor. As for Michael, he raced 13 times for McLaren in 1993.
His son, Marco, was a former driver in IndyCar for Andretti Herta Autosport and he shares Michael’s views on F1.
“I think it would be so cool after what happened to him [his father Michael] in Formula 1, to come back and put an American in and possibly develop a world champion,” he said. “Because I think over there, they’re so ignorant about American talent.”
“If they have the proper opportunity and support from a team, which is what you’d have with Dad, and they could manage to beat a very talented teammate [Valtteri Bottas, who will be joining Alfa Romeo in 2022], you could find yourself in a very good situation. Europe and F1 have this stigma about the U.S., but there’s no denying speed.”