It has been a trying 15 months for the Andretti family. Their attempts to buy a place on the Formula 1 grid came to nought when their takeover of Sauber came apart in the 11th hour, whilst attempts to get a new team on the grid were running into roadblocks.
That was in spite of plans to build a state-of-the-art factory, an engine deal with Renault, possible Formula 2 and Formula 3 teams, and even Colton Herta becoming one of their drivers’ F1 and its teams’ simply didn’t want to know.
But when the chips seemed down, Andretti were handed a lifeline when the president of the FIA Mohammed Ben Sulayem announced on Twitter that he had asked the governing body to open the expressions of interest process for new teams.
Three days later, the one major stumbling block was cleared as Andretti announced their partnership with Cadillac giving their entry further credability even if F1 were less than thrilled.
So even with the continued scepticism, here’s why Cadillac-Andretti warrant a place on the F1 grid.
Cadillac’s rich racing history
Although Cadillac is commonly associated with 1980s love songs and cars that are so big you have to have an HGV licence to park them, Cadillac‘s involvement with motor racing goes back as far as the 1950s.
Cadillac first raced at Le Mans in 1950 with the bizarre series 61 model nicknamed ‘le monstre’ finishing 11th, but the company didn’t return to La Sarthe for 50 years following the introduction of the Northstar prototype.
However, Cadillac had a disastrous race as none of the four cars entered finished inside the top 10 setting the tone for its next participations in the great race with Cadillac finishing well behind Audi, who dominated.
General Motors cancelled the Northstar project at the end of 2002, ensuring a 15-year hiatus from prototype racing, returning in 2017 and taking three manufactures championships in the IMSA series.
The new Hypercar regulations also inspired the company to go back to Le Mans this year with the V-LMDH, which has proven reliable in testing whilst sounding like the dog’s cashews in full flight.
Two iconic American names
When you ask a member of Joe public to name one American racing driver and car brand, chances are they will name Mario Andretti or Cadillac.
That isn’t surprising, considering their achievements and the mystique that surrounds them, in a time of increased interest for F1, making it an easy sell for sponsors.
With three races in America, all of which are on long contracts, as well as an increased uptick in young American drivers heading over to Europe to try and join Logan Sargeant on the grid, it makes sense for companies to invest.
Add in the strength of the marketing arm of General Motors, the promise of an all-American Grand Prix team based in the heart of America’s racing hub and increased television coverage on ESPN, and it’s hard to see why American companies won’t jump at the chance.
One of those companies that have seen Andretti‘s vision and got on board, according to the Indianapolis Star, is Guggenheim Partners, a New York investment banking company that is rumoured to be funding the construction of the team’s new factory.
Guggenheim‘s CEO Mark Walter recently became semi-chairman of baseball’s LA Dodgers and co-owner of Chelsea football club, meaning that they have plenty of experience when it comes to managing the fast-paced day-to-day demands of professional sport.
Unlikely to be a backmarker
The core argument against adding another team to the grid was that with all the teams financially secure, an 11th team was considered counterproductive.
That argument, however, doesn’t hold water as Williams, Haas, and McLaren have all suffered financial difficulties in the past three years. With Andretti bringing a manufacturer with them, it seems unlikely that they will be a one-and-done.
Although F1 is a totally different kettle of fish, Andretti have won in virtually every series they’ve competed in, from V8 Supercars to Formula E so it’s hard to see them becoming a tail-end Charlie.
Plus, Andretti will have access to either Renault or Honda engines giving them the luxury that the class of 2010 had when they were consigned to the elderly Cosworth engines until 2012.
With Andretti unlikely to be ready until 2025, the team has time to get on board sponsors needed to be successful, something which couldn’t be said for most of the new teams that entered.