When speculation started about who would join the Formula 1 grid in 2026, many names were being touted, but undoubtedly, the front runner for the 11th spot on the grid is Andretti Global, backed by Cadillac.
Andretti Global have made plenty of waves in the F1 world, attracting support from McLaren and the FIA but also a lukewarm welcome by Liberty Media, who argued the sport didn’t need an extra team.
Other candidates include Formula 2 outfit Hitech GP, Hong Kong billionaire business Calvin Lo is keen to enter a team and Panthera Team Asia, who have started their expression of interest application.
Panthera is unique to most new F1 projects as it will set up shop in Asia, attempting to become the continent’s first team since DOME tried and failed to get into the sport in 1997.
It’s also been a project which has been planned since 2019 and could have joined the sport in 2021 if worldwide circumstances hadn’t dictated otherwise.
So who are Panthera?
Rich racing pedigree
The two prominent masterminds behind Panthera are former SMP Racing managing director Benjamin Durand and law firm owner turned amateur GT driver Michel Orts.
Orts and Durand are joined by the co-owner of Somnio yachts Paul Fleming who made his money in banking and properties before moving into yachting in May 2017.
Fleming will retain his roles at Somnio and his private office alongside his commitments as a global board member and CEO at Panthera.
The final key figure at Panthera is chief commercial officer Andrew Pyrah, who has previously been involved in the sport by helping countries secure Grand Prix and broker partnerships with companies wanting to invest in F1.
A unique identity
With F1 seemingly going west following its recent expansion into the United States, the sport has had less success in the east despite the arrival of Zhou Guanyu and Honda’s continued success with Red Bull.
The lack of expansion into the east and no Asian outfits being represented on the grid since Vijay Mallya was forced Force India in 2018 helped Durand find a gap in the market.
“We still think that the Asian market and Chinese market are the next markets to be developed,” Durand said to PlanetF1 in January. “They are all looking west, nobody’s looking east.
“Now F1 is focusing a lot on the US, which is normal because it’s growing, but once the market is there, Asia and Africa are the next big market.”