Last week, Formula 1 formally rejected a bid by Andretti Cadillac to join the sport as an 11th team and constructor. Among the details in a lengthy justification of its decision, Formula 1 wrote that on December 12, it invited the Andretti team to an in-person meeting, “but the Applicant did not take us up on this offer.” Now, it turns out that the Andretti team never saw the email, which instead got caught by a spam filter.
Not even a follow-up?
“We were not aware that the offer of a meeting had been extended and would not decline a meeting with Formula One Management,” the team said in a statement. “An in-person meeting to discuss commercial matters would be and remains of paramount importance to Andretti Cadillac. We welcome the opportunity to meet with Formula One Management and have written to them confirming our interest.”
F1 apparently never followed up with a phone call or even subsequent email during the six weeks between that initial invitation and its announcement at the end of January. Had the two parties gotten together, it’s likely that Andretti could have cleared up some other things for F1 as well.
You just assumed 2025
As F1 noted in its justification, Formula 1 is about to go through a significant rule change in 2026. The cars will be a little narrower and lighter, and the expensive, complicated hybrid system that recovers waste heat energy (known as the MGU-H) is going away—to compensate, the hybrid system that recovers energy under braking (the MGU-K) will get far more powerful.
Designing a car to enter the 2025 season and then a completely different car to a new set of rules in 2026 would be quite the challenge. No one appears to have understood this more than Andretti, which has instead been concentrating on designing a car to those 2026 rules.
Having realized some time ago that the entire process—which began in February 2023—had dragged on so long that it would be virtually impossible to field an entry for next year, the team said it had “been operating with 2026 as the year of entry for many months now. The technicality of 2025 still being part of the application is a result of the length of this process.”
Hey, I know you!
That in-person meeting would also have allowed F1’s management to say hello to some old faces it knows well; Andretti’s chief designer John McQuilliam, head of aerodynamics Jon Tomlinson, and technical director Nick Chester have all worked under F1 technical director Pat Symonds in the past.
As many have pointed out, F1’s claim that any new team has to be competitive and able to challenge for wins doesn’t hold much water, particularly since a single team took home all but one winner’s trophy last season. But it also remains clear that F1 really doesn’t want to add an 11th team to its roster, despite how advantageous a new American team could be as the sport attempts to grow its presence here in the US.
The entry process was not opened by F1 but by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile), which writes the rulebook and used to have sole jurisdiction over this kind of thing until the European Union’s antitrust action forced the FIA to give up its commercial interest in the sport in 1999. At first, the commercial rights were owned by Bernie Ecclestone, then the private equity group CVC Capital Partners, and since 2018, Liberty Media. Under the current agreement between the FIA, F1, and the teams, F1 has a veto on any new addition to the sport, even if—as is the case with Andretti Cadillac—an entrant passes the FIA’s due diligence.
Now that the communications breakdown has been revealed, perhaps Andretti and F1 can get back together and have a more civilized discussion about an entry in 2026.