ESPN: U.S. senators call on Biden to probe failed Andretti F1 bid

By Nate Saunders

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Tuesday called on the Joe Biden administration to investigate F1’s decision to reject Andretti’s attempt to join the grid, suggesting the decision might violate American antitrust laws.

Earlier this year, Formula One rejected a bid from American team Andretti-Cadillac to join the grid in 2025 or 2026, although it left the door open for the team to take part in the 2028 season if certain criteria are met.

In a letter sent on Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called on the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission to look into the decision more closely.

The letter suggests F1 is working on behalf of other teams and “foreign automakers” to block Andretti’s entry, pointing out any “group boycott” of the Andretti bid would violate U.S. antitrust laws.

The Andretti-Cadillac bid had previously been accepted by racing’s governing body, the FIA, but any new team must negotiate commercial terms with F1 itself to race in the world championship.

F1’s decision was outlined in a lengthy public statement in January, which said there were doubts about whether Andretti could be competitive in F1 and questioned whether the all-American bid would “add value” to the championship in its existing form.

One of the strongest points raised in the letter is a response to the suggestion that Andretti would not bring value to the championship. The senators pointed out that F1 is full of teams who are uncompetitive.

“The vast majority of F1 teams fail to win races in a given season,” the letter reads. “In 2023, a single team won all but one race, and half the teams in F1 have failed to win a race in the past 4 seasons combined.

“This competitive balance has not been the hallmark of F1 racing and adding a team backed by a major U.S. car manufacturer is likely to enhance competitiveness, not reduce it.”

On the charge of not adding value to the championship in its current form, they point out F1’s booming U.S. market and the fact it added the Las Vegas Grand Prix to the schedule in 2023.

“Most striking, however, was FOM’s [Formula One Management’s] determination that bringing Team Andretti-Cadillac into F1 would not ‘add value to the Championship.’ While F1 currently does not have an American-based team, F1 has been determined to increase its presence in the U.S. market,” the letter adds.

“Over the past few years, more than 1 million Americans have tuned into each F1 race, more than doubling over the past few seasons. Last year, F1 hosted three races in America, in Miami, Las Vegas, and Austin, while no other country hosted more than a single race. [Editor’s note: Italy was scheduled to host two races in 2023 — as it did in 2021 and 2022 and is slated to do again in 2024 — but the Emilia Romagna GP was cancelled after a natural disaster in the region.] Even individual teams, such as Red Bull, are courting U.S. fans by hosting events in U.S. cities to ‘get up close and personal with the marvel of Formula One engineering, bringing together F1 fans.’

“Clearly there is a financial incentive to adding an American team to F1’s roster, and there is no reason Team Andretti-Cadillac should be blocked unless FOM is trying to insulate its current partners from competition.”

The letter is co-signed by Democratic senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, home state of General Motors, and by Republican senator Todd Young of Indiana, the state where Andretti is based. California Democrat Alex Padilla has also signed the letter.

F1 has made it clear Andretti stands a good chance of approval down the line if it can secure a full commitment from General Motors, Cadillac’s parent company, to build its own engine rather than just join as a technical partner.

Although F1 was not bound by the opinions of its 10 teams, the opposition of the existing grid members to Andretti’s bid was well known in the paddock.

Andretti’s team is led by Michael Andretti, son of 1978 F1 champion Mario Andretti.

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