Henry Payne: Andretti-Cadillac, Congress threaten F1 with anti-trust action for denying entry

Henry Payne, The Detroit News on

Published in Auto Racing

DETROIT — The Andretti Cadillac race team is turning up the heat on Formula One in its bid to enter the world’s fastest open-wheel motorsport.

Michigan Rep. John James, R-Shelby Township, joined legendary race driver Mario Andretti at a Capitol Hill news conference Wednesday, warning Formula One of federal antitrust action if it does not reconsider its decision against letting Andretti Cadillac participate in the global series. A bipartisan group of twelve congressional representatives — including James and fellow Michigan Reps. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, and Haley Stevens, D-Birmingham — signed a letter to Formula One's Colorado-based owner, Liberty Media, demanding answers.

“We write to express our concerns with apparent anti-competitive actions that could prevent two American companies, Andretti Global and General Motors, from producing and competing in Formula One,” opened the letter.

The series' rejection of America’s team, Andretti Cadillac, for entry into the sport in 2026 has set off a firestorm of criticism in the United States and revealed fissures in F1’s governing body between the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile, which approved Andretti Cadillac’s entry) and its 10 race teams (Formula One Manufacturers), which rejected the deal.

“FOM’s rejection appears to be driven by the current lineup of European Formula One race teams, many of which are affiliated with foreign automobile manufacturers that directly compete with American auto companies like GM,” continues the congressional letter. “It is unfair and wrong to attempt to block American companies from joining Formula One, which could also violate American anti-trust laws.”

The letter demands that F1 explain, first, the rationale for Andretti Cadillac’s rejection given that the series governance allows up to 12 teams to participate (10 currently compete); second, its compliance with the Sherman Antitrust Act, and, third, whether its decision was intended to blunt Cadillac’s reintroduction into the European passenger car market.

“Liberty Media is kicking the can down the road to get more money for themselves at the expense of having (Mario Andretti) racing on America’s 250th anniversary,” thundered James, standing next to Andretti as the Capitol dome loomed behind them. “If you want access to our market (and) fans, you must grant access to our companies.”

The Capitol Hill news conference came just two days before the Miami Grand Prix — the first of three F1 races in the United States this year (the others are Austin, Texas, in October and Las Vegas in November) — and a planned meeting between Andretti Cadillac and F1. Further eroding trust, the race series has never met with the prospective team.

American firms do have a presence in F1 today. GM rival Ford Motor Co. has partnered with Britain’s Red Bull, the reigning F1 champion, as a battery supplier for 2028 and North Carolina-based Haas has competed since 2016 — but no entity has the gravity of Andretti Cadillac with its storied motorsports heritage and massive GM powertrain investment.

Formula One Management’s patronizing dismissal in a February letter of two icons of American motorsport as “a novice entrant” with little “understanding of the scope of the challenge involved” created loud blowback.

The letter's tone was taken personally by the Andretti family — in particular by Mario, who won the Formula One championship in 1978 with Lotus and is the last American to have won a Grand Prix. His son, Michael — now CEO of Andretti Global — also competed in F1 for the 1993 season.

“I was offended, actually,” Mario told the Associated Press at the Long Beach IndyCar race in Long Beach in April. “I don’t think we deserved that, to be honest with you.”


He was particularly irked by F1’s dismissal of Andretti Global as a “novice entrant.” The race team is one of the world’s premier race shops, competing in the IndyCar Series, Indy NXT, Formula E, Extreme E, IMSA sportscars and the Australian Supercars Championship.

“That’s another offensive statement,” said Andretti. “There’s an undercurrent there that I don’t understand, quite honestly. But if they want blood, well, I’m ready.”

Son Michael’s disappointing 1993 F1 season helps feed that undercurrent. He declined to locate in Europe like other drivers — instead commuting from the United States, where he had a young family — leading to charges he didn’t put in the time necessary to master F1’s demanding tech. He badly lagged teammate and F1 superstar Ayrton Senna in pace.

“That doesn’t mean he was phoning it in, but on that level you have to put your heart and soul into it to make it work — even 1 percent missing can make the difference between success and failure,” wrote The Race, a European motorsports publication, in 2021.

If Formula One continues to be unresponsive, blood could come in the form of a congressional hearing or antitrust filing with the Department of Justice. James said he has communicated with House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, who has the authority to hold hearings on F1’s practices.

“This is the consequence you get when you snub the biggest auto market in such a backhanded manner,” said Patrick Anderson, CEO of East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group and a long-time motorsports watcher. “Pro sports like baseball have long received kid glove treatment from antitrust lawyers. But Formula One does not have anywhere near the popularity of Major League Baseball or the NFL in this country. They have an effete, European snobbery that offends Americans.”

Fans, teams, even European drivers have been perplexed by F1’s obstinance.

“It's hard to argue that Mario and Michael are not part of the foundation of where F1 is today. They've won ... in every championship they've ever participated in,” said ex-Formula One ace and IndyCar driver Oriel Servia. “The arguments that Formula One gave, in my opinion, were pathetic and insulting.”

Still, Andretti Cadillac has plowed forward with its F1 plans. The team has opened a racing center in Silverstone, home to England’s most famous F1 race track. On Capitol Hill, Mario Andretti expressed determination.

“We are here to strengthen our resolve to be in Formula One,” he said. “Time is of the essence. We want to be able to represent the U.S. on the world stage. I consider Formula One the Olympics of motorsport.”

In addition to entering two cars in 2026, Andretti Cadillac has committed to developing an all-new powertrain to satisfy the F1’s new, 50-50 hybrid gas-electric rules in 2028. The team also expressed interest in hiring Adrian Newey, widely regarded as the sport’s premier race car designer, who leaves F1 champ champion Red Bull Racing next year. If that doesn’t sway F1, then congressional hearings could be next. “You’ve got a smackdown that’s going to happen,” said economist Anderson.

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