Sep.8 (GMM) Formula 1 could be set to run up against European Commission laws that would effectively force the sport to open the door to Andretti-Cadillac.
Michael Andretti’s US-based racing empire made waves this week by unveiling its full rebranding from ‘Andretti Autosport’ to ‘Andretti Global’.
It’s another sign that the FIA has effectively green-lit the entry’s bid to enter F1 from 2025, having met the governing body’s set of outlined conditions.
The case would then be handed over to commercial rights holder Liberty Media, whose F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali – and plenty of the existing ten teams – have already signalled their clear opposition to Andretti joining the F1 grid.
But according to Auto Motor und Sport correspondent Michael Schmidt, Liberty “can’t simply reject” Andretti.
On the one hand, F1 might have a point about Andretti potentially not being competitive enough to race against the existing teams, given the limited preparation time before 2025.
Indeed, it is rumoured that Andretti might need to effectively follow the Haas-Ferrari model by building the first car with customer technical partner Renault-Alpine’s help.
Even so, the European Commission might be on Andretti’s side.
In 2000, the Commission investigated Formula 1 for alleged breaches of European competition law – which at the time centred mainly around the way broadcasting rights were sold.
The Commission found that F1 needed to make changes to ensure fairness and competition, prompting the creation of ‘Article 2’ – which may now prevent Liberty Media from blocking Andretti’s participation on grounds other than safety.
“And if the FIA can’t do it, Formula 1 will also have a hard time proving it,” Schmidt explained.
If F1 simply says ‘no’ to Andretti, the American entity may initiate legal proceedings – and then an awkward situation in which the FIA allows Andretti to race but is blocked from being on TV screens by Liberty Media.
The situation could in part explain why Liberty Media, headed by its CEO Greg Maffei, is so keen to accelerate negotiations over a new Concorde Agreement – even though the current one isn’t due to expire until late 2025.
If a new deal is agreed before Andretti is shown the green light, Liberty could then simply up the current $200 million ‘new team’ entry fee to a whopping rumoured $600m.
“That would deter any applicant, even a car company,” said Schmidt.
Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia and Technology Conference this week: “We’ve seen the value of F1 rise dramatically.
“But the reality is the team’s valuations have increased much faster,” he added.
But even if Liberty Media follows through with a prohibitive new Concorde Agreement that locks Andretti out, F1 might still fall foul of the European Commission rules.
Those rules say Liberty cannot abuse its dominant position to prevent fair competition within Formula 1.
It is expected that the FIA will clarify its stance over the Andretti-Cadillac bid later in September.