June 27, 2022

Formula 1 and the FIA ​​have shown the first signs of a desire to extend the grid beyond 10 teams.

It would be good news for Michael Andretti if he was the kind of participant that F1 was looking for.

But he is not.

Andretti’s potential entry is being held at bay for a reason. F1 stakeholders are demanding proof of the benefits they would gain by accepting an entry into the Andretti Global F1 team in 2024.

Simply put, Andretti needs to prove his F1 team would have the resources to be a serious, long-term addition to the grid and generate enough commercial interest, primarily in the US, to offset the money it would cost. to Liberty Media and/or other F1 teams by splitting revenue with another entity.

This logic is now well understood, even if it is far from being universally accepted. There are many who think the Andretti name alone deserves an entry into F1. Others – whether they have seen Andretti’s specific proposals or are simply working on vague details that have been made public – are adamant that Andretti has the right resources and the right partners.

So why doesn’t F1 share this view? The most likely reason, understands The Race, is that they don’t want an 11th team to be Andretti Global. His preference goes to a new work entrance.

F1 would prefer a global manufacturer as it would have far greater international reach and appeal. While Andretti’s argument has tended to hinge heavily on the theoretical advantages he would have in the United States.

It remains to be seen where this new work team would come from. Two candidates come to mind: Honda and Audi. But each seems to have huge hurdles to overcome.

(3D model by Chris Paul Design/Unkredible Studios)

Whoever looks most likely to join the F1 grid in 2026, Audi, doesn’t seem to have much interest in building its own team from scratch. He wants to buy an existing one and build his own engine for this team to use. This has been the known strategy for a while now and slowly the options have narrowed: McLaren looks like a no-go and Aston Martin looks too complicated.

Sauber (currently racing as Alfa Romeo) and Williams are the remaining options. Some say Sauber has the best chance – he has excellent facilities, a willingness to at least sell the naming rights and a past relationship with Audi on its LMP1 challenge.

Others think the slightly off-beat Williams team might be a better option given that they are based in the UK and Dorilton Capital might be interested in selling given that their value has risen significantly.

The thing is, Audi seems to have options. Even if he will probably have to pay more than he ever wanted to. And that will be better than having to start a whole new organization from scratch.

Honda, however, has only just left F1. And it hasn’t even done that very convincingly, given that its engines are still in use by Red Bull and AlphaTauri and will be until the end of 2025. Working with Red Bull for the new engine regulations is out question, however, as Red Bull will soon announce that it has signed an agreement to partner with Porsche from 2026.

But F1 is very keen on Honda returning and has believed for some time, certainly at the end of last season, that Honda may have come to regret its decision to leave.

He believes the potential is there. And before former F1 chief executive Masashi Yamamoto left to join Red Bull Powertrains, he reportedly suggested to Honda’s CEO that if the company decided to return to F1 in the future, it should do so as that work team. not just an engine manufacturer.

There are also suggestions that F1 R&D work at Honda’s Sakura base has not been entirely halted alongside maintenance of the engines that Red Bull and AlphaTauri still use.

Motor racing Formula One World Championship Monaco Grand Prix Saturday Monte Carlo, Monaco

Apparently Honda has continued to keep an eye on the discussions for the 2026 technical regulations. That way, if a decision is made within the next two years to restart the F1 program, Honda won’t be operating from a standing start.

For all of this to happen, however, Honda’s board would have to take a massive U-turn and commit some serious investment. And there are obvious reasons to doubt that it will happen.

Honda left because the board needed to redirect its huge F1 research and development costs to other areas of the business as it fell behind rivals in sustainable technologies.

Honda’s F1 infrastructure outside of its Sakura R&D center has been split. Senior managers now work in different departments or (like Yamamoto, or the Honda staff at the UK HRD factory) have joined Red Bull.

And we could spend a lot of time dwelling on the fact that Honda has no European base to work from, no immediate knowledge of the F1 team or the chassis, and a very short and unsuccessful history as a factory team. Being an engine supplier is what it has always done best.

The short-termism of Honda’s F1 projects has always been the manufacturer’s downfall. Curiously, this lack of commitment should be a reason why F1 would be wary of widening the grid for Honda. If there was any suspicion that an entry by Andretti would only last five or six years before going unplugged, it would likely be rejected almost immediately.

But even in the short term Honda, or any manufacturer for that matter, would likely be seen as having huge advantages for F1 that make it a valid bet, no matter how vulnerable it is to changes of mind from the conference room.

Automakers have always looked different. And that brings us back to F1’s fundamental lack of trust and interest in Andretti.

For that to change, Andretti’s proposal needs to become more compelling. Even then, there is no guarantee it would be the first name on the F1 shortlist for a new team.

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