Renault F1 engine deal sees Andretti now in pole position

The eyes of the Formula One world will be on the FIA over the next couple of weeks as they prepare to reveal the outcome of the recent applications from new teams wishing to join the sport. The first hurdle will be for any of the hopefuls to meet the strict criteria set out by F1’s governing body and then secondly the reaction of the existing ten teams who to date have proved less than enthusiastic over the grid growing to elev or twelve competitors.

Whilst the F1 fans are almost universally in favour of new F1 entries, the teams have argued their huge investments in the sport will become diluted as Liberty Media have indicated there will be no increase from them in the total prize money and funding they provide.

Two teams were thought to be in serious contention as the FIA examined five proposals with Andretti Autosport and hitch considered to have credible funding and business plans.

Yesterday TJ13 reported Hitech’s step up from their various Junior Formula competitions may have hit the buffers as German media claim they are funded secretly by the banned Russian Oligarch who controls Uralkali.

The Russian fertiliser company and its owner Dmitry Mazepin were banned from F1 following the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent sanctions placed upon them by the UK, Canadian and European Union authorities.

Uralkali funded American owned Haas F1 but insisted the Oligarch’s son Nikita Mazepin was installed as one of their drivers. Mazepin was allegedly difficult to manage for ten boss Gunther Steiner and was regularly a full half minute behind his fellow rookie driver and team mate Mick Schumacher.

Michael Andretti, who competed for McLaren in F1 in 1993 claimed this weekend he his highly “optimistic” the FIA are set to green light his organisation’s application to join the F1 grid.

Avalance Andretti who compete in the global single seater Formula E racing series wrapped up this years title following the E-POrix held in the city of London.

Spanish sports daily publication Marca is now reporting that Michael Andretti has recently met with Renault’s CEO, Luca de Meo. Their discussions were about the French F1 manufacturer providing a power unit should the Andretti organisation be allowed to join the sport in 2025.

Much has been made of this being badged as a Cadillac power unit, though it would be bizarre for the Global American car brand General Motors being pitched as beholden to a a far smaller French company.

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The deal with Renault is more likely to be a stop gap measure while the American backer of Andretti finds a partner to build a power unit based on the new specification of F1 ‘engines’ arriving in 2026.

When asked about how Cadillac were progressing with their new F1 power unit designs, Andretti who was Aryton Senna’s team mate in 1993 replied, “They’re really getting into it.”

The latest suggestion by one of Formula One’s team principal’s is that Andretti should follow Audi’s lead and buy an existing team should they want to compete in F1.

Toto Wolff told assembled media at the recent British Grand Prix, “Our position was very clear: buy a team.”

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Michael Andretti resounded quickly claiming, “We’ve tried — nobody’s interested, nobody’s selling.”

Porsche were set to return to Formula One but their bod hit the roadblocks when they insisted Red Bull sell them half the racing team. This was never a realistic possibility as Christian Horner repeatedly claims one reason for their success is the team’s ability to react quickly and not be bogged down by corporate management structures.

“I mean, we’ve been to every single team. They keep saying: ‘Well, buy a team’ [but] nobody wants to sell,” Michael added.

“You go there and they’re not even interested in talking. So yeah, I’ve been there, done that — [it is] not happening.”

“Everybody has their own reasons why they’re doing things. They’re trying to protect their own interests, which you can’t blame them.”

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Formula One is in a boom era and Sportico recently published a list of the most to least valuable teams currently on the grid.

Ferrari (which can never in reality be sold) were top with a value of $3.13bn and lowly Williams owned by Venture Capitalist firm Doriton were worth $795m. Even Haas who were valued the least came in at an estimated $710m.

Just three years ago when the Williams family sold their historic racing team in August 2020 it was valued at $179.5m. The current owners of teams believe the valuation of their operations has not yet hit the peak where they would be enticed to sell to another party.

This explains why Andretti is unable to buy another team as suggested by Toto Wolff.

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Yet the FIA must be careful to avoid anti-competition European regulations leaving the only route into F1 for the Andretti Group being via the current process being undertaken by the Paris based regulatory organisation.

Andretti are building a $200m state of the art facility in Indiana to house all of their globe racing operations and after the London E-Prix Andretti gave an update on how their F1 preparations are progressing.

“I am constantly updated by our project managers,” the American informed Speedweek.

“Everything is on schedule with the construction of the new headquarters in Fishers, Indiana. We hope to move there from our old base by the end of 2024.

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“The investment is really big and we want to settle our North American projects there as well as our Formula 1 team. Our first car will be built in Europe, but then in Indiana.”

This clearly demonstrates the Andretti organisation will begin their Formula team as a collaborative effort in a similar fashion as Haas did with Ferrari and Dallara.

However the longer term ambition is for an all American built F1 car with American drivers as Andretti reveals.

“We’re going to have the first US-built Formula 1 car,” claimed Andretti and when asked about receiving FIA approval for his new F1 team he replied, “Yes, I’m optimistic about that.

“I hope the FIA will clarify this in the next few weeks. In any case, we are preparing at full speed. We currently have 25 employees, and the number is constantly growing.”

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And in regard of the drivers Michael has repeatedly asserted current Indycar Californian driver, Colton Herta, is part of the F1 project.

Red Bull attempted to steal Herta from under Andretti’s nose to replace the outgoing AlphaTauri driver Pierre Gasly. However the FIA refused to award him the super license required stating he had not met the qualifying criteria.

Should Andretti receive approval from the FIA, they have their eye on rival Indycar team Ganassi’s superstar driver Alex Palou who has one championship under his belt and is marching towards another this year.

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Palou was the target of a legal tussle between McLaren and Ganassi last year and a US judge rules he was the exclusive property of Ganassi until 1st August 2023.

“I have not the slightest doubt that Alex and Colton are ready for Formula 1,” said Andretti. “I would immediately put both of them in a Formula 1 car.

“Lando (Norris) used to be Colton’s teammate and they were at the same level. Now if you look at Lando in Formula 1, you know what Colton could do as well.”

All eyes are on Palou to see if now he will announce his plans to remain with the team that has delivered him championship winning cars or move to another Indycar competitor or even announce a drive in F1 for 2024.

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