In the wake of last week’s announcement of a partnership between Andretti Global and General Motors to seek entry into Formula 1, reaction has been mixed. F1 released a statement that was muted in response to the news, and that statement mirrored previous language from other figures within F1, including Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff, and F1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali.
That response led FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem to respond on social media. In a message posted on Sunday, Ben Sulayem called the “adverse” reaction to the news “surprising:”
President Ben Sulayem’s reaction to the reaction gives credence to the theory that the President is perhaps supportive of the Andretti-Cadillac partnership. He refers to Andretti as a “thoroughbred,” and highlights how GM is a “global manufacturer.”
President Ben Sulayem also indicates how the interest from Andretti-Cadillac, and others, is an opportunity to continue the growth F1 has enjoyed in recent years, particularly in the United States. “Interest from teams in growth markets adds diversity and broadens [F1’s] appeal.”
It is this statement that could be a window into the future of F1, not just for Andretti-Cadillac, but other potential teams.
During the conference announcing the Andretti-Cadillac partnership to the media, including SBNation.com, both Michael Andretti and Mark Reuss, President of General Motors, leaned into the idea of an “all-American” racing team. As Reuss framed it, “...this all-American team would run under the Cadillac racing mark.” Andretti himself outlined how, in his mind, this partnership would be the biggest story of the year in racing. “[An] American manufacturer behind an American team with an American driver will be the biggest story of the year.”
Andretti also emphasized how Ben Sulayem’s racing background would make him open to expanding the F1 grid. “In the end it is still an FIA series, and the President [FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem] has shared that he would really like to have an 11th team on the grid” said Andretti on Thursday. “He is a racer and he understands the importance of that itself....having our great partnership with Cadillac we have a very good shot at checking every box and being able to be on the grid soon.”
Now, Andretti-Cadillac is not the only group seeking to join the F1 grid. Following that announcement on Thursday, news broke that Panthera Team Asia F1 is reviving their own push for a team on the circuit. In an exclusive interview with PlanetF1.com, Team Principal and co-founder Benjamin Durand outlined for the outlet their own plans to seek a spot on the grid.
In many ways the Panthera bid mirrors the Andretti-Cadillac bid, as it seeks to bring F1 into an expanding market. “They are all looking west, nobody’s looking east,” Durand told PlanetF1. “Now Formula 1 is focusing a lot on the US which is normal because it’s growing but once that market is there, Asia and Africa are the next big market for F1, especially now that Zhou [Guanyu] is in the Championship.”
Durand also told PlanetF1 that there is room for more than one new team on the grid, and there is a scenario where both Panthera and Andretti-Cadillac find themselves on the grid in the future. “So it’s not that we’re fighting for one spot with Andretti or that it’s going to be Andretti or us. I cannot comment on the merit of the Andretti bid. It seems that he has a lot of positive things for him and is ticking all the boxes. But him coming to F1 doesn’t prevent us from coming.”
While the bulk of the coverage in recent hours has focused on President Ben Sulayem’s reaction to the reaction, the bigger news might be his idea of growth markets. The idea of F1 continuing to expand in the United States is well-documented, given the scheduling of three events in the United States for next season, and the Andretti-Cadillac bid is a nod to that belief. But expanding to Asia also could be appealing for F1, and the entry of Panthera on the grid would be a nod to that notion.
If President Ben Sulayem’s idea of growth markets is shared by FIA and F1, we could see both Panthera, and Andretti-Cadillac, on the grid in the future.