Welcome to another edition of D.R.E (Dre’s Regular Editorial), and in this edition, Dre can’t stand the excuses coming out of F1 for why it doesn’t want Andretti as its 11th team.
The politics of F1 as a sport are often fascinating. Sometimes they’re more intriguing and entertaining than the action we get on the track. But it’s hard not to see the initial response to Andretti’s F1 bid being approved by the FIA and the teams finding ever more… creative excuses not to like it, as anything less than headache-inducing.
If you’re an F1 fan, I can’t think of a valid reason not to like the idea of an 11th team. Two more cars, more intrigue, more potential action and two more drivers on the grid.
If you’re a team boss, understandably you’re going to have a different perspective given the amount of skin in the game they have. But the reasons they’re giving to be against the idea are arguments that fail under any scrutiny.
The most consistent take I’ve seen from the higher-ups in the sport has concerned “adding value”. Now that’s an incredibly subjective phrase. Andretti’s bid has the backing of General Motors, one of the biggest car giants on Earth, and the Andretti name is arguably the biggest in the United States for racing. To me, that screams value.
If we want to talk about “value”, how much is AlphaTauri adding to the pot, after going through its second major rebrand in half a decade? Or Haas? Before the Audi buyout last year, how much was Sauber (Alfa Romeo) bringing to the table?
Some of the other reasons seem borderline petulant. Christian Horner told Sky Sports that GM need to make their engine first. That’s despite Red Bull winning back-to-back Constructors’ titles with Honda’s intellectual property in the back but called a Red Bull Powertrain. OK, not quite the same as a brand like GM being in F1 without making its kit, but you get where I’m coming from. And let’s see how much Ford involvement there is in Red Bull’s 2026 engine.
I love Lewis Hamilton, but it felt like he fell on Mercedes’ PR grenade when he initially said he was all for Andretti as an entry, only to semi-backtrack to a fan account on Twitter where he said no, not them specifically. With a team boss who’s been strongly against Andretti from the start, telling them to “buy a team”, it was a stance change that raised eyebrows.
I respect James Vowles’ passionate speech to Sky about keeping Williams alive, but it felt confusing when on the one hand he’s talking about pumping hundreds of millions in to try to take Williams up the grid and pay his staff’s bills, but also saying they’re not financially stable enough to take an 11th team “shrinking the pot”. I’m not sure you can have that both ways.
Ferrari’s Fred Vasseur said “We had to keep in mind that three or four years ago we had half of the grid quite close to bankruptcy. And we have to avoid being arrogant.” I’m not sure what rejecting a massive potential entry into the sport is, but I wouldn’t call it “modest” or “humble”.
To a degree, I get it. F1’s almost certainly worth more than the $4.6 billion that Liberty paid for it in 2017, with a post-pandemic surge and Drive to Survive being a surprise smash hit just as the world stopped turning. Forbes recently valued the sport at $17 billion, citing the growth potential.
The teams know this and don’t want a smaller slice of the pie for an 11th team being added given how the sport’s revenue is split, but I fear that they’re rejecting the very chance to make the pie itself that much bigger, even if it comes at a risk of Andretti beating you depending on where you are on the grid.
But for me, the biggest reason why F1 would be foolish in turning down an 11th entrant with the clout of Andretti is the very fact the sport itself is pushing so hard to try to crack America. F1 had to work hard to gain American fans’ trust again after the Indianapolis 2005 disaster, and boy has it tried.
We went from one American race to three almost overnight, with massive marketing pushes in Miami and Las Vegas, both demanding four-figure prices to fully enjoy the experience. I was lucky enough to briefly be in Vegas last month and there were multiple F1 merchandise stands littered around the town with its debut coming in November. There’s one in the front lobby of the famous MGM Grand right now!
The next step would be to have genuine American representation on the grid. To do all this hard work only to knock Andretti back would be an enormous double standard that would only anger a potentially massive audience that may feel exploited at having three GPs whom F1 wants their money for but where those same people would be denied the opportunity to cheer for a true home team.
Vasseur was probably more right than he realised. F1 wasn’t in a good place when the pandemic landed. But the sport came together in difficult times and was one of the biggest winners of the period with a plan for sustainability, diversity and a rare sense of self-awareness in coming together for the greater good. Rejecting Andretti now would be a horrible throwback to the worst of the teams’ politics. Selfishness and self-preservation above all else. And that is some arrogance I’m not sure the sport can afford to have again.
If you were a team boss, would you accept an 11th team? Let me know in the comments and see you after Austin for another D.R.E!