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Does GM's engine plan strengthen Andretti's F1 claims?

Now that General Motors has registered with the FIA as a Formula 1 powertrain manufacturer for 2028, it appears to dispel one of the main criticisms of Andretti's prospective entry.

Michael Andretti on the grid

Photo by: Alexander Trienitz / Motorsport Images

"I think they need to do their own engine," Red Bull boss Christian Horner mused on the subject of Andretti's pending Formula 1 entry when considering what the American outfit needed to do to get its foot in the FOM door. Wish granted, it seems.

GM had already partnered with Andretti in name for its prospective F1 entry, opting for the Andretti Cadillac moniker to underline its American-ness as the champion makes greater strides with its popularity in the US. Cadillac, after all, has had its brand in NASCAR, endurance, and GT racing - so there's plenty of motorsport pedigree to draw upon.

Developing its own powertrain lends further credence to the Andretti Cadillac entry, ensuring that it has signed up as a bona fide manufacturer team for the long term rather than as an independent outfit at the behest of a customer contract - although it would have to cast its net out for a short-term deal while GM develops its 2026-spec turbo-hybrid powertrain.

In the announcement of a GM powertrain, the marque has declared its commitment to Andretti's entry to brush off any suggestions that it could be tempted to unite with an existing team and leave Michael Andretti's outfit without support.

Williams team principal James Vowles, who opposes Andretti's bid on the grounds that it could dilute the financial opportunities available to the British squad, has already voiced his desire to enter talks with GM should the Andretti bid be denied. However, GM appears to see its involvement as either F1 with Andretti or no F1 at all.

How much does this bolster Andretti's F1 chances?

Michael Andretti

Photo by: Gregg Feistman / Motorsport Images

Michael Andretti

Although GM's intent to produce a powertrain would, on the face of it, strengthen Andretti's claims for an entry, things remain complicated in their combined efforts to convince FOM and the teams of its merits.

Horner's quote above has been echoed by many other paddock figures, who feel that an 'independent' team coming in as an 11th entrant would be somewhat parasitic and potentially tempt finance and resources away from the existing outfits.

Andretti, which is understood to have its own wealth of funding to augment its GM support, can now claim to be "growing the pie" with its conscription of a multinational automotive brand that also owns Buick, Chevrolet, and GMC.

A few years ago, a union between a hugely successful racing outfit and an automotive conglomerate with racing expertise would have been a shoo-in for a guaranteed F1 entry, but times have changed.

Now that F1 has become significantly more profitable and celebrated around the world thanks to its expanded profile in mainstream media, the current teams want to capitalise on that rather than allow an extra entry onto the grid - financially secure or otherwise.

The FIA has already assessed Andretti's entry and given it approval, and it may be that it was already aware of GM's plans to expand beyond a financial partnership and support the team in a technical capacity as well.

Were it entirely up to the FIA, then Andretti would be preparing for a grid slot in either 2025 or 2026; President Mohammed Ben Sulayem posted on Instagram that he was "delighted with the news that General Motors have registered as a power unit supplier for the FIA Formula One World Championship.

"This is a further endorsement of the FIA's PU regulations. It also follows the approval of Andretti Formula Racing's Expression of Interest application. The presence of iconic American brands Andretti and GM bolsters the long-term sustainability of the sport."

Andretti has support from the governing body, and it may well convince a handful of the other teams that it is not there simply to leech off the existing infrastructure in place; it fully intends on bringing its own backers and technical support. Should GM produce a strong powertrain, then it may well see fit to expand its F1 offering through its other brands.

General Motors announcement

Photo by: General Motors

General Motors announcement

The prospect of an expanding GM vs Ford battle, as the Detroit giant has partnered with Red Bull for its 2026 power unit programme, adds a tantalising undercurrent to the age-old market contest between the American giants.

Entering in 2028 also ensures that the GM project can have time to mature, as it sits a year or so behind the development curve of the existing 2026 prototype projects being carried out by the six other manufacturers. That said, success partly depends on how much of a pull GM can be in the job market, as the demand for experienced powertrain design engineers is already starting to outstrip supply.

Does this put more pressure on FOM to accept Andretti?

In short, yes and no. The perception is that FOM denying a bid that carries the support of an automotive giant would look very bad for F1, notwithstanding the potential legal battles that Andretti may pursue should the rights holder give the thumbs-down.

It's true that accepting a team simply because it is American in origin may not be particularly worthwhile, but Andretti has seemingly faced up to its key criticisms and acted upon them to bring something more to the table.

Whether that's enough for FOM remains to be seen, and chairman Stefano Domenicali may still have legitimate concerns about the Andretti Cadillac project going forward. In that case, F1 is at liberty to decline the Andretti bid - but the team's ability to garner support in the US may create consequences down the road. These consequences might hurt the progress that F1 has made in the States over the past five years.

Domenicali will have to navigate slightly more precarious waters as it negotiates with Andretti and GM, as he will not want to risk turning away one American brand while trying to entice others as F1 grows on the other side of the Atlantic.

It's certainly more difficult to turn down a true Andretti Cadillac manufacturer effort, but F1 may feel that it has not been completely convinced by the bid despite the addition of another powertrain supplier.

But in that instance, the fallout could be immense. A schism in the relationship between FOM and the FIA has already started to form, and Ben Sulayem's decision to open the F1 entry process independently of the rights holder has all the hallmarks of a power play.

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA, Greg Maffei, CEO, Liberty Media Corporation, on the grid

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Christian Horner, Team Principal, Red Bull Racing, Mohammed bin Sulayem, President, FIA, Greg Maffei, CEO, Liberty Media Corporation, on the grid

F1 will open itself up to some degree of legal action if it does not accept Andretti, and may even transgress EU antitrust laws that prohibit abuse of anti-competitive agreements. The waters could become very murky indeed, but FOM will stick to its guns if does not feel that the Andretti entry is in its best interests.

What will Andretti do in the short term if accepted?

It's noteworthy that GM has earmarked 2028 as the year that its F1 powertrain will debut, while Andretti has secured an entry for either 2025 or 2026, as it means the team would need a short-term supplier to power its maiden years in F1.

An option with Renault to supply its powerplant has now elapsed, and Andretti would need to negotiate with the French marque again if it wished to secure a two- or three-year deal while GM accelerates its own plans.

"We had a pre-contract with Andretti, which has expired because they were supposed to be granted an F1 entry before a given date," explained Alpine F1 chief Bruno Famin.

"It means right now, if we want to do something with Andretti, we need to negotiate a full contract, a formal contract. So right now, we have absolutely no contract with Andretti."

"Everybody knows what the situation is; we need something, and we need a decision from F1 before resuming with Andretti."

If Andretti were to enter in 2025, it would need to link up with one of the four existing powertrain suppliers on the grid. As Renault only supplies its own Alpine squad, one can assume that their dialogue would be reopened in that instance.

Should the team wait until 2026, this brings Honda and Audi into play as prospective short-term partners. Honda would be the most logical given its existing relationship with Andretti through its HPD subsidiary in IndyCar and IMSA.

It is ultimately dependent on what FOM elects to do next, however; Andretti can only begin to sound out prospective partners for its first few years if it gets the much-coveted F1 entry.

Will the goalposts move?

The common party line from the existing teams is something along the lines of "we will accept the admission of an 11th entrant so long as it grows F1's commercial interests, but we must protect our own team and stand against any dilution caused by an added outfit".

That's fair, but since F1 is continuing to grow and thrive in the current market, the championship should be in a position to accept further teams by the 2025-2026 target set by the FIA.

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, the remainder of the field for the restart

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14, the remainder of the field for the restart

It is difficult to argue that the introduction of GM as an engine supplier does anything else but grow the championship's reach, particularly in markets across the world where it has considerable reach.

But Horner's above quote was followed by a statement that suggests the goalposts of what can be construed as a worthwhile entry could be moved: "When you look at how Audi has come into the sport, they've acquired an existing team and an existing franchise. Should it be different for the others?" he added.

"I think that's where Liberty and the FIA need to get together and come to us with a collective position. Because you can't have one rule for one, and another for others."

It's slightly disingenuous as it was never a rule that Audi had to purchase Sauber, but it chose to do so as it did not wish to build the team entirely from scratch. This is a route that Andretti had already pursued, but could not agree terms with owners Longbow Finance.

The other teams are not for sale either. Andretti has spoken previously that he has spoken with Haas about a sale, but owner Gene Haas does not wish to sell. Astronomical fees are being quoted for the other teams; AlphaTauri has allegedly quoted figures of nearly $1bn to prospective owners, despite the unknown identity that it will assume in the future.

Even with a bigger dilution fee, entering a new team is as prohibitively expensive as buying an existing team, and to have investors willing to invest that much in F1 can also be considered a pie-grower in the long term.

Whether the addition of GM as a powertrain supplier changes anything remains to be seen, and its presence could be of interest to other teams seeking a potential power unit partner in the future - as a GM product, this could be open to badging exercises for a brand like Chevrolet.

Regardless, it should be considered as strengthening Andretti's claims to a potential F1 berth; weaker entries have made it, albeit in different circumstances.

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