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US Congressman asks if F1’s Andretti block is a “money grab”

The US Congress member spearheading the scrutiny of Liberty Media’s block on Andretti-GM’s Formula 1 bid has questioned the motives of the sport’s commercial rights holder.

Michael Andretti

Photo by: Mark Sutton

Republican Congressman for Michigan John James – who represents an area that is synonymous with General Motors – took part in a press conference outside the US Capitol in Washington on Wednesday alongside Mario Andretti, 1978 Formula 1 world champion and patriarch of the Andretti Global team.
Formula One Management, which Liberty owns, turned down Andretti’s bid as its “assessment process has established that the presence of an 11th team would not, on its own, provide value to the championship” and put unnecessary financial strain on current race promoters.
Along with 11 other Congress members, James has sent a letter demanding answers for its rationale and asked whether it had “unreasonable restraints on market competition” that might contravene US laws.
James said: “I’ll let you figure out if this is cartel-type behaviour; if this is anti-competition, monopolistic-type behaviour.
“But from where I’m standing, when you have a company, Liberty Media, that also owns 30% of Live Nation, which is literally this week under investigation by the [Justice Department] for anti-competition and monopolistic-type behaviours.
“Then when we get reports of people who will look you right in the face and say, ‘Look we’re too big to be held accountable, you have to know how to talk to us’ – well, that doesn’t work over here, that doesn’t work when a big guy gets to put his thumb down on a little guy.”
He also questioned whether FOM leaving scope for Andretti to grab the 11th slot from 2028 to ensure it would receive more money if F1 continues its rapid commercial expansion.
Michael Andretti

Michael Andretti

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

“From the outside looking in, one can ask: Is this a money grab?” he told NBC News. “One can ask: Is Formula 1, is Liberty Media kicking the can down the road to get a more juicy deal for themselves, so that they can go from $200 million to $1 billion dollars extracted from Andretti-Cadillac.
“Meanwhile, the commitment has been shown by Andretti-Cadillac, I think, to the tune of millions of dollars a month in preparing for the standards of complying with everything.
“We hope that we can resolve this to do business together for our mutual benefit, but particularly for America. But if not, we will have our questions answered. 
“Because we have an obligation to protect the American consumer, to protect American companies, and that is our first allegiance. And those who are seeking to take advantage will be held accountable.
“It’s not just supporting Andretti. It’s about supporting Americans.”
James has raised the issue with US House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan, which could add further scrutiny over the denial of Andretti’s place on the grid by calling up Liberty executives to explain themselves to the government.
Andretti, 84, said of his team’s case: “We’ve done everything that’s been asked of us. I represented the US proudly in my F1 career. My proudest moments were standing on top of the podium with the American national anthem playing.
Andretti Cadillac logo

Andretti Cadillac logo

Photo by: Andretti Autosport

“F1 has become so prominent now in the United States with these three events, which is unprecedented. We’re shown we’re ready with all the tools available, with fantastic partners by our side.
“We just need the green light. Give us a green light and let us do our thing. We were the only applicants who were approved by the FIA for Formula 1, and we only have one more step to move forwards.”
When reached for comment, F1 referred Autosport to its previous statement on the matter of Andretti’s rejected bid.

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