Andretti bid may test F1’s love affair with America

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Formula One just can’t get enough of America, and on Sunday the sport lapped up the celebrity-infused attention at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, basking in finally having ‘cracked’ the U.S. market.

When it comes to letting America’s most famous racing family, Andretti, in on the action, however, the enthusiasm markedly wanes with the sport’s cold commercial calculations coming to the fore.

With Las Vegas next year set to become the third U.S. race, after Austin and Miami, and fan and sponsor interest at an all-time high thanks to Netflix’s ‘Drive to Survive’ series, there was a heady air of celebration at the Miami Gardens track.

“Mega. I think it is a fantastic achievement by all involved,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

“Formula One is all around, the amount of guest requests we have is amazing. I think we’ve finally landed in North America.”

If the glamour created such a buzz, with stars such as Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Venus and Serena Williams appearing in a heaving paddock, the prospect of racing down the Vegas strip should guarantee another year of hype for F1 in America.

“The demand from sponsors and fans has been off the charts, unlike anything I’ve seen since my time in Formula One,” said McLaren’s American boss Zak Brown.

No surprise then that Michael Andretti, whose father Mario was the 1978 F1 champion and won the Indianapolis 500, wants a piece of the action.

Former McLaren driver Michael and Mario were in Miami, lobbying those in the sport to allow their planned Andretti Global team onto the grid.

The plan is for the team to have American drivers and an American-built car, more American than F1’s existing U.S presence.

With none of the 10 franchises up for sale, Andretti has to persuade the sport to allow an 11th team.

The current Concorde agreement, agreed between Formula One’s American owners Liberty Media and the teams and governing FIA, is in place until 2025 and covers the money side of the sport.

Wolff said Andretti would have to bring in additional value as well as paying a $200 million entry fee.

“The value of Formula One is that it’s a limited amount of franchises. And we don’t want to dilute that value by just adding teams.”

(Reuters)