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Why General Motors chose for an adventure in F1 after all

Why General Motors chose for an adventure in F1 after all

22 January - 07:53


Traditionally, Formula 1 has been focused on the European car market. General Motors - one of the largest car brands in the world - has focused mainly on its own, US market, where by far the majority of their cars are sold. Entering Formula 1 was not, so to speak, an obvious choice for the Americans. Nevertheless, with Andretti's newly established team, GM wants to take the plunge.

On the American continent, there was hardly any interest in F1 for decades, which meant that it made little sense for a truly American brand like General Motors to participate in it from a marketing point of view. Formula 1 has now become a global sport, with enormous popularity even in the United States. Three Grands Prix will even be held on US soil in 2023. With increasing interest from the American public as well as the creation of an American F1 racing team, led by a respected motorsport icon, GM could not really say 'no' to Andretti's request to participate.

External factors

GM's management now says that the company had been toying with the idea of entering Formula 1 for quite some time, but external factors made it impossible. For instance, it was not very long ago that the US government had to step in financially to save GM (and other US automakers) from collapse. Taking on an expensive adventure in Formula 1 at the same time was not a sell to politicians and the public.

Meanwhile, things are going much better for GM, the third-largest automaker in the world. Only Toyota and the Volkswagen Group are bigger. So when Michael Andretti walked into the Detroit headquarters just under six months ago to talk about a partnership, GM was quite willing to listen. " I would say we weren't necessarily looking to do it, but Michael kicked it off and I personally was really over the moon," General Motors president Mark Reuss said of that interview to The Race.

Little manpower and investment

An offer was made to General Motors that really could not be refused. Andretti provided the infrastructure in a new, state-of-the-art plant to be built on US soil. Moreover, GM did not have to set up an F1 division to develop its own power unit, as Andretti will buy it from Alpine. All GM had to do was transfer a nice sum of money, so that the Alpine engines will have the name of one of the GM brands (in this case, Cadillac). So a win-win situation: General Motors will (possibly) soon be found on the world's main grid, without costing much manpower and investment.

Here also lies the pitfall. Formula 1 increasingly wants to present itself as a class in which the world's leading car brands fight each other with self-developed equipment. Mercedes, Alpine, Ferrari and now Red Bull Racing will soon develop their cars (almost) 100 per cent in-house. There are also customer teams, all of which have developed into established names in Formula 1 in recent years. Million-dollar companies, which are worth a lot of money.

The last thing (most) teams want is to share the well-filled pot of money with a newcomer (in this case Andretti), who only has the backing of a big brand on paper. Finally, GM will soon be nothing more than a sponsor, like Alfa Romeo with Sauber, rather than the Americans actually developing their own car - or at least their own power unit. Incidentally, GM has indicated it has not ruled out actually building its own F1 cars in the future. Commitments in that regard could undoubtedly win over admitting doubting F1 bosses.

Not a done deal

With that said, it still does not seem a foregone conclusion that Andretti Cadillac will be allowed to enter Formula 1 anytime soon. No doubt the talks tusse the FIA, FOM and the teams on the one hand and Andretti Cadillac on the other will continue in the near future. With General Motors involved, Andretti has an interesting business case. But is it convincing enough for the other stakeholders? It remains to be seen. Either way: for General Motors, there is hardly anything to lose.

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