Column | Andretti's interest in Alfa Romeo helps pry the “F1 door” open in the USA

13-10-2021 10:42
Column | Andretti's interest in Alfa Romeo helps pry the “F1 door” open in the USA

Heat has recently been generated in the F1 world with rumours of a potential move by Andretti Autosport to purchase a stake in the Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 team. Why are they entering now and what would this mean for the iconic team as well as Formula One?

What’s happened?

Reports have surfaced in the last two weeks of growing interest from the Andretti Autosport team. The iconic American team is owned by son of 1978 F1 World Champion Mario Andretti, Michael, whose business prowess has allowed him to expand his racing empire to compete in the likes of Australian Supercars, Formula E and Indycar. Joint ownership with Zak Brown to create Andretti United Autosport has allowed the team to enter other disciplines such as World Endurance Championship and Extreme E.

Seeking to potentially purchase a majority stake over Islero Investments (their current owner), this would give ownership and operation to the iconic American racing team. An announcement may be potentially made in Austin for the US Grand Prix.

Why would they want to enter?

The coming regulation changes would be beneficial to the new owners, as a level playing field would allow them to come in and not experience significant deficits to the leading pack. While the intellectual property, design philosophy and understanding of the car would remain the same as the current Alfa Romeo team. Assets would be available as well, such as the headquarters in Hinwil and the windtunnel, meaning that Andretti would not have to dig deep in the pockets to bring infrastructure updates in. Pre-existing power unit links with the other American owned team, Haas, could potentially allow for a synergy between the teams. Ties with McLaren chairman Zak Brown remain available as well.

The earlier announcement of signing current Mercedes driver Valterri Bottas also means that critical and recent experience from a championship-winning team is provided. Bottas will inevitably become the team leader for the squad, no matter who he is paired with for 2022. This paired with a two-year contract means that they will have a seriously strong driver behind the wheel, laden with newfound responsibility and eager to find his rhythm going into the future.

What could this mean?

This helps pry the “F1 door” ever so further open for the elusive North America's market which F1 has so doggedly focused on since 2016. By having two American names owning two American teams, it would tap into nationalistic pride and interest from both old and new motorsport enthusiasts. This paired with the coming Miami Grand Prix, as well as the continuation of the Netflix series ‘Drive to Survive’ means that their control in the American market could see a sharp rise in the coming years. 

For F1 as a sport, it means the coming home of a gilded name in motorsport. Andretti has long become a fabled name in the United States, with success achieved in the many disciplines it has entered in. It also helps add one more link to the American single-seater series, Indycar, which has seen a massive rise in popularity over the last year. This could allow Andretti managed drivers the chance to make their name in the stateside racing series, before making the jump to the F1 World Championship. 

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