Photo: Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment
If Formula 1 actually cares about breaking into the American market, it needs a team like Andretti Global, and it needs Andretti’s partnership with General Motors’ Cadillac Racing marque. How the sport responds to the Andretti/Cadillac bid to join the grid will easily define the sport’s trajectory of growth in the United States.
America has had a rough history with Formula 1. I’ve written about it countless times before, and I won’t bore you with the details here — but to sum it up, F1 just hasn’t understood America. It hasn’t known where to host a race. It’s struggled to appeal to the audience. It’s also shot itself in its own foot. With Andretti and Cadillac, though, comes a uniquely American appeal that can transform a potentially fleeting romance with F1 into a life-long love affair.
Right now, a significant portion of F1’s presence here in the States is built on Drive to Survive hype and a curated marketing plan to make motorsport easier to consume. People are interested — but if my brief foray into fashion TikTok has shown me anything, it’s that interest is fleeting. Without a greater pull, without building a deeper personal investment, F1 can easily lose as many of the American fans that it believes it has gained.
Part of it comes down to the power of representation. Sure, it’s cool to be able to root for George Russell at Mercedes when you live in Arizona — but wouldn’t it be even cooler if you could throw your patriotic fervor behind an American? Wouldn’t you find a deeper connection to the sport — or, at the very least, a convenient entry point — from which a lifelong passion can grow? It’s similar to what we’ve witnessed with the World Cup; obviously, most people root for their home country’s team, but that access point can serve as an introduction to soccer in general.
This becomes especially important in an era where, despite having more races than any other country on the grid, America’s events are also becoming more expensive than many on the rest of the calendar. If you want fans — and I’m talking fans, not VIPS — to shell out up to $500 for General Admission tickets to the U.S. Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas, you might want to give them something to root for.
Listen. I’ll hear the counterarguments. I’ll acknowledge that Haas, also an American team, hasn’t exactly done all that much for the whole “promoting America in motorsport” cause. Haas has struggled on the track, but it has also worked really damn hard to distance itself from the country of its origin through its choices for team principal and drivers. It busts out its Americana once a year for the United States Grand Prix, then calls it a day.
But Andretti will easily be a different story thanks to a confluence of factors, not the least of which is the fact that GM and Cadillac are American marques that will absolutely want to play up that made-in-the-USA angle. Andretti has proudly hired American drivers in other disciplines, and it’s linked with the name of America’s most recent F1 World Champion. There’s a legacy here worth preserving, and Andretti has regularly reflected its commitment to doing so.
My biggest fear, though, is the fact that rejecting Andretti based on the grumblings of the teams will turn off prospective American fans. Seeing a prospective team die simply because the other teams don’t want to split the end-of-season prize money is, to put it quite simply, hot garbage. Sure, Americans love their exceptionalism, and we like to buck Old World tradition — but there’s also something inherently off-putting about the massive gulf between what F1 claims it is and what F1 actually is.
With pay drivers becoming the norm, we know it’s not a Championship based exclusively on sporting merit. But denying competition simply because it might make you look bad? That feels a little bit like baiting American fans into caring about your product while actively opting against giving those fans something to care about in the long run. And with that mindset, F1 runs the risk of dropping the ball in the U.S. once again. Sure, an Arizona street race in June displayed F1’s horrifying lack of understanding about literally anything America — but the gut punch of denying Andretti will eclipse a mere scheduling error that can’t be bandaged over with a $2,500 ticket to the Las Vegas Grand Prix.