Andretti – remember the name. Because come the opening race of the 2023 Formula 1 season, we could be seeing an 11th team on the grid for the first time since 2016.
Andretti Autosport have the motorsporting pedigree – albeit not in Formula 1 – having won the Indy 500 five times, and pockets deep enough to compete at the highest level of motor racing.
But, by accident or design, Formula has found itself at the goldilocks number of 10 teams. Some of those – Mercedes, Ferrari and Aston Martin – are car manufacturers in their own right. Others – such as Red Bull – have come from other backgrounds.
But in the close-knit family that is the Formula 1 paddock, why is it that 11 teams has become an untenable number in recent years?
The key formula
Well, the last time the sport saw 22 drivers on the grid was in 2016, when Haas – another American racing outfit, much like Andretti – entered the sport.
The 11-team honeymoon lasted just one year, though, after Manor Racing went under in January of 2017. Back to 10, then.
And before that it was 2014 when we saw 11 teams. Again, Caterham fell victim to financial woes and were forced out of the sport.
Next season will mark a decade since 11 teams competed in the sport without one going under almost instantly. Remarkable.
Formula 1 teams are hot property, we are seeing that with the commercial demand to be part of a team. Crypto, data, and technology sponsors have flooded into the sport in recent years.
Potential owners, therefore, have jumped at any opportunity to join the series – Lawrence Stroll being a key example. First it was Williams, then Racing Point and now Aston Martin who have been snapped up. Anything to be involved in the circus.
But the need to constantly invest finds out some of those who don’t reap the title-winning benefits that others do.
Beyond money, there’s the tight hold that Formula 1’s governing body – the FIA – has on the sport.
When ready to expand, the FIA, much like a contractor, will put an application out to tender. It’s rare for a team to apply and be granted without advance notice from the body.
So while Andretti have the money and as much racing pedigree as Haas had in 2016 – in terms of North American motorsport – they’d need the FIA to entertain their inclusion. After that, it’s about whether they can produce a car to compete.
“We were hoping to know by now, and unfortunately, we don’t,” said Michael Andretti, team owner of the racing empire, last month.
“We’re hoping that it’s going to be soon, though. While we’re waiting, we’re doing a lot of work behind the scenes, we are preparing for it because we have to start.
“So we are doing things, hoping that we get a shot at it. We have to start making some moves and hope and pray that the FIA allows us to have a shot at getting in there.”
Andretti Autosport, who have competed in IndyCar since 2003, have agreed a engine provision deal with Renault and are on the lookout for a European base.
Some have suggested they could buy out another team. Others believe they will be the 11th. But what is known is their desire to be in motorsport’s most global and profitable discipline.
Whether they’re allowed in is one matter; whether they break the curse of an 11-team season is another.