Two icons of the U.S. auto world, Andretti Global and General Motors Co.’s Cadillac, are teaming up to race in the world’s most prestigious, open-wheel, motor-racing series, Formula 1.
The bombshell news Thursday came as Formula 1 and Cadillac are making major pushes in new markets, and dovetails with retired race-car driver Michael Andretti’s ambitions to follow in the footsteps of his famous father, Mario Andretti, to conquer F1 with an American team.
The move also comes as GM is accelerating its commitment to global motorsport: Cadillac is pursuing victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year with a new, prototype sports car, and the Chevrolet brand’s Corvette Z06 GT3 race car will be available for private teams to race across the globe in 2024.
But the time seems ripe for both GM and Andretti. F1 has surged in interest in the U.S. in recent years with three Grand Prix on the schedule for 2023: Austin, Miami and Las Vegas. Furthermore, the series has championed electrified racing with a promise for zero-emission racing by 2026 — an ambition that dovetails with GM’s Zero-Zero-Zero mantra (zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion), with Cadillac taking the lead as GM’s first global all-electric brand.
“General Motors is honored to team with Andretti Global on this historic moment in racing,” GM President Mark Reuss said in a statement. “Cadillac and F1 both have growing global appeal. Our brand has a motorsports pedigree that’s more than a century in the making, and we would be proud to have the opportunity to bring our distinct American innovation and design to F1.”
The partnership did not announce a date for its entry into the sport but said it has begin the formal application process with Formula 1’s FIA organizing body. If selected, Andretti Global said it is seeking to compete as soon as practical with at least one American driver.
“I feel very strongly that we are suited to be a new team for Formula One and can bring value to the series and our partners, and excitement for the fans,” said Michael Andretti, CEO of Indianapolis-based Andretti Global, in a statement. “I’m proud to have GM and Cadillac alongside us as we pursue this goal.”
Andretti Global participates in six series around the globe, including the FIA’s Formula E electric series, which is a distant cousin to Formula 1. Andretti is best known in the U.S. as one of powerhouse teams in IndyCar, fielding three cars in the 2022 season and winning twice with American drivers Colton Herta and Alexander Rossi. The Andretti team has won the Indy 500 five times.
Andretti’s interest in Formula 1e has been a constant source of chatter in the IndyCar paddock in recent years with Herta’s name consistently in the conversation as a dynamic young American driver. Andretti and GM last paired in IndyCar’s 2012 series when the team was powered by Chevrolet engines. Andretti currently uses Honda engines in its IndyCars.
Still, Formula 1 is a major step as the world’s most expensive and technologically-advanced form of motorsport. American involvement in Formula 1 in recent decades has been sporadic with few U.S. brands making the commitment. Ford Motor Co. was last American F1 competitor with its then-Jaguar brand from 2000-04 (under the management of American Bobby Rahal for 2001), and Mario Andretti was the last American to win an F1 championship in 1978. No U.S. driver currently races in the series.
The Formula 1 partnership is separate from the Detroit Grand Prix, which is an IndyCar series race and currently title-sponsored by Chevrolet. Formula 1 last raced in the streets of Detroit in 1988.
Cadillac’s push into Formula 1 comes on top of its ambitious plans to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year — the first time the brand has competed in the world’s most prestigious endurance race since 2002. Caddy has been a contender in the American IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series since 2017 and its all-new, earth-shaking hybrid-V8 Cadillac V-LMDh will take the fight global this year in IMSA and FIA World Endurance Championship.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Find him at [email protected] or Twitter @HenryEPayne.