The all-American F1 dream comes to life: Andretti, Cadillac…and Colton Herta?

Colton Herta celebrates. Monterey, California, USA. September, 2021 Credit: Alamy
Colton Herta celebrates. Monterey, California, USA. September, 2021 Credit: Alamy
  • Andretti’s American dream took another step forward with the arrival of GM and Cadillac, is now the time they finally break through the F1 door?

Whatever you may say about the Andretti family, you can not call them uncommitted. Since early murmurings of a move into Formula 1 first arose in late 2019, the Andretti family have faced knock-back after knock-back and yet here they are, with their best chance yet.

On Thursday, Andretti announced a partnership with the sixth-biggest car company in the world General Motors, answering once and for all any questions of what value the proposed 11th team would bring to Formula 1.

If ever there was a signal of intent, this was it and with the Andretti Cadillac team now going through the official process, a move that appears to be favoured by the FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem, it finally seems that Michael Andretti may get his wish.

GM will provide a great many things to the Andretti team but besides all the benefits of being in bed with a company that posted a sales revenue of $130.50 billion in 2022, the partnership further solidifies what Andretti want this team to be.

Andretti, General Motors, Cadillac, Indianapolis, Detroit. The proposed team could not be more American if its livery were the Stars and Stripes, the drivers wore Lincoln-style top hats and the exhaust played the Star-Spangled Banner every time the engine was fired up.

What Andretti has always sought to be is America’s team. While Haas claim they are the team of the United States, Andretti have rightly pointed out they largely operate out of England and Italy, have an Italian engine and have a German and a Dane in their car.

Andretti are doing the opposite. The main base will be Stateside with a satellite site in the UK, the car will be designed and constructed in the US and the power unit may be as well one day.

It is not just the parts that will come from the USA either. A recruitment drive has already begun and no doubt if and when Andretti do arrive on the grid, it will be an American who leads them.

Andretti know there is a market to be won and it is no coincidence that their interest has emerged at a time when the American audience is fixated on Formula 1.

Three races in 2023, higher viewing figures than ever before, sold-out sessions on all three days, Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo stars of late-night talk shows. To say the average American audience has taken mere note of Formula 1 would be understating it, a trait that seems profoundly unAmerican.

General Motors said the same with president Mark Reuss confirming their interest began in line with the country as a whole.

But there is one thing that an American audience does not currently have and is an aspect that runs deep in the country’s culture: a home star to root for.

In 2023, the sole representative of the country aside from Haas will be Williams’ Logan Sargeant who makes his debut in the sport and is the first American to do so since 2015. There will be three times as many American races as there are American drivers which suggests that even if Formula 1 interest is at an all-time high in the country, Andretti believe there is a major market there to be even further captured on.

While the current Formula 1 bosses are not so easily convinced, if this move does come off it puts Andretti in the prime position to become the team of a 331 million-strong nation.

However it is not enough just to rally behind an American team, for it is a country that has always celebrated the individuals of sport. Andretti know this and have insisted their homegrown plan expands to the person sitting in the cockpit as well. On that account, the lead candidate has always been clear.

In October 2022, Colton Herta extended his contract with Andretti but crucially, the announcement did not state which series he would be racing in. He has flirted with Formula 1 with Red Bull in the form of AlphaTauri, only to be denied by the FIA’s superlicence system, but it seems more and more likely that his future is in F1 and with Andretti.

Those suspicions were not downplayed in the press conference of the GM announcement either with Michael Andretti stating that Herta was “leading the pack” when it came to the team’s driver choice.

“As for the drivers, we definitely have a plan to have an American driver and I think you all know who is leading the pack on that one,” he told media including PlanetF1.com.

“With Colton, we do have him under contract right now in IndyCar and so we definitely want to make it an all-American effort to make sure that we have an American driver in the seat.”

A heavyweight behind them, a young talent tied down and the president of the FIA seemingly looking favourably on the idea, Andretti’s American dream is beginning to take shape.

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