Mario Andretti claims CEO of Formula 1 owner promised to shut out son Michael

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 01: Former race car driver Mario Andretti listens during a news conference on May 01, 2024 in Washington, DC. Rep. John James (R-MI) hosted Andretti on Capitol Hill to respond to the Formula 1 management denying his family and General Motors the opportunity to join the global motorsports series. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Mario Andretti wants a Formula 1 team. Formula 1 isn't so enthusiastic. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

The battle over adding an 11th team to Formula 1 is reportedly getting personal.

Mario Andretti, the former Formula 1 champion whose son Michael is pushing to expand the grid, had a contentious run-in with Greg Maffei, the CEO of Formula 1's parent company Liberty Media, during the Miami Grand Prix earlier this month, according to NBC News.

The elder Andretti reportedly said he was at an invitation-only breakfast reception at the Palm Club when Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali asked him about a recent visit to Washington. Andretti had recently spoken at Congress after F1 denied Michael's bid to start racing in 2026.

Andretti reportedly told Domenicali that he was invited by Congress, at which point he claimed Maffei entered the chat. Via NBC News:

“I was asked to go there. And just as I was trying to explain that to Stefano, Greg Maffei, Mr. Maffei broke in the conversation and he said: 'Mario, I want to tell you that I will do everything in my power to see that Michael never enters Formula 1,'” Andretti said.

Maffei allegedly walked away after the remark and has not spoken with the elder Andretti since.

Andretti was, apparently, surprised:

“I could not believe that,” he said. “That one really floored me. ... We’re talking about business. I didn’t know it was something so personal. That was really — oh my goodness. I could not believe it. It was just like a bullet through my heart.”

Unsurprisingly, a Liberty Media source had a different recollection of the discussion:

"Andretti approached Greg at the breakfast to have a discussion with him," the source told NBC News, adding that during the conversation Maffei indicated to Andretti that their application to join the grid in 2025 or 2026 was rejected for good business reasons.

The bid for an 11th team has become contentious, with Congress entering the fray demanding answers about why Andretti Global must now wait until at least 2028. A dozen U.S. Congress members wrote a letter invoking the Sherman Antitrust Act and emphasizing the potential job benefits for General Motors, whose Cadillac-brand engines would power the Andretti cars starting in 2028.

Formula 1 is dominated by Europe-based teams. Liberty Media is an American company.

Andretti had already been approved for an F1 team by the FIA, the sport's governing body, but F1 and its 10 teams denied the application in January, citing upcoming rule changes and the two-year gap between a 2026 entry and the engines being ready in 2028.