Senators ask for Formula 1 investigation over Andretti Global rejection

A bipartisan group of senators has written to the Biden administration asking the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Formula 1 over a possible violation of American antitrust law.

Formula 1, commonly known as F1, in January rejected former American racing star Michael Andretti’s application to join the sport’s racing grid with a new team, which has caused an uproar in congress.

In the letter obtained by The Hill, a group of seven senators led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) has asked the assistant attorney general for the Justice Department Antitrust Division, Jonathan Kanter, and Federal Trade Commission Chair Lina Khan to look into whether Andretti’s exclusion from the sport violates U.S. antitrust laws.

“It is possible that such a refusal to deal—especially if orchestrated through a group boycott—could violate U.S. antitrust laws,” the senators added.

Michigan Sens. Gary Peters (D) and Debbie Stabenow (D), whose state is home to General Motors, have also backed the calls for investigation. If Andretti Global is approved entry to the sport, General Motors have signed on to build its engines.

The senators write that Andretti-Cadillac is an American racing team backed by General Motors “trying to break into a competition dominated” by European teams and despite meeting all requirements to join Formula One was still refused entry into Formula One.

“This has raised substantial concerns that Formula One’s members and sponsors may have colluded to exclude Andretti-Cadillac to insulate themselves from competition on the track and in the European car market,” the letter added.

The FIA’s main reasoning in rejecting Andretti’s bid was that F1 does not believe the team’s entry would add value to the championship.

However the senators blasted the sport for its reasoning adding that the position that Team Andretti-Cadillac would not benefit F1 financially and would not be competitive, “in particular for podiums and race wins” was incorrect.

They wrote that the vast majority of F1 teams fail to win races in a given season and adding Andretti to the track would “enhance competitiveness”.

“In 2023, a single team won all but one race, and half the teams in F1 have failed to win a race in the past 4 seasons combined. This competitive balance has not been the hallmark of F1 racing and adding a team backed by a major U.S. car manufacturer is likely to enhance competitiveness, not reduce it.”

They also point out that there is a concerted effort by the sport to court more American fans, pointing out that more than 1 million Americans have tuned into each F1 race, more than doubling over the past few seasons.

The letter also added that F1 hosted three races in the U.S., in Miami, Las Vegas, and Austin, “while no other country hosted more than a single race: and that teams like Red Bull Racing have also been hosting events in U.S. cities to drum up support.”

“Clearly there is a financial incentive to adding an American team to F1’s roster, and there is no reason Team Andretti-Cadillac should be blocked unless FOM is trying to insulate its current partners from competition,” they added.

The letter comes just a few weeks after a bipartisan group of lawmakers wrote to Formula 1’s owner Liberty Media demanding answers on the exclusion of Andretti Global from the sport’s starting grid.

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