Members of Congress demand answers on Mario Andretti’s rejection from F1 races

Written by on May 1, 2024

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(WASHINGTON) — A group of bipartisan members of Congress are demanding answers from Formula 1 owner Liberty Media over why a U.S.-based team backed by racing legend Mario Andretti was excluded from the most prestigious motor racing series in the world.

The FIA, which is Formula 1’s governing body, initially accepted Andretti Global’s push to join the grid. However, Formula One Management (FOM), the commercial rights holder of the sport, denied Andretti’s planned entry in the sport, stating the team could not be competitive in time for upcoming races. F1 cited several competitive concerns, and stated that “the presence of an 11th team would not, in and of itself, provide value to the championship.”

In a letter to Liberty president and CEO Greg Maffei, the 12 U.S. representatives said they have “concerns with the apparent anti-competitive actions that could prevent two American companies, Andretti Global and General Motors (GM), from producing and competing in Formula 1.”

The partnership between Andretti Global and General Motor would have been the only American-built and designed engine in the history of Formula 1.

The letter goes on to accuse FOM of possibly violating American antitrust laws, saying it is “unfair and wrong to attempt to block American companies from joining Formula 1.”

Rep. John James, a Republican from Michigan where General Motors is based, is leading the fight. The letter is signed by 11 other representatives — both Democrats and Republicans — from Texas, North Carolina, Indiana and Florida.

The lawmakers sent three questions to Liberty Media, asking how the FOM’s rejection fits with the requirements of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, and what the rationale is for the dismissal of the first American-owned and built team.

The letter asks, “The Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 outlaws unreasonable restraints on market competition to produce the best outcome for the American consumer. How does FOM’s denial of Andretti Global and GM, American-owned companies, square with Sherman Act requirements, since the decision will benefit incumbent European racing teams and their foreign automobile manufacturing affiliates?”

Andretti, a former Formula 1 world champion, met with members of the House on Tuesday to gain support for his team, and spoke at a press conference outside the Capitol on Wednesday to argue for his team’s participation in the sport.

“We want to be able to represent the United States on a world stage in Formula One,” Andretti said.

He added, “We have all the tools available, all we need is the absolute green light.”

“America demands its due. If you want access to our markets, if you want access to our fans, you must grant access to our companies, you must grant access to our automotive workers, you must grant access to Americans themselves,” Rep. James said.

Liberty Media declined ABC News’ request for comment.

The fanbase Formula 1 has grown dramatically in the U.S., and Andretti’s lobbying visit to Congress comes ahead of this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix.

“Participation of all Formula 1 teams-including any American teams-should be based on merit and not just limited to protecting the current line-up of race teams. This is especially true considering Formula 1’s growing presence in the United States, including three Grand Prix motoring racing events in Miami, Florida; Austin, Texas; and Las Vegas, Nevada,” the representatives’ letter states.

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