US Congress members demand answers from Liberty over Andretti F1 block

In January, grand prix racing’s commercial rights holder, Formula One Management, rejected the America squad’s bid to join the F1 grid next season, despite the championship’s regulator, the FIA, approving its technical capabilities last October.

A statement from FOM read: “Our assessment process has established that the presence of an 11th team would not, on its own, provide value to the championship. The most significant way in which a new entrant would bring value is by being competitive. We do not believe that the applicant would be a competitive participant.”

It furthermore added that it felt having an extra team on the grid would put unnecessary financial strain on current race promoters.

The Andretti Global team’s patriarch, 1978 F1 world champion Mario Andretti, visited Capitol Hill earlier this week, and met with Republican John James – who is one of the 12 bi-partisan signatories to the letter – to discuss the potential for anti-competition potential of FOM’s decision.

The role of U.S. Congress members is to represent people of their districts, as well as develop and vote on legislation. In the letter, which is addressed to Liberty boss Greg Maffei, the Congress members “write to express our concerns with apparent anti-competitive actions that could prevent two American companies, Andretti Global and General Motors (GM), from producing and competing in Formula 1.”

It goes on to allege that FOM’s rejection of the application “appears to be driven by the current line-up of European Formula 1 race teams, many of which are affiliated with foreign automobile manufacturers that directly compete with American automotive companies like GM. It is unfair and wrong to attempt to block American companies from joining Formula 1, which could also violate American antitrust laws.

General Motors announcement

General Motors announcement

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“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 [sic] racing events in Miami, Florida; Austin, Texas; and Las Vegas, Nevada.”

What answers are US Congress members demanding from F1?

The 12 members of Congress have requested Liberty’s responses to the following questions by 3 May:

1. “Under what authority does FOM proceed to reject admission of Andretti Global? What is the rationale for FOM’s rejection, especially with respect to Andretti Global and its partner GM, potentially being the first American-owned and America-built race team?
2. “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?
3. “We understand that GM intends to re-introduce its Cadillac brand into the European market, which would support thousands of good-paying American automotive jobs, especially with Formula 1’s worldwide audience and its halo effect on its teams and sponsors. How much did GM’s and Andretti’s entrance into racing competition taking a portion of the racing market share and GM’s entry into the European market taking market share each play into the decision to deny admission to the Andretti Global team, given the public outcry of incumbent Formula 1 teams against a new American competitor?”

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They sign off the letter stating: “We continue to exercise oversight on this matter, and with the appropriate Federal regulators, to ensure that any potential violations of U.S. anticompetition law are expeditiously investigated and pursued.”

Autosport has reached out to F1 seeking comment on the letter.

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