Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Istanbul Park, 2021

Andretti tipped to take majority stake in Sauber’s F1 team

2021 Turkish Grand Prix

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CART Indycar champion and former Formula 1 driver Michael Andretti is understood to be pursuing a takeover of Sauber, which runs Alfa Romeo’s team.

RaceFans has learned Andretti is closing on a deal to buy 80% of shares in Islero Investments at a price of €350 million (£296.86m), putting it in control of the Sauber Motorsport and Sauber Engineering divisions.

Andretti formed the Andretti Acquisition Corporation in March with a target of raising at least $250 million (£183.49m) through an initial public offering. However a spokesperson for the acquisition corporation told RaceFans it is not involved.

The Andretti operation already includes a successful IndyCar team, which won the Indianapolis 500 on three out of four occasions between 2014 and 2017, and recently hired ex-F1 driver Romain Grosjean. They also have a Formula E team, which until this year was linked to BMW, and entered the inaugural season of Extreme E this year.

Andretti’s interest in Sauber has been long rumoured. The F1 team was purchased by Swedish investment firm Longbow Finance in 2016. Under the Alfa Romeo brand it has scaled up in recent seasons, doubling its F1 workforce to over 500 employees, and hired Valtteri Bottas to join it from Mercedes next year. The team is yet to announce its second driver for 2022.

Michael Andretti, IndyCar, 2021
Andretti’s teams race in IndyCar, Formula E and Extreme E
Although Alfa Romeo has fallen to ninth out of 10 teams in the championship this year, it has reduced its deficit to the front runners since its 2016 takeover. Having languished 4.3% off the pace on average in 2017 it has cut that deficit to 1.5% this year.

An Andretti spokesperson declined to confirm the company was making a move to buy Sauber.

“As is no secret, Formula 1 has been of interest to Michael and the team for some time,” they told RaceFans. “We’ve explored and come close on many options over the years, but we have nothing new to report.

“Our passion is racing, in all forms. Should a proper opportunity come along to take the Andretti name back to F1, we’d jump at it. But as of now, that opportunity has not fallen in our laps and our focus remains on our seven current disciplines of competition.”

An Alfa Romeo F1 team spokesperson declined to comment when approached.

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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40 comments on “Andretti tipped to take majority stake in Sauber’s F1 team”

  1. Andretti Autosport F1 sounds good. But so does Alfa Romeo and Sauber

    1. @qeki Indeed, but somehow I feel Liberty will rather have an American connection than an honored F1 marque

      Reply moderated
    2. Scuderia Alfa Romeo Sauber Andreti doesn’t roll off the tongue so bad?

    3. @qeki I think it will stay as the Alfa Romero marque until current contract is over. Plus I could see Fiat Chrysler may now want to extend its deal with Sauber if Andretti is involved which could help bolster its PR in the United States where Alfa Romero is desperately trying to sell more cars.
      After all, Andretti is an Italian name and well known in Italy that could make it a symbiotic relationship with mutual benefits.

      All three entities have their own distinct history and name recognition that each deserve to live on but not sure where the Sauber name would fit in later on which would be a shame. Behind the scenes Sauber have done and still does incredible work at the Sauber Engineering dept. that’s the envy of other F1 teams and doesn’t nearly get enough public recognition for.
      It would be a total coup for Andretti’s motorsport to acquire and all of its many racing series teams to having access to. Making it a force to be reckon with.

    4. Maybe have a chat with Gene first.. look where it got him.

  2. I hope this could mean Indy drivers get more chances to drive F1 cars. At least in the practices.

    1. Not possible, they have prevented that on purpose to monopolize the market. The only way to get a license to drive in F1 is through their junior categories. Indy champion would need to find himself a nice F2 seat and prove himself against the kids there. In the eyes of FIA F3 > Indy so…

      1. Scott Dixon and Josef Newgarden each have at least 40 superlicense points. The FIA still awards points for indycar but for the top 3 positions they award 40 / 30 / 20 whereas for F2 they award 40 points for the top 3 positions. This makes a big difference in eligibility, and compound that with the closer similarity F2 has to F1 than other series and the limited number of race seats and you get the present result. F3 is about the same as indycar.

  3. Guanyu Zhou is probably not looking forward to this change of ownership, geopolitically speaking.

    1. @proesterchen I doubt this move would impact his chance.

    2. We’ve got a Russian driver in an American team, and some Brits in German cars.
      So I guess anything is possible.

      1. We’ve got an American team painted in Russian flag even… Politics? That works only for ordinary people, you’re supposed to be scared of evil Russians or whatever, while those ‘more important’ do business.

      2. It all comes down to cash for teams trying to cut expenses until they can improve their performance and earn more.

  4. Sounds better than a token Alfa deal to me as a casual motorsport fan – I have always found that the bottom line for that was that we have one less real historical name (Sauber) on the grid in exchange for a marketing exercise. Which allowed to keep the said historical team operating, of course, so can’t complaing too much.

    Also I’m sure it’ll be great for the sport in general with potentially more US exposure.

    Sidenote – there’s probably a more impressive way to list Andretti’s Indy accomplishments than “won the Indianapolis 500 on three out of four occasions between 2014 and 2017, and recently hired ex-F1 driver Romain Grosjean.” :))

    1. True, way more accomplishments in that entire family too and it’s F1 history. A line about Michael’s actual F1 experience (sure he didn’t do great) plus his father’s actual WDC would have added more sheen to the article. That Grojean reference do prove some sort of F1 connection was sad.

    2. Are you saying that Alfa Romeo isn’t a historical team? A team that has won 2 world championships. Raced in the grand Prixs before F1 and in the 50’s 70’s and 80’s plus recent times. That also saved Sauber and has kept it’s name running.

      1. KZ, Alfa Romeo’s involvement in the 1980s was, in some ways, more akin to their current sponsorship arrangement with the Sauber team for most of that period.

        Alfa Romeo’s Autodelta division only had direct control of the team from 1979 to 1981 – from 1982 onwards, they signed a deal for Euroracing to manage the team, with Alfa Romeo scaling back to being more of a supplier and technical consultant to the team, but not directly managing it. The later cars weren’t designed by Alfa Romeo employees either – the designers were employed by Euroracing, and the chassis was also manufactured by Euroracing.

        However, even if you were to add together the 1950-1951 and 1979-1985 seasons together, the total sum of Alfa Romeo’s involvement in F1 would be 9 years. Sauber, therefore, does have a much longer heritage in the sport – 28 years – than Alfa Romeo; Alfa Romeo’s involvement in F1 is actually quite short lived, such that it is debatable whether they really are that much of a historic team.

  5. Interesting if this were to happen.

  6. A bit conflicted over this. Would love to have the Andretti name in F1 as a constructor, but it would be a pity to lose Sauber, which many people (myself included, many times) tend to forget is now an historical F1 constructor (now with 28 years in the sport). I know at the moment it is an hybrid Sauber/Alfa constructor, but as Dieter has mentioned before in his articles Alfa Romeo is merely a coating, and the team kind of continues to be the old Sauber team. I would much rather prefer if Andretti took over Haas (soon to be known as Mazepin F1).

    1. Though if they can both be bought for a reasonable (and maybe not all too different) price, and while the Sauber operation in Switzerland will be a bit more expensive to maintain, I’d be reluctant to go for Haas, given how much trouble they have had getting on top of issues they had, mainly with tyres, ever since they joined; Sauber and Haas are both lacking development likely due to cash, but I do think that Sauber has more potential if you lift that a bit.

      1. I agree, from Andretti’s perspective Sauber looks like the best bet. I wonder if the problem with Haas is how things are being managed. There have a been a lot of episodes that indicate lack of direction from the team, either the Rich Energy debacle (which even people in online forums could see as a scam), the problems with Mazepin (brings money but also is a PR disaster and doesn’t add anything trackside) and the general lack of external funding.

        1. It seems to be the problem with how things are managed, certainly, but I wonder if it’s coming more from Steiner or Haas himself

      2. Also, remember Haas has no real operations, design or manufacturing infrastructure of their own. Dalarra does development and manufacturing. Ferrari supply parts, are going to do development while the only thing Haas itself really does is coordinate and run the race team.

        So then Andretti would either have to invest really big, or would have to continue being a Ferrari dependent team @minilemm, @bosyber, Pedro Andrade

  7. If not for the $200 million entry fee Andretti and other entries would be looking at a completely new entry rather than taking over an existing team.
    This fee needs to be scrapped fast. I genuinely think that if f1 don’t get rid of it they could miss out on 5+ possible, serious entries over the next few years.

    1. This fee needs to be scrapped fast.

      Quite the contrary, IMO.
      This fee increased the value of all existing teams overnight (ninth placed team is now worth almost €400M).

      Soon (when Haas is formally sold) they’ll run out of options to buy sub €500M teams, and investors will look at setting up a new team and accept the €200M entry fee.

      1. Yeah that’s a good point. If the team has a minimum value of 200m, 300m is an attractive price. This stance could change though.

    2. Agreed. Drop that ridiculous fee and welcome 2-3 additional teams based on their intent to compete plus demonstrated reserves and investment/project plan.

    3. @milesy-jam it seems to be automatically assumed that they would have entered as an independent team, but do we have any indication that they would definitely have formed their own team, or whether they still would have preferred to go down the route of buying an existing team?

      Buying Sauber also means you’re acquiring an experienced workforce, a well established supply network and infrastructure that is considered to be pretty good quality. Would Andretti necessarily have been that willing to plough the amount of money, personnel and resources required to build his own team up to a comparable level? Might it not still be more attractive to look at buying another team anyway?

  8. If one adds $200mi dilution fee (entry) plus $400mi for facilities and 4 years at $150mi budget cap until you reach Alfa current status, it’s a non brainer.

    Specially with the raising interest in the US and the need for a seat for a 100% USDA grade A lean driver. I guess Zhou would have to wait for Alonso retiring now.

    I was expecting some surprise changes but at Haas, due to the american connections and all. It looks like they will become Ferrari’s B team after all.

    Any bets on who may be Bottas teammate?

    1. Newgarden is the best US driver but a bit old at 30 for F1 (and a Penske driver).
      The best Indy prospect for F1 is definitely the actual champion, Alex Palou. He’s only 24, european and has experience in different championships (he moved to Superformula in Japan because he didn’t have the money to do the usual F3-F2 path). But he’s a Ganassi driver.
      If the 2022 cars are indeed more nervous and difficult to drive, probably a top Indy driver will be on par with the F1 drivers from the beggining.

      1. Not think this is custom made for Colton?

  9. It’d be interesting to see what happens if Andretti is able to get a team. Not only does he currently have Grosjean in his stable of drivers, but Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta as well. I doubt Rossi would want back into F1 at this point of his career but Herta is without question a rising star and I’d be interested to see how he stacks up. And don’t forget that Alonso’s first IndyCar attempt was with an Andretti affiliate and his 2020 campaign was supposed to be with the main Andretti team until Honda vetoed it. So that connection could spice things up in the driver market as well.

  10. No, please concentrate on IndyCar! Don’t get involved with the F1 money pit.

  11. Didn’t Mario race for Alfa Romeo at one time? It would be cool if they came full circle and his son buys Alfa Romeo.

    1. Yes he did briefly. Quite a circle it would be especially if somewhere at Alfa(Fiat/Ferrari, probably not Sauber) his original car is preserved and retrieved into the team’s showcases.

  12. I wish I was sophisticated and accomplished enough to convince people that I could lead the purchase of an F1 concern, even if some/many of the advantages I enjoyed resulted from good birth fortune.

    Reply moderated
  13. As stated – they need to get a development program going.

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