Why does an American car-making giant suddenly want to be in Formula 1?

2023 F1 season

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It may not have surprised many that, once FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem announced he would begin a process to bring new teams into Formula 1, the Andretti Group would be the first to confirm their interest.

But the revelation yesterday that they intend to bring General Motors brand Cadillac with them caught many by surprise. The backing of the car-making giant may prove the ingredient which makes Andretti’s bid irresistible.

None of the four current General Motors brands – Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC and Buick – have been seen in F1 before. GM did not need the world of grand prix racing to become one of the ‘big three’ American carmakers with annual revenues north of $127 billion (£107bn).

Last year began with the surprising news that GM was no longer America’s top-selling manufacturer of cars – a position it had held since 1931. But the day before Andretti’s announcement GM confirmed it had shifted 2.27 million vehicles in the US over 2022, putting it back on top of the pile.

Report: Andretti and Cadillac announce plans to enter Formula 1
So why has it apparently decided it needs F1 to ensure it continues shifting vehicles in the numbers it needs to? After all the rival which temporarily displaced it from the top spot, Toyota, cannot exactly point to a long and successful F1 heritage.

GM president Mark Reuss referred to the “growing global appeal” of F1 in yesterday’s announcement. There is plenty of evidence of that, including rising television viewership and sold-out races.

Much of F1’s growth is happening in GM’s backyard. Entering its sixth year of US ownership, the Liberty Media-run series has successfully courted American interest by relocating race coverage to ESPN, launching the Netflix series Drive to Survive and adding further US rounds in Miami and, from this year, Las Vegas.

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Cadillac’s LMDh share headlights designs with the Lyriq
Some drivers have already cultivated strong American followings, notably Lewis Hamilton and DTS poster-boy Daniel Ricciardo, the latter an obvious hiring target if Andretti’s team gets the green light for 2026. The series has its first full-time US racer for 15 years in Logan Sargeant this season.

Like its rival carmakers, GM faces the challenge of making the shift to electric vehicle production while the majority of its sales still come from fossil fuel-burners. It aims to have a fully electric vehicle line-up by 2035, but is finding uptake among buyers slower than expected, and not as quick as that of Toyota. While GM sold over 38,000 Chevrolet Bolt electric vehicles last year, it shifted fewer than 1,000 of its Cadillac Lyriq electric SUVs.

Taking Cadillac into F1 therefore makes a great deal of sense. The championship’s up-market image is an ideal fit for the brand. What’s more, its appeal isn’t confined to the USA. Last July GM announced it intends to return several of its brands to Europe. The Cadillac Lyriq is seen as a key model for this, drawing on the popularity of electric SUVs. Its rivals include the Audi E-tron, and the German marque has already bagged its place on the F1 grid for 2026.

GM has high hopes for Cadillac’s Lyriq SUV
Cadillac’s planned move into F1 is only part of the expansion of its motorsport activities. Its V-LMDh sportscar, co-developed with Dallara, will make its debut at the Daytona 24 Hours this month. Cadillac will also use the car for its return to the Le Mans 24 Hours.

A move into F1 therefore looks timely, and doing so in collaboration with Andretti promises to be a cost-effective way of doing so. GM is not committing to building its own F1 power unit, instead labelling one obtained from another supplier, potentially the Honda units used by Red Bull. Branding an operation in this way is what Alfa Romeo CEO Jean-Philippe Imparato termed ‘the best business model in F1’.

It may prove no coincidence that as GM confirms its interest in entering F1 with Cadillac, rumours suggest another of its biggest rivals – Ford – could be tempted back to the series. F1 has not exactly been forthcoming towards Andretti’s efforts to enter a team, but facing the tantalising prospect of two manufacturer heavyweights going up against each other, surely it would not dare turn its nose up at a GM-backed entry?

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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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34 comments on “Why does an American car-making giant suddenly want to be in Formula 1?”

  1. I can understand it from Andretti’s point of view: trying to bring as many reasons with him to allow him onto the grid. Whether that is money from Cady or merely the name.

    And while I understand the massive investment a company would have to do in order to make their own engine for F1, I’m baffled by the route Cady picks. Merely slapping your name onto something that isn’t yours isn’t great marketing. We’ve seen that with Renault when they were branded Tag Heuer in the Red Bull. There were a few people that believed Tag made the engine but pretty much everyone knew it was a Renault. Regardless of the amount of fancy ‘Infinity’ branding on the car to go with it. Same goes for Alfa Romeo, although from a Ferrari-umbrella point of view that still makes more sense.

    ‘Renault by Cadillac’ or any other feels just typical American: fake.

    1. Aston Martin and McLaren do not produce their own power unit, does this make them fake? AM has no intention of making their own PU. Cadillac would not be any lesser for not making their own PU initially.

    2. I have the impression that FIA s saving the next entry to a US manufacturer.
      Otherwise an Andretti team would only be a Haas 2.

    3. Why do you act like rebadging is new? Even your example of Tag was done 40 years ago with a Porsche engine that was never called a Porsche engine. GM did this with Ilmor 40 years ago with the Chevy Indy engine. Nobody knows that it isn’t a Cadillac besides a few nerds on this site. Seems like the logical way a giant car manufacturer could sponsor motorsport without having to build a car. It certainly makes more sense than a soft drink company or sweater company actually building a car.

      1. @darryn I think you are mixing up the name of the team with the name of the engine – the chassis constructor was listed as “McLaren-TAG”, given that TAG was the primary sponsor of McLaren, but the engine was listed as a “TAG-Porsche”.

        Furthermore, TAG could justifiably point out that it was not just acting as a sponsor – TAG was one of Porsche’s technical partners, particularly for the electrical systems, so they did actually play a significant role in the development of the engine.

    4. Most F1 fans are casual and don’t care what is under the hood, not sure why you feel that “isn’t great marketing”. It is actually superb marketing.

      1. Sorry, Pastaman, but I do care greatly about what is under the engine cover. The most distressing aspect about Formula One for me is the fact that there is no longer any true freedom of engine design or configuration under those engine covers. Formula One has become so restrictive, it is now, for the true enthusiast, really depressing. But that seems to be the trend these days – sameness everywhere.

    5. Cadillac said in their press release that it would be more than just a name. Andretti will be using their race facilities, expertise, and even engineers. Its a full partnership, not just a name branding exercise. The only thing that they wont be making in house is the engine. Andrettis comments suggested that that could change in the future as well.

    6. Weren’t Mercedes just putting thier badge on Imore engines for a number of years when they returned to F1 until DaimlerChryslet bought Ilmore, seems to have worked out for them!

  2. The idea is to get the ball rolling with engine branding first, and then design their own. This way they can gain experience by running in races, get a good baseline on what kind of an engine performance is required to be competitive and then use that knowledge to build their own engines once they’re ready.

  3. Remind me again what PU AM and McLaren run?

  4. I’m amazed the article doesn’t mention the cost cap. The guarantee that spending won’t be a bottomless pit surely must weigh heavily in GMs decision. HAAS hoped for a cost cap early on but was dragged into an unwanted spending war in its early years. They barely survived before the cost cap was finally introduced. GM will at least be entering knowing what it will cost and knowing rivals are bound by the same rules.

    1. GM will at least be entering knowing what it will cost and knowing rivals are bound by the same rules.

      I’d be more inclined to say that they know what rival new teams are bound by. The existing teams already have an engine which they can modify to suit the new engine regs, Andretti/GM would be starting from near zero – I say near zero as they may have a lower spec engine to base things on.

      1. How will they be starting from zero considering they have an engine to use? We need more details though. Will this engine come from Red Bull Powertrains? I feel like they would be a very expensive customer engine.

        1. I believe engine cost are capped by F1, i.e you can’t charge more than $10M per year for engines. Applies to every engine mfg.

          1. The $10M a year is what the engine (sorry, Power Unit) manufacturer can charge for the service. It does not include the R&D or the manufacturing infrastructure. That is where the BIG buck$ are hidden and these are not included in the Cost Cap.
            For GM or anyone else to develop an engine for the 2026 rules, is going to be an expensive venture.
            Correct me if I am missing something, and I am sure a few will, but are the 2026 Power Unit rules fully developed and set.? I understood there was still work to do to finalize them.

  5. Why does an American car-making giant suddenly want to be in Formula 1?

    Because they smell potential profit.
    Next question.

  6. If you are a sports cars manufacturer, you brand only become respected by winning a F-1 championship as a team or as an engine supplier. You can clearly see that Ferrari owners still look really down on Lamborghini owners (see Lamborghini fiasco at the end of 80’s), and they used to do the same to Porshe owner until mid-80s. It really does not matter how fast or how many horsepower you put under the hood. Without a F1 championship, those cars built by those brands are considered soulless cars.

    1. And that’s why people drinking red bull look down on Ferrari owners… Ferrari owners will look down on anybody who doesn’t drive a Ferrari, even if that car is a Bugatti or a Rolls Royce.

    2. Your statement might have been true 30-40 years ago. Today, not so much.

    3. @mauromori Considering the people who buy Ferrari’s, and their limited number, I’m sure nobody at Porsche is too concerned about what they think. And nor would Enzo Ferrari, who famously drove Peugeots and continued doing so even after selling part of his company to FIAT, much to the Agnellis’ frustration.

      Porsche has a long and impressive history in motorsport, even if their F1 participation is limited.

    4. Real gearheads don’t view it this way at all since F1 and road cars basically share nothing. Winning racing series, which use the actual car were more much influential. More influential yet was how good the cars actually are/were.

      But, today, it’s almost not relevant at all. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday used to have a small amount of credibility. Today, it means absolutely nothing. Even Ferrari wouldn’t lose a nickel in sales if they quit F1 today.

      1. Lewisham Milton
        7th January 2023, 22:01

        The Las Vegas GP’s not even on Sunday…

  7. The 2026 engine regulations have drawn the ire of motor-enthusiasts for their heavily prescriptive wording. Some have, in a perhaps somewhat hyperbolic fashion, called them spec in all but name. In any case, the engine regulations are certainly simpler and less open than today. It was no doubt one of the demands made by VAG, and with F1 down to three suppliers – one of which is unwanted by any other team – it left Ferrari and Mercedes little choice but to accept.

    This is a good thing. The 2014 engines might have some impressive features, they’ve utterly failed to make F1 relevant to manufacturers. And that is still ultimately the goal, as manufacturers bring global PR and perceived status, or in other words: money. F1 always wants more money.

    1. At some point F1 is going to need to decide if engine rules are worth costing the show just to get unreliable manufacturer participation. I’d much rather have great sounding engines that are good for the show and the sport be run just by independents (manufacturers still welcome though if they are willing to build an engine not relevant for road car tech) with chassis development being the main challenge/determiner of performance (just like it has been for most of F1’s history).

  8. Everyone acting like getting someone else to build you engine isn’t how its always been done. it seems more rare that a car companies engineers are the ones to build its F1 engine (excluding Ferrari). Case in point, Ilmor which is the firm that makes GM’s Indy car engine was an offshoot of the original company who is now known as Mercedes powertrains and made all the Mercedes branded race engines since the V10 days. would be funny to see two different Ilmor engines going head to head. one pretending to be German and one pretending to be a Yank but both being British as beans for breakfast.

  9. some racing fan
    6th January 2023, 22:47

    “Why does an American car-making giant suddenly want to be in Formula 1?”

    That headline, to me reeks of snobbery and is condescending. Ford, Toyota and currently Fiat and Daimler-Benz have been or are currently in F1. F1 can’t survive without “car-making giant” ‘s participating in some form. Look at the 70’s. Ford was paying for the Cosworth DFV program for 18 years and had their badged on all those engines for each championship GP.

    1. F1 can’t survive without “car-making giant” ‘s participating in some form.

      I reckon it could. Absolutely.
      It largely has before, as you say with Cosworth’s most famous product.

      Look at the 70’s. Ford was paying for the Cosworth DFV program for 18 years and had their badged on all those engines for each championship GP.

      Yep – but then there weren’t any rules about how many teams an engine supplier could supply to at the time. There was no forced ‘competition.’
      And that was arguably one of F1’s best eras, because it was all about the race teams and what they could do, and not about who was allowed to have which engine. If you could afford the latest iteration of the DFV then you had every chance to win, as it was commercially available to everyone.
      Also worth noting that at the time, the DFV was relatively cheap – simply because they were making so many of them. Economy of scale.
      The same theory that most motorsport series use now to keep their series affordable, sustainable and profitable.

      1. some racing fan
        7th January 2023, 8:25

        I reckon it could. Absolutely.
        It largely has before, as you say with Cosworth’s most famous product.

        Yes but like I said before- who funded that program? Ford- specifically Ford Europe funded the DFV program, thanks to Ford Europe EVP Walter Hayes cutting a deal with Colin Chapman in ’67, and then Chapman agreeing to share the engine with other teams for the ’68 season. Without Ford’s money, that program would never have existed.

        So my point is that the constructors will survive, but only unless they have access to power units. Ferrari, Merc, Alpine and RBR will survive no matter what because they make their own PU’s, and Alfa have direct access to Ferrari’s PU’s. But the other teams wouldn’t survive if they didn’t have a contract with a PU manufacturer.

        It was not much different in the 70s- only much simpler and more available. You could buy DFV’s from Cosworth (I think each one cost £15,000 ($30,000)), gearboxes from Hewland and at least up until 1980, you could buy a car and go racing. From 1981 onwards (I think because of the Concorde Agreement) teams had to make their own chassis but of course could still buy engines and gearboxes. An F1 power unit these days doesn’t cost $30,000. It costs $10.5 million- that’s 350 times the cost without inflation adjusted.

        1. Even if the ‘Ford Cosworth’ DFV hadn’t become the weapon of choice, chances are something else would have instead.
          That was just how F1 was at the time. It was no longer feasible to rock up with your homebrew engine, and few manufacturers were really keen on investing in F1 as much as required to be successful – and those that did tended to keep their toys for themselves.
          Of course, we know that Red Bull isn’t really an engine manufacturer. Not now, and probably not ever.

          Not sure how mean ‘survive’ – wealthy teams have no issues with survival. Return on investment is their big concern, though.
          And while the non-manufacturer teams can find sufficient sponsorship and F1 keeps giving them sufficient payouts and pushes away potential new participants, they will survive too.
          Their performance and competitiveness will usually be more down to their car and teamwork than the engine in it.

          Even in the impossible scenario that there were zero manufacturers interested in participating in F1 from their own funds, F1 collectively (and/or teams individually, though the rules in that case would almost certainly disallow it) would organise to have an engine created and supplied to order. A spec engine.
          Look at tyres – there’s only one manufacturer there. ECU’s – only one manufacturer there too. Also wheels now – just one.
          F1 is moving in a direction of turfing out uncompetitive avenues and just going spec. Using spec engine is the next logical step.

  10. Ya, why F1 all the sudden, very suspicious! Doesn’t matter, the teams will not agree to let them in their euro club.

  11. I think F1 needs one or two new teams. Andretti has been on the verge of entering for a few years but now has the backing of a major motor manufacturer. So I hope Liberty and the current teams give them a chance rather than encouraging investment from some unknown businessman who has no historical link or has no motoring interest in F1 at all and who would probably fail anyway.

  12. tl;dr: there’s money in it.

  13. The more manufacturers go to the party, the bigger the value of being in the party for everyone involved, isn’t it? Oh, person A is going to the party? Then I’m going too! Plus, F1 seems to be growing in ‘merica, so there’s a momentum now to be used.

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