Now, before any one out there gets fully onboard the 'Andretti to F1' hype train, please understand this is all very, very speculative.
Michael Andretti, owner of Andretti Autosports, indicated in a recent interview to DW Motorsports that he was open to a potential expansion into F1. That said, he also expressed reservations.
"Obviously it comes down to having a backer, as I can’t afford to do it myself," Andretti said in the interview. "There’s been a few deals that started to go somewhere and then they didn’t," he added, "We’re always keeping our eyes open."
There are two ways to look at Andretti's statements about a future in the pinnacle of motorsports. Could Andretti Autosports actually pull off an F1 entry and would it be good for the sport?
On the former, it's hard to say. Andretti Autosports is one of the most recent powerhouse American teams to be formed, first coming into life in 1993 as Forsythe Green Racing. Two years later the team split into two separate teams, Team KOOL Green and Players Forsythe Racing. The KOOL Green experienced success in the CART series before Michael Andretti joined the team in 2001.
Flash forward two years, and Michael Andretti bought a majority share in the team, rebranding it Andretti Green Racing, and switching series from CART to arch-rival series, The Indy Racing League.
In 2008, the team restructured and rebranded, becoming the Andretti Autosport brand that we know today.
The Andretti clan discuss handling. Family members left to right are Marco, Michael, and Mario. Photo Credit: Indycar
Aside from their focal series of Indycar and its feeder series, IndyLights, the team also competes in the Red Bull Global Rallycross Series and in Formula E, albeit under the title of MS&AD Andretti Formula E. They also competed several years in the ALMS series and will be entering the 2018 Australian Supercars Championship.
The team has a history of winning, especially in American Open Wheel Racing, where they have won three of the past four Indianapolis 500s. While the team has struggled in the recent aerokit era of Indycar, they have proven time and time again to be the best of the Honda running competitors.
They have also cornered the market on the Global Rallycross Championship, taking the championship the past two years with former Formula One driver Scott Speed.
Tanner Foust in his Andretti Autosport Red Bull Global Rallycross Volkswagen Beetle. Photo Credit: MotorAuthority
So do they have what it takes to make it in F1?
The team can win, that goes without saying. But, F1 history buffs will remember the last time an Indycar team attempted to make the jump to F1, it did not end well for them. And that team was lead by the undisputed king of Indycar, Roger Penske.
Especially given Andretti's comments about needing additional help, Andretti Autosport would be most likely to enter the series under a technical partnership, either like the kind enjoyed by Haas F1 and their ties to Ferrari or by becoming a pseudo-works team for an engine manufacturer.
As for the former, Andretti becoming partners with an existing F1 team is not out of the question. We have already seen a symbiotic relationship between the American team and McLaren earlier this year in the form of Fernando Alonso's entry at the Indianapolis 500. Andretti could potentially come into the sport as a McLaren Jr team or a team that is able to use McLaren's facilities as much as possible. Although, the prospect of that is far less likely than it was earlier in the year given McLaren's switch to Renault from Andretti's Indycar engine supplier, Honda.
Fernando Alonso in his joint McLaren/Andretti Autosport Honda entry to the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Photo Credit: McLaren
No, what is more likely is that Andretti Autosports could become a psuedo-works team for a new engine manufacturer wanting to works its way into the sport. The obvious choice, given Andretti's Indycar deals, would be Honda, but as they are already signed to pair with Toro Rosso, that is unlikely. A Chevy or similiarly owned GM brand engine is also unlikely as they are arch Indycar rivals with Honda and would not want to be supporting a so called enemy.
What is a very real possiblity, given Andretti's Rallycross partnership, is an engine supplier from the VW stable. Andretti, for the record, runs VW cars in Rallycross.
We have seen advanced interest from several VW owned brands in entering Formula One with Audi, Porsche, and maybe even Lamborghini testing the waters of an F1 return. Seeing one of them pair with the American team, allowing for Andretti to run the lionshare of logistics, while allowing for the VW run engine company to have equal say and assist with development could be a perfect way forward for the team.
Once again, all this is speculative, but it is certainly a tantalizing prospect.
And now to the final question, would an entry by Andretti Autosport be good for Formula One?
In a word, yes. In several words, you bet your ass it would.
Mario Andretti, the last American driver to stand on the top step on an F1 podium. Photo Credit: Formula One
Any new legitimate entry into Formula One is a good thing for the sport. On the most simple levels, more entries mean for chances for drivers to prove themselves. Likewise, more cars on the track means more exciting action into each and every corner.
Furthermore, another American team being added to the grid, especially one that carries with it the moniker of the first family of American racing, is nothing short of spectacular for a series still wanting to make inroads on the market across the ocean.
Whether or not Andretti will actually make the jump is still to be seen, but I have no doubt that as we continue to hear more about the new 2021 engine regulations, we will get a more firm idea of if he will be able to make an entry. Andretti will no doubt way all his options and I imagine it would be highly unlikely if he does anything before the new regulations come into place. But until then, let us all hope that there is enough light at the end of the tunnel for him to try to jump into F1 and bring the Andretti name back to the top of the F1 rostrum.