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Mario Andretti Just Got the Feds Involved in the Whole F1 Thing

The former Indy 500 winner and F1 champ took to Capitol Hill to send a clear message to Liberty Media: He ain’t happy.

byJerry Perez|
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As a longtime racing icon, motorsport ambassador, businessman, and all-around cool guy, Mario Andretti is used to giving speeches and talking to crowds. Today was a bit different, however, as the former Indy 500 winner and Formula 1 champion took to Capitol Hill to fight the good fight. Which fight? The one against Liberty Media, who back in January rejected Andretti's application to join F1.

Joined by Rep. John James (R-Mich.) and other politicians from Michigan and Indiana, Andretti highlighted how Formula 1's owner, Liberty Media, has been aggressively developing the sport in the U.S. over the last decade, yet shut the door to a new American team. He mentioned how F1 now hosts three races in the States, and how Red Bull even hosted a demo run on Pennsylvania Avenue in D.C. last weekend, making it more than clear that the company and its subsidiaries want American fans.

"I'm here to strengthen our resolve to be in Formula 1. We have done everything that's been asked of us and now it's time for a decision,' said Andretti on Rep. John James' Facebook livestream from Capitol Hill.

Mario Andretti listens during a news conference alongside Rep. John James (R-MI) and Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) on May 01, 2024 in Washington, D.C. James hosted Andretti on Capitol Hill to respond to the F1 management denying his family and General Motors the opportunity to join the global motorsports series. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

James is part of a bipartisan group of lawmakers citing the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and are questioning Liberty Media over Andretti's exclusion from the world championship. Furthermore, the 12 members of this group sent a letter to Liberty Media Greg Maffei demanding answers.

"This venture is bringing the first-ever American-made engine to Formula 1—a GM-built engine specifically," said Rep. John James. "This is a big opportunity for Formula 1. If they want access to the American market, a free market, then they have to play fair. American autos should have the opportunity to compete against other autos across the world fairly. That's why we're here: fairness.

"F1 just held a race [Ed. note: it was an exhibition] on Pennsylvania Avenue last weekend—they wanted America's attention. Well, they have it. We're here to say that America demands its dues. If you want access to our markets, if you want access to our fans, then you must grant access to our companies, our automotive workers, to Americans themselves."

While Formula 1's decision to deny Andretti access to the sport in 2025 or 2026, the jury is still out on 2028. It's known that the series' biggest objection to an earlier start for Andretti had to do with the lack of a competitive engine supplier. It's believed that this issue won't exist in four years, once GM's own F1 power unit is ready and Andretti can access it.

“We’re ready with everything that’s needed. Give us a green light and let us do our thing,” added Andretti. “Our team, Andretti Global, is part of every major racing discipline in the world—F1 is the one that’s left. And we want to be part of that.”

Rep. Victoria Spartz (R-IN) and Rep. Greg Pence (R-IN)—yes, former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's brother—joined Andretti at the Capitol and spoke about the importance of fair competition and giving Americans a shot in foreign markets.

“They should ask us—actually, they should beg us to participate [in Formula 1]," said Spartz. "Good ol' boys from Europe who don’t want competition, that's what this is. I hope you [Andretti] send the right message. They are afraid of competition and American ingenuity. Competition makes us stronger."

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Andretti skillfully added a touch of patriotism to his closing speech, which didn't wander into other subjects and stuck to the recent facts between the Andretti and Liberty Media interaction. It wasn't the same case for the politicians present, however, who got a few things wrong during their speeches—such as last weekend's F1 "race" on Pennsylvania Avenue—and hammered away on the same couple of facts they knew about racing.

They also cited Liberty Media's other lawsuits regarding monopolistic behavior, specifically an ongoing case involving one of its subsidiaries, Live Nation. The event ticket giant is being accused of unlawful behavior to control ticket prices, venue capacities, and violating antitrust laws.

"Formula 1, in particular, culminated my career representing the U.S. proudly—I won at least one race on five continents, and the proudest moment for me was to step on the top step with the American national anthem," said Andretti. "We want the opportunity to be part of F1 again—and as far as Americans are concerned, I was the last American to win an F1 race in 1978 and my son Michael was the last American podium at the Italian Grand Prix in 1993.

"We want to resume that. F1 has become so prominent in the U.S. with three events and we want to be part of it. We have fantastic partners on our side, which obviously are needed to accommodate our dream—and again, we have all the tools available. All we need is access."

As of the time of writing, Liberty Media nor Formula 1 have responded to the letter sent by lawmakers. Meanwhile, Andretti Global released the following statement:

''We are grateful to the bipartisan members of Congress for their support in challenging this anti-competitive behavior. We remain committed to bringing the first U.S. works team and power unit to F1 and to giving American fans a home team to root for. It is our hope that this can be resolved swiftly so that Andretti Cadillac can take its rightfully approved place on the grid in 2026. Our work continues at pace."

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