Formula 1 is always keen on new manufacturers. Now, finally, one of the largest automobile companies in the world, the largest in the USA, wants to get involved.
Although F1 has courted the affection of most major automakers over the years, General Motors has always eluded it.
That may have been a result of a conflict of priorities between a traditionally European-focused championship and a company that has so obviously prioritized dominating US market share (this actually extended to General Motors actively divesting its global projects in recent years ).
Now the stars are aligning. General Motors was lured into making a joint bid for an F1 entry by Michael Andretti and blessed the use of its Cadillac brand to do so.
But why now for General Motors and Cadillac?
First, General Motors is prioritizing the growth of Cadillac into a global brand and the proposal is that tapping into the footprint offered by F1 will become a key element of that strategy.
This was obviously true before, but is more relevant now as Formula 1’s popularity in the US is booming and there is a clear effort to prioritize the market, evidenced by the addition of a Miami Grand Prix to the calendar last year and the staging in Las Vegas was a new race this year.
“Obviously these races are very important,” said Mark Reuss, President of General Motors.
“As we grow Cadillac into a global brand, in places we’ve either not been or never been, the series offers attention to Cadillac and the brand that is growing around the world.
â€œThatâ€™sa big part of it, too.â€
A second element is that General Motors would have welcomed an involvement in Formula 1 for a while, but was in all likelihood put off by the cost.
That’s not to say it was eagerly pursuing anything, but it would have been open to a reasonable opportunity. The conditions were just never right to bring either Formula 1 or anyone who wanted to bring General Motors into Formula 1 to the company’s door.
This time, too, General Motors did not even actively pursue Formula 1. Andretti drove the discussions forward. Existing teams will view this with concern — as it could be seen as a question mark over General Motors’ actual interest and commitment — but the upshot is that General Motors has likely spied a low-cost route.
“General Motors would have liked to get into Formula 1 (before), but it was quite difficult to do that for various reasons: whether it was the leadership or the amount of money at the time, where the company or the economy was,” said Reuss.
â€œWhatever those reasons, over a long period of time they varied.
â€œI would say we werenâ€™t exactly looking for it, but Michael started it and I personally was really, really happy.â€
The official line is that talks began “four or five months ago,” suggesting Andretti identified General Motors as a potential partner after its efforts to win favor with current F1 teams were rebuffed.
This wouldn’t have been worth it if Michael Andretti barked up the wrong tree, but these appear to be two pieces of a puzzle that fit well as Andretti is effectively the channel through which General Motors can generate initial interest in F1 with a project, that it will be much cheaper than if it wanted to start something from scratch itself.
And it shouldn’t be underestimated how important General Motors and Cadillac involvement could be for Andretti, especially if General Motors commits to taking an equity stake in the team and providing a significant amount of funding and technical resources.
It elevates the project from another independent client team to one with real factory team potential. That should push Andretti’s performance limit when it gets on the grid, but it may also help get it there in the first place.
Championship bosses may have previously been suspicious of Andretti, but the prospect of another American team on the grid joining Haas merging with a big brand like Cadillac and a company like General Motors is a serious heavyweight combination on paper.
And if it doesn’t pique F1’s serious interest, then a logical conclusion is that either the Andretti side of things is seen as the problem, or General Motors’ role is seen as not being as involved as it seems on the surface.
If General Motors were to consider partnering with an existing team and renaming it Cadillac, it’s impossible to imagine that F1 would object. After all, the “Alfa Romeo” team is allowed to exist, and that’s just Sauber with a different name and different colors (and a very, very cheap deal for Alfa Romeo).
If General Motors itself wanted to create a new team and run it under the Cadillac banner, it would certainly have the support of stakeholders. Because it would be an undeniable factory project.
It may come down to whether F1 perceives this as a genuine General Motors entry or just one to give their blessings to and ignore. For what it’s worth, the announcement from General Motors and Cadillac so far indicates it’s not the latter.
Although Andretti and Cadillac have doubters within Formula 1, those doubters have admitted, either privately or publicly, that the collaboration is at least interesting. General Motors is too big a name to just shrug. And Andretti has at least made an effort to bring something else to the table, having previously been snubbed.
Andretti believes it has a partner who can overcome the barrier to its entry, while General Motors has found a potentially efficient way to enter Formula 1 and maximize a return on its investment that would never have occurred on its own .
There are clear mutual benefits. And if broader concerns are allayed, F1 can be a winner too, as the timing finally seems right for the Championship to get its hands on the largest and most elusive car company in a market that is clearly so important.
F1 just seems to need convincing that this is the case Yes, reallyÂ General Motors knocks on the door.