F1: Goal is to build an American F1 car with an American engine – Andretti

Michael Andretti’s team qualified 1st and 2nd for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IndyCar race on Saturday. Afterward, AutoRacing1.com caught up with Andretti to get a status update on his application to enter an 11th team in Formula 1.

When asked about the status of his application, Andretti replied, “There is not much to comment on.  It is in the hands of the FIA.  We are just going through the procedures.  And we are feeling good about it.”

We quizzed him on when he expects to be on the F1 grid with a team, if approved?

“It would be for 2025, not before,” said Andretti. “It will take that long to build a new team.”

Andretti Global,  the parent company of Andretti Autosport, is in the process of currently building a very large 575,000 square-foot facility in Fishers, Indiana.

“Our F1 team will take up most of that building,” said Andretti.

“The goal is to eventually build the car here [in the USA]. However, the first F1 car will not be built here because there won’t be time. The new building will not be up and running by then.

“Eventually, we want to have an American built car with an American engine installed,” said Andretti.

Andretti did not share where the first Andretti Global car would be designed and built, if not in Fishers, Indiana.

Rumor has it…….

It got us thinking, well, if the first Andretti Global car would not be designed and built in the USA, then it must be in Europe.

So we started doing some digging with our sources in Europe and the Walkinshaw name popped up.

Tom Walkinshaw Racing (TWR) was involved in Formula One from 1992 to 2002. At first, Walkinshaw became Benetton’s engineering director, and was instrumental in developing the car that took Michael Schumacher to his first World Championship title in 1994. A falling out with Benetton boss Flavio Briatore saw Walkinshaw move to a position as team manager at Ligier, which had been acquired by Briatore.

After a failed attempt at purchasing Ligier, Walkinshaw instead bought a majority stake in the Arrows in 1996. The following year, Arrows surprised the world by signing World Champion Damon Hill and introducing Bridgestone tires to Formula One. Although the team nearly won the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix, Arrows continued to have trouble attracting sponsorship, and following the liquidation of Arrows, TWR being the major shareholder of the outfit, soon followed suit, closing its doors in 2002 with no major success with the team. TWR Australia was quickly acquired by Holden. The TWR technical center at Leafield was sold and would later become the headquarters of the now defunct Super Aguri F1 and later Caterham F1 teams.

A number of prominent motor-racing engineers made careers at TWR, including Roger Silman (Operations Director); Tony Southgate (engineering director) and Ross Brawn (engineering director – yes that Ross Brawn). Ian Callum was design director from 1991 to 1999. TWR was also associated with Peter Stevens, who was a director of TWR Design and designer of the Jaguar XJR-15.

So what does Walkinshaw have to do with Andretti, you may ask?

Walkinshaw died on Sunday 12 December 2010, aged 64, from complications arising from cancer.  He is survived by his first wife Elizabeth Walkinshaw and their son Fergus Walkinshaw, and his second wife Martine Walkinshaw and their sons Ryan and Sean.

Ryan and Sean followed their father into motorsport, Ryan in management as one of the team principals of the racing team that wears the family name, Walkinshaw Andretti United, the descendant of the Australian arm of Tom Walkinshaw Racing. The team is co-owned by Andretti Autosport and United Autosports and races in the Australian Supercars Championship.

Sean as a racing driver who competes regularly in GT racing, most often in GT3 spec series like GT World Challenge Europe.

So Michael Andretti already has a business relationship with Tom Walkinshaw’s son Ryan in Supercars, and we are told the old Walkinshaw F1 facilities mentioned above may be available for Andretti Global to base their European Operations out of.

The now defunct Caterham F1 team was the last to use the old TWR Leafield England facility, abandoned in 2015, and word is it may be available for a team like Andretti Global.

As illustrated by the above video, if Andretti Global were to decide to make that abandoned facility, their European base, it certainly needs a lot of work.

Check out what the facility looked like 10 years ago when Caterham was building their F1 car there.

BTW, the Caterham F1 cars ran Renault F1 engines, just like Andretti Global plans to do to start.

Mark Cipolloni and Lucille Dust contributed to this article