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today is Apr 01, 2023

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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