As Andretti breaks ground on $200 million facility, F1 expansion answer 'getting close'
“Lots of fun things to come.”
The phrase — or versions of it — loomed over Andretti Global’s pivotal groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday morning like a billion dollar-sized elephant in the room. Indiana Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers, one of the many local and state government dignitaries on-hand at the 90 acres of of dirt, gravel, grass and trees in a corner of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Airport, actually dropped a gaffe in his speech before shovels touched dirt.
In listing off the racing series that Michael Andretti’s eponymous motorsports giant competes in at the moment, Chambers mentioned “NASCAR” — which Andretti has attempted a trio of times to carve out a spot in, most recently in 2012, but has yet to crack into.
“We’re not there yet,” Andretti answered, with a grin, to which Chambers replied, “I was projecting!”
Jokingly, Michael’s father Mario, standing next to him on stage, yelled, “We could join that too!”
More:Andretti Global unveils $200 million, 575,000 sq. ft. home for IndyCar, prospective F1 teams
By itself, it was an otherwise laughable but forgettable sequence across a presentation with an audience that included Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Fishers Mayor Scott Fadness, IndyCar president Jay Frye, Group 1001 CEO Dan Towriss, Marco Andretti, Kyle Kirkwood, Devlin DeFrancesco, and a slew of Andretti Autosport team members from executives down to the everyday shop workers.
But as Mario gushed over a facility he says will be “bigger than Ferrari’s”, one that will house an Italian restaurant with Andretti family recipes on the menu, sit right off the Nickel Plate Trail beckoning for casual visitors to its family museum during their morning walk and host race-day watch parties at its outdoor amphitheater, there exists a clear, if not sometimes unspoken, purpose.
IndyCar teams — even those with current (Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing) or aspirational (Arrow McLaren SP) sportscar ties — build ‘IndyCar-sized’ shops. RLL’s 120,000-square-foot two-tiered team headquarters with a workout facility, a pickleball court and shop space for both IndyCar and IMSA rang in around $20 million.
Andretti’s stands to span nearly five times that size (575,000 square feet) at 10 times the cost ($200 million).
More on Andretti Global's Formula 1 aspirations:
How Colton Herta became a budding international racing star — and America's F1 hope
Michael Andretti on F1 hopes: 'We're here because it's our life'
Andretti Global continues to wait on F1 expansion decision from FOM
“This isn’t about IndyCar. With this, we want to do something that’s never been done before,” Michael Andretti told IndyStar on Tuesday. “We want to be in all forms of auto racing, from Le Mans to Monaco to the Indy 500 and the Daytona 500. And eventually in the future, we want it all to be under one roof. That’s our big goal, and we’ve got a lot of plans in the works to get there.”
After his father’s tweet that rocked the racing world in February, announcing Michael had “applied to the FIA to field a new F1 team starting in 2024”, and Michael’s public courting of support F1 team executives in May at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix, the Andretti family’s been rather coy about its progress toward persuading Formula 1 executives to approve the addition of an 11th team. In May, Andretti told IndyStar he expected an answer on his outreach by September or October.
Now in the first week of December, he said, “We’re hoping in the next couple weeks. That would sure be a nice Christmas present,” he said. Even after the passing of Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz and rumors Red Bull Racing may consider selling its sister team Alpha Tauri, Andretti asserted he had no more plans to buy an existing team. Just over a year ago, a deal with the owners of Alfa Romeo Racing that had neared the finish line fell apart when the other side refused to budge on post-sale team controls.
“No, they’re not interested,” Andretti said of Red Bull’s willingness to hold talks on Alpha Tauri. “But we’re working every day (to earn clearance for an expansion team). I’m still confident. We’re getting close. We haven’t gotten the ‘OK’ yet, but we’re getting really close.”
Towriss, the CEO of Group 1001 — the financial services company based out of Zionsville that owns major Andretti sponsor Gainbridge — with a personal stake in Andretti Global’s hopeful growth, also declined to delve into specifics about Andretti’s back-and-forth with the FIA and FOM. Additionally, he noted the shop, inspired New York City’s Guggenheim Museum, is meant to be a testament on “our confidence and determination in everything we’re trying to build here”, rather than an uber-public display of good faith and solvency pointing toward Andretti’s F1 bid.
“We’re confident in the plans and what this means for our future,” Towriss said. “These plans run much deeper than a facility, and those are the plans we want them to see.
“I think a lot of times, the quotes that get pulled out (about FOM’s pushback against series expansion) don’t really tell the full story. There’s a lot of conversations going on, and we’re not trying to get out in front of anything or use the media as a tool to influence anything. They have an expectation on approach and decorum that people should take in dealing with them and we respect that.”
With another small window into how Andretti Global and Michael Andretti’s F1 team aspirations came to be, the team owner made a point to list off a series of folks to thank at the start of Tuesday’s ceremony. At the very start, Andretti name-dropped Towriss, along with Mark Walter, the CEO of Guggenheim Partners, a global investment and advisory firm currently with more than $285 billion in assets under management.
According to Forbes, Walter ranks in the top-500 richest people in the world with an estimated net worth of $5.3 billion. Earlier this year, he and a group of investors purchased Premier League soccer club Chelsea FC for £2.5 billion.
Guggenheim, which owns the Los Angeles Dodgers through Guggenheim Baseball Management (a consortium that also includes Magic Johnson and Billie Jean King, among others), had long been rumored as Andretti’s financial backing that could make the construction of a $200 million facility, the payment of F1’s $200 million dilution fee and the estimated $1 billion it would take in the early years to kickstart a viable F1 program possible. Until Tuesday, Andretti had declined to publicly acknowledge the link.
With that type of backing, Andretti hopes to take what are sometimes stodgy, private buildings hidden inside industrial parks and turn his Andretti Global headquarters into a center of activity within the ever-growing Fishers landscape. Within the walls of his family’s racing museum, Andretti hopes he can either acquire or host and showcase pivotal cars from he, Mario, Marco and John Andretti’s legendary racing careers that have nearly spanned 60 years. Though they held off in the recent Newman/Haas collection auction, Andretti said he hopes to get in touch with those who purchased cars from the team Mario raced his final 12 years in IndyCar – much of that alongside Michael, who drove for the team from 1989-92 and 1995-2000.
“I know (friend and fellow IndyCar team principal Zak Brown) owns dad’s 1978 Lotus (from his F1 title year) and my 1991 championship-winning CART car,” Andretti said. “We’re hoping there’s a lot of stuff folks will be willing to loan us to display.”
They’ve also spent the time and money to send the restaurant’s head chef to Italy for research to begin crafting the menu that Michael said will reflect where his father grew up before his family immigrated to the US in 1955.
“We want to bring the community of Fishers and Indianapolis together and enjoy this with us. To us, that’s a big deal,” Andretti continued. “I think we’re going about it the right way and getting the right people involved that have done this before – because you can only do it once. We want to invite the public to come watch races, be part of the community and give people something to come and see.”
Added Towriss: “It’s meant to be a destination and for us to have interactions with fans and the public. It’s something people can get up close to and feel and touch and hopefully feel connected to – not just in Indy, but on a global basis.”
With that, Andretti hopes Fishers can play host to Formula 1’s first car ever to be built in the U.S. After farming out his team’s cars for the 2024 and 2025 seasons – pending F1 approval for entry, of course – car development would begin in 2025 when Andretti expects the shop to be fully operational ahead of the 2026 racing season.
“I’m the state’s economic evangelist, and the state is winning because of companies like Andretti Global that are ‘future focused’,” Chambers said. “This is about a family and a company that’s got a whole portfolio in racing, and there’s more to come, more to come.
“I know you’re working hard on that.”
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: F1 news: Michael Andretti 'confident' in Formula 1 expansion hopes