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Wednesday, June 5, 2024 | Back issues
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Senators ask FTC to investigate Formula One over Andretti-Cadillac rejection

The bipartisan group of lawmakers are the latest group on Capitol Hill to suggest that the racing championship engaged in anticompetitive behavior when it rejected the U.S.-based team from joining the series.

WASHINGTON (CN) — A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the Formula One championship ran afoul of U.S. antitrust law when it rejected a proposed expansion team from one of the country’s most storied motorsport organizations.

Writing in a letter to FTC chair Lina Khan and Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter, Indiana Senator Todd Young, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar and Utah Senator Mike Lee said they were concerned that the Formula One organization, owned by Colorado-based Liberty Media, was “acting at the behest of its independent teams and other ‘key stakeholders’” when it decided in February to block Andretti Global from joining the F1 grid.

The senators join a group of House lawmakers in calling out the Andretti rejection. The House Judiciary Committee launched a formal investigation into the matter earlier this month.

The Andretti team, a joint venture with General Motors-owned Cadillac, would have been the Formula One championship’s 11th team, and GM would have entered the series as an engine supplier. Liberty Media rejected the bid even after the Federation International de l’Automobile, the global racing organization, approved it.

Liberty Media reasoned at the time that an Andretti-Cadillac entry would not bring enough value to the Formula One brand and that a GM engine would struggle to compete with more established manufacturers such as Mercedes and Renault.

But the senators said Tuesday they weren’t convinced by those arguments.They told Khan and Kanter that "the vast majority of F1 teams fail to win races in a given season,” pointing out that a single team — U.K.-based Red Bull Racing — won every race but one during the 2023 Formula One season.

“This competitive balance has not been the hallmark of F1 racing,” the lawmakers wrote, “and adding a team backed by a major U.S. car manufacturer is likely to enhance competitiveness, not reduce it.”

The senators also pushed back on the contention that an Andretti-Cadillac entry would not bring value to the Formula One brand, noting that the sport is skyrocketing in popularity in the U.S. and that other F1 teams are “courting U.S. fans.”

“Given these facts,” they told the FTC chair, “we have serious concerns that the rejection of Team Andretti-Cadillac was based on a desire to exclude a rival from the racetrack, marketing opportunities and prestige that competing in F1 can lend to a car manufacturer competing to sell cars across the globe.”

The lawmakers suggested that Liberty Media may have engaged with “key stakeholders” in its decision to reject the Andretti bid, which they posited could include other auto manufacturers that would have an interest in preventing a GM-backed team from joining Formula One.

“That F1 stakeholders may have engaged in concerted action to exclude Team Andretti-Cadillac — especially after it met all technical requirements to join F1 — that merits investigation,” they told Khan and Kanter.

Andretti Global has been on a policy blitz in recent months to fight back against Liberty Media’s rejection. Mario Andretti, 1978 F1 world champion and patriarch of the Andretti racing dynasty, joined House lawmakers on Capitol Hill in early May to protest the decision.

Andretti said at the time that his company was still gunning to get a spot on the Formula One grid, and the team is still growing its F1 staff. Andretti Global announced Tuesday that they had hired Pat Symonds, Formula One’s former Chief Technical Officer, to join their new Silverstone, U.K., headquarters.

Meanwhile, Tuesday was the deadline for Liberty Media to respond to the House Judiciary Committee’s information request. A spokesperson for the committee did not immediately respond to an inquiry as to whether the company had been forthcoming with information.

The Formula One organization did not return a request for comment.

Lawmakers have suggested that, depending on Liberty Media’s engagement with Congress, hearings could follow.

Follow @BenjaminSWeiss
Categories / Government, National, Politics

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