Michael Andretti says “control issues” were to blame for his Andretti Autosport organization being unable to reach an agreement with the Alfa Romeo-branded Sauber Formula 1 team over a potential sale.
Andretti held talks over acquiring a controlling stake in the Switzerland-based Formula 1 team, which is owned by Islero Investments, the company set up by its owner billionaire Finn Rausing.
The discussions were understood to be at an advanced stage but ultimately fell through.
Rumors that originated in the German press suggested that Andretti could not provide the long-term financial guarantee that Islero Investments demanded. Andretti said money was not the issue.
Addressing the situation for the first time on Thursday, at the announcement of Devlin DeFrancesco to its IndyCar driver roster, Andretti said: “I think I’d just like to put an end to some of these rumors that the (Alfa Romeo) deal fell through because of financial reasons.
“That couldn’t be further from the truth. That had nothing to do with that. It basically came down to control issues in the final hours of the negotiations. That’s what killed the deal.”
Expanding further on the situation Andretti added: “Unfortunately at the 11th hour control issues changed, and it was a deal that we had to step away from because we couldn’t accept it. I always said that we’re only going to do it if it’s right for us and in the end it wasn’t right for us.”
He affirmed a suggestion that Sauber wanted him to buy the team but not control it.
Andretti clarified that there was no behind-the-scenes helping hand from Formula 1’s owners Liberty Media but that “I think they would (have) liked it” to happen and it “would have been a huge story” for the championship.
Part of the proposed deal was to have an influence on the driver market. Despite currently lacking a Formula 1 Super Licence, Andretti IndyCar driver Colton Herta was heavily linked to the seat—the only vacancy on the 2022 grid—alongside Valtteri Bottas.
“We’re always going to look for opportunity there, not just there but in other formulas, as well.”
Andretti confirmed that it had planned to parachute Herta into the drive as “I believe he could be a competitive driver in Europe” and “he would lead the way for us in terms of wanting to bring an American driver.”
An American driver has not featured on Formula 1’s grid since Alexander Rossi’s brief spell in late 2015 while Scott Speed was his predecessor in 2006-07. The last American before that was Andretti himself, back in 1993, when he had a difficult spell at McLaren. The collapse of the Andretti/Sauber deal is expected to pave the way for Chinese Formula 2 driver Guanyu Zhou to join Alfa Romeo.
Andretti nonetheless refused to fly the white flag for his operation’s Formula 1 ambitions in the long-term.
“We’re always going to look for opportunity there, not just there but in other formulas, as well, other types of racing,” he said.
“That’s what we do. We’re in the racing business, and we’re always looking for opportunities to expand.
“But when we do expand, we have to make sure that it’s a proper deal that we know we can be competitive because that’s very important for our brand is to be competitive in anything that we do.”
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