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Senators Urge DOJ and FTC to Investigate Formula 1 Over Rejection of Andretti Global

 |  May 21, 2024

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has called on the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate Formula 1’s (F1) decision to reject Andretti Global‘s bid to join the racing grid. This development was reported by NBC News.

The push is spearheaded by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), chair of the Senate antitrust panel, and supported by five other senators: Mike Lee (R-UT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Todd Young (R-IN) and Alex Padilla (D-CA). Their letter, sent on Tuesday, is addressed to Jonathan Kanter, Assistant Attorney General for the DOJ’s Antitrust Division, and Lina Khan, Chair of the FTC.

The senators expressed concerns that F1 management may be violating U.S. antitrust laws by blocking Andretti Global, a move they suspect is aimed at protecting existing teams, including foreign automakers.

Andretti Global, in partnership with General Motors, had received approval from the sport’s governing body, the FIA, to join the F1 grid in 2025 or 2026. However, F1’s commercial management rejected the bid in January, citing doubts about the team’s potential competitiveness and the value it would add to the championship.

The senators argue that this rejection might constitute a “refusal to deal” and potentially a “group boycott,” both of which could breach U.S. antitrust laws. Highlighting F1’s increasing presence in the American market — with races in Miami, Las Vegas, and Austin—they suggest that there is a clear financial incentive for adding an American team, unless F1 management aims to shield current participants from competition.

Read more: Spain Probes Telefonica Over Formula 1 TV Rights

The letter is part of a broader political pressure campaign. On May 1, a group of House members held a news conference with racing legend Mario Andretti to advocate for the team’s inclusion. Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) also initiated an independent inquiry shortly thereafter. A formal investigation by the DOJ or FTC would mark a significant escalation.

Formula 1 and its American owner, Liberty Media, have not publicly commented on the senators’ request. In its January statement, F1 management said, “The most significant way in which a new entrant would bring value is by being competitive. We do not believe that the Applicant would be a competitive participant.” They further noted that while the Andretti name is recognized by F1 fans, their research indicated that F1 would benefit the Andretti brand more than vice versa.

Andretti Global responded positively to the senators’ letter. A spokesperson for the team stated, “We are pleased that Senators Klobuchar and Lee and their bipartisan colleagues have joined members of the House and called for an investigation into the practices of Liberty Media. Our focus at Andretti Global remains on building a world-class Formula One team and being ready to compete in 2026.”

Source: NBC News