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Mario Andretti: Formula 1 owner personally threatened to shut out team Andretti

Mario Andretti: Formula 1 owner personally threatened to shut out team Andretti

Mario Andretti and Greg Maffei, the CEO of Formula 1’s owner, Liberty Media, clashed at a private reception during the recent Miami Grand Prix weekend over Andretti Global’s bid to enter the sport, according to sources with knowledge of the incident.

Andretti, a former F1 world champion and the patriarch of the Andretti racing family, described the incident for the first time in an interview with NBC News.

He said it occurred Saturday at the Palm Club at an invitation-only breakfast reception. Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali asked Andretti about his recent visit to Washington, and Andretti told him he had been invited by lawmakers to speak outside the Capitol as they called on the sport to accept Andretti’s application to become F1’s 11th team.

“I was asked to go there. And just as I was trying to explain that to Stefano, Greg Maffei, Mr. Maffei, broke in the conversation and he said: ‘Mario, I want to tell you that I will do everything in my power to see that Michael never enters Formula 1,’” Andretti said.

It was a reference to Michael Andretti, Mario’s son, who is the chairman and CEO of Andretti Global and is leading its bid to enter F1. The tense words between the two powerful men came just days after Andretti joined lawmakers on Capitol Hill for a news conference, where the members of Congress accused F1 of engaging in anti-competitive practices by denying Andretti’s application.

Maffei walked away after that remark and hasn’t contacted him since, Andretti said.

“I could not believe that,” he said. “That one really floored me. … We’re talking about business. I didn’t know it was something so personal. That was really — oh, my goodness. I could not believe it. It was just like a bullet through my heart.”

Greg Maffei during the F1 Grand Prix of Miami on May 5.Qian Jun / MB Media / Getty Images

Maffei and Liberty Media declined to comment.

A source close to Liberty Media, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a private conversation, said the event occurred differently from how Andretti described it.

“Andretti approached Greg at the breakfast to have a discussion with him,” the source said, adding that during the conversation Maffei indicated to Andretti that its application to join the grid in 2025 or 2026 had been rejected for good business reasons.

In January, Formula 1 laid out its reasons for rejecting Andretti.

“Our assessment process has established that the presence of an 11th team would not, on its own, provide value to the Championship,” it said in a statement. “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.”

The situation has escalated in recent weeks, with the House Judiciary Committee opening an inquiry and a group of influential senators calling on the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission to launch an antitrust investigation into what the lawmakers allege are illegal, anti-competitive practices by F1 to protect the mostly European teams from U.S. competition.

Andretti emphasized that he didn’t approach the lawmakers and that they asked him to come after a recent Red Bull F1 showrun near the Capitol piqued their interest.

“I did not initiate that,” he said.

Andretti said he believes Andretti Global has met the requirements laid out by the sport’s rules to join the grid, noting that F1’s governing body, the FIA, approved the application before the sport’s commercial side blocked it. Andretti said he still hopes to work out a solution to join the F1 grid within the next two years.

“We’re bringing something of value. It’s a big investment in the sport that we love or sport that’s our job and our passion,” he said. “It’s a long-term commitment. We’ve done everything that needs to be accomplished, needs to be done to earn a spot in Formula 1. What else do you want us to do?”


Sahil Kapur

Sahil Kapur is a senior national political reporter for NBC News.

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