Days After FIA’s Approval, Andretti Finds Itself in Legal Trouble as Former F1 Star Initiates Lawsuit

Published 10/05/2023, 4:15 AM EDT

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Since 2015, Formula 1 has been a 10-team sport. That’s how the teams like it, and that’s how F1 owner Liberty Media likes it. Last season, though, FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem opened the doors for new teams, making it so that there could be a maximum of 13 teams. Andretti Global, an American racing giant, saw this as an opportunity to make its mark in F1 as well. With Michael Andretti leading the operation, it built a ‘true American’ F1 bid. Fortunately for Andretti, it’s been so far, so good.

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On October 2, the FIA—after a rigorous sporting, technical, and financial analysis—gave Andretti the green light. Having cleared its first hurdle (the FIA) to enter F1, Andretti will now face its biggest challenge—convincing F1 that it can add value to the sport. While the team is making inroads on its path to F1, it’s playing with fire in IndyCar. Not to mention with The Man Who Walked Out of Fire!

Andretti is treading on thin ice with a fiery Romain Grosjean

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Swiss-born French driver Romain Grosjean spent nine full seasons in F1. In those nine seasons, one moment stands out above the rest. An incident on the first lap of the 2020 Bahrain GP—20 seconds that were quite literally a matter of life or death. After a slight collision while scrapping for positions, Grosjean’s Haas torpedoed into the barriers, erupting into a ball of fire. Miraculously, the Frenchman walked out of it, and once he did, he gracefully walked out of F1, too.

After that season, he headed to the US to compete in IndyCar. Following a maiden campaign with Dale Coyne Racing in 2021, he joined Andretti Autosport (now Andretti Global). In a two-year stint that was reasonably successful, he was set to continue with the team for another year. At least, that’s what he thought. That was until Andretti decided to reduce its cars from four to three, bring in Marcus Ericsson from Chip Ganassi Racing, and show Grosjean the door. Now, Andretti will have to face the consequences of its actions, as Grosjean intends to take the case to court.

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In a statement he put out on social media last night, Grosjean thanked the team and its personnel for his two years with them. Then, he wrote, “I had expected to continue racing with the fine people of Andretti Autosport in the coming years. I am disappointed that is not being fulfilled, and wish Andretti team members well. I am pursuing other options to continue my IndyCar career in pursuit of excellence.” Considering he’s been left hanging, he added, “I have commenced an arbitration proceeding in Indiana against Andretti Autosport, seeking to protect my rights.”

Guenther Steiner Faces Stern Question Over Haas’ F1 Justification While Andretti Languishes

Apart from convincing F1 regarding its bid, Andretti now also has the added pressure of defending itself in court. The next few months were going to be tough for it, and Grosjean just made them tougher. Surprisingly, this wasn’t the first time this season that a contract-related legal battle ensued in IndyCar.

The Chip Ganassi-McLaren-Alex Palou saga

2023 IndyCar champion Alex Palou joined the series in 2020. After an impressive rookie season, Chip Ganassi signed him for 2021, winning the championship with him that season. Having continued his tenure at CGR for 2022, the team put out a press release stating that he’d be racing for them in 2023 as well. In Oscar Piastri fashion, Palou denounced the statement, claiming he wouldn’t drive for them in 2023. That was around the time McLaren and Zak Brown started showing interest in him.

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Impressed by his performances, Brown signed him as McLaren F1’s reserve driver this season. Additionally, Palou signed a contract to drive for Arrow McLaren in IndyCar for 2024. He recently announced he had no plans to do so, infuriating Brown and McLaren. Brown wrote to his employees, “This is incredibly disappointing considering the commitment [Palou] has made to us both directly and publicly and our significant investment in him based on that commitment.” The latest update on the situation? McLaren is suing Palou for at least $23 million to recoup lost costs.

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Watch This Story: Big Trouble for Stewart-Haas Racing, But Delight for Michael Andretti With Russian F1 Development

What’s your take on these legal battles taking IndyCar by storm? Which one are you more interested in seeing play out: Andretti versus Grosjean or McLaren versus Palou?

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Written by:

Aditi Krishnan

757Articles

One take at a time

Aditi is an F1 writer at EssentiallySports and is essentially a sportsperson. She fell in love with F1 in 2020. It happened when her brother tuned into that first race weekend in Austria, and she knew right then and there that she had to learn everything she could about the sport.
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Edited by:

Akash Pandhare

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