Senators call for Formula 1 antitrust investigation against Andretti Global

WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of influential senators is calling on the Biden administration to investigate Formula 1 over its decision to deny Andretti Global entry into the grid in future years, suggesting the sport could violate antitrust law American. as he expands his fan base in the United States.

They made the request in a letter sent Tuesday and seen by NBC News, led by Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., chairwoman of the Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, and joined by the panel’s ranking member, Sen. Mike Lee. , R-Utah.

The letter is addressed to Jonathan Kanter, assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s antitrust division, and Lina Khan, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission — two entities that share antitrust enforcement.

It is co-signed by Democratic Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, whose state is home to General Motors, which partners with Andretti Global to build its engines. It is also signed by Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., who represents the state where Andretti is based, and Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif.

The six senators said they were “concerned” that F1 could act on behalf of other teams, “including foreign car manufacturers”, to deny Andretti’s bid to enter the sport in 2025 or 2026, even though its governing body, the FIA, approved his candidacy. . The management of Formula One, the business side of the sport, rejected his offer in January, doubting whether the team would be competitive or increase the value of the championship.

“It is possible that such refusal to transact, especially if orchestrated by a group boycott, could violate U.S. antitrust laws,” the senators wrote.

“Last year, F1 hosted three races in America, in Miami, Las Vegas and Austin, while no other country hosted more than a single race,” they added. “Clearly, there is a financial incentive to add an American team to the F1 roster, and there is no reason for it to be blocked unless (Formula 1 management) tries to “insulate its current partners from competition.”

The letter highlights the US government’s growing interest in F1’s actions as it penetrates deeper into the US market with a growing fan base. A group of MPs held a press conference with Mario Andretti on May 1 to pressured F1 to admit its team, and Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, launched an independent investigation the following week. An investigation by the Department of Justice or the FTC would represent a significant escalation.

F1 and its American owner, Liberty Media, have not publicly responded to the congressmen’s allegations.

Andretti Global expressed gratitude to lawmakers for their involvement in the shock within international sport.

“We are grateful to bipartisan Members of Congress for their support in challenging this anticompetitive behavior,” an Andretti Global spokesperson said this month. “We remain committed to bringing the first American factory team and power unit to F1 and giving American fans a home team to root for.”