Off-track soap opera follows F1 into first 2023 stop in U.S. Andrettis plan to meet with series

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Five races into the Formula 1 season, Max Verstappen and the globe-trotting series have arrived in the United States for the first of three appearances in a year the Red Bull driver already seems to have under wraps.

Verstappen has four wins through five races headed into this weekend's Miami Grand Prix, an event he won in its first two iterations.

Don't shrug off this F1 season so quickly. The actual racing has been dwarfed by off-track scandal and the soap opera has very much carried into Miami.

RED BULL DYSFUNCTION

Adrian Newey, the chief technical officer at Red Bull Racing and architect of its record-breaking, championship-winning cars, said this week he will step down early next year. The context, of course, is that the team has been dealing with allegations of inappropriate conduct toward an employee by team principal Christian Horner.

Red Bull cleared Horner of any wrongdoing and the employee has been suspended. But the employee has appealed Red Bull's findings and representatives of the employee claim to have filed a report with the FIA, the governing body for F1. The FIA has not acknowledged any complaint and the only person still talking about the scandal seems to be Verstappen's father, Jos; the former F1 driver has alleged Newey's departure is related and the entire organization is in danger of imploding.

For what it's worth, Newey and Horner were flying from England to Miami together on Thursday.

ANDRETTI BID

Mario Andretti spent Wednesday on Capitol Hill collecting congressional signatures in support of Andretti Global's ongoing bid with General Motors to earn a spot for a “true American team” on the F1 grid.

Formula One Management, which is owned by American company Liberty Media, late last year rejected the Andretti application but “work continues" by the organization to make it happen. Michael Andretti last month officially opened the factory for his F1 team in England and, along with General Motors officials, met with F1.

Although the meeting did not open warmly, Michael Andretti said, he was feeling better about it by the time it ended. A second meeting is scheduled for this weekend in Miami.

His father left Washington with a letter and 12 congressional signatures in support of the Andretti Cadillac effort.

“If you want access to our markets, if you want access to our fans, you must grant access to our companies. You must grant access to out automotive workers. You must grant access to Americans themselves,” said Rep. John James (R-MI).

The letter sent to Liberty President and CEO Greg Maffei raised concerns of FOM possibly violating American antitrust laws and asked what the rationale is for the dismissal of Andretti’s application.

Meanwhile, British lawmaker Greg Smith on Thursday welcomed a “vote of confidence” for Andretti Global during a Business and Trade meeting to “ensure stronger UK-US trade in the automotive and motorsports sectors.”

GUENTHER STEINER

One of the breakout stars of the Netflix docuseries on F1 was fired from his role as team principal of Haas, but Guenther Steiner has been plenty busy with side projects, including a stint as ambassador for this weekend's race.

Steiner also chose this week to sue Haas, alleging a breach of contract over unpaid commissions in his final years in charge of the North Carolina-based team. Steiner also believes he is owed compensation for Haas merchandise with his image.

Referring to Steiner’s popularity on “Drive to Survive” in the suit filed in North Carolina, he said “this exposure was extremely valuable to the upstart racing team, particularly as it looked for additional revenue streams to support itself in the notoriously expensive Formula 1 environment.”

ODDS AND ENDS

Ferrari has blue on its car at Miami, the first time the color has appeared on an F1 machine since 1964. Azzurro La Plata and Azzurro Dino are “blues that reference Ferrari’s rich heritage and remain cherished by fans” but will only be used in Miami.

Free agency is rampant, with Carlos Sainz Jr. still looking for a job after Ferrari said at the start of the year it has signed Lewis Hamilton for 2024. That leaves a seat open at Mercedes, but everyone seems to be waiting to see if Verstappen honors his existing Red Bull contract or tries to leave with Newey.

Spanish media reports suggest Sainz has possibly already turned down Audi, which did sign Nico Hulkenberg last week, opening a seat at Haas.

It's not clear who Sainz may be waiting for — Red Bull, Mercedes or both — but he doesn't seem to be in a hurry.

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AP F1: https://apnews.com/hub/formula-one