Exclusive interview with Mario Andretti

Exclusive interview with Mario Andretti

11 April 2014 – The opening three rounds of the 2014 Formula 1 campaign have confirmed Mercedes's huge pace advantage, Red Bull's gradual recovery from its pre-season woes and Ferrari's ongoing plight. To discuss these key topics and more, GPUpdate.net sat down with former World Champion and racing legend Mario Andretti.

We witnessed a thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix, with Lewis Hamilton getting the better of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg. How much of a psychological blow will that have been for Rosberg?
I don't know how it will play psychologically but Lewis certainly made a statement there. They fought so well… I know they were told to bring both cars home, but they drove so well. It was really as exciting as it gets.

I'm sure that Nico was licking his chops when he saw the Safety Car come out, and thinking that Lewis was going to be easy prey. But track position is still king. And the thing about it is that towards the end of the race, the different between the two tyre compounds is not as dramatic as the beginning. You could see that Lewis survived it pretty well. The longer the race went on, he could punish the harder compound, but once you've punished the softer compound for two or three laps it starts going off.

The difference between them was not dramatic. Lewis just defended perfectly, especially the first couple of laps. That was the toughest part for him, but once he got into temperature I think he was in a zone and safe.

Who do you think will come out on top at Mercedes at the end of the season?
It's a tough one… I would roll with Lewis. When it comes to race management he seems to show more experience and confidence. You could tell from the beginning that he was hell-bent to take the lead. When you're on pole position you have that advantage and, if you get beaten into the first turn, it takes something out of you.

Lewis is going to be tough [to beat]. I think Nico has quite a job ahead of him. But I think they're both hungry drivers. They're both on a mission and that should be good for all of us that are watching the races.

Mercedes has also made it clear that there will be no team orders, which is good for the sport...
That's a good move, especially early on in the season. If it's the last three races or something… If both have a mathematical chance you've got to let them race. The only time you would protect one is if the other does not have a mathematical chance, then team orders should come into play. But it looks to me like they're both going to steal points off each other throughout the season. So it's going to be a question of who will be number two!

A little further back, there is a fascinating intra-team battle brewing at Red Bull. Do you think Daniel Ricciardo sent out a message to team-mate Sebastian Vettel by beating him in Bahrain?

Not just in Bahrain, but from the very beginning. In Australia he had a very impressive second place finish [later taken away for a fuel breach], and he continues to impress.

I love his whole demeanour. He's very relaxed. Not over confident but confident. And it's working for him. I think he's going about it like he has nothing to lose and that he's just doing his job. You can see that he's very serene in his approach. He deserves a lot of credit for this and it's wonderful to see. He's definitely going to be a factor when it comes to World Championships in the future. So here's another really good talent coming along.

While Red Bull appears to be gradually getting over its pre-season issues, one of your former squads, Ferrari, continues to struggle. Just how disappointing is this for the outfit?
It's huge. Ferrari cannot be fighting for the final point. It's not good for Ferrari and it's not good for Formula 1.

For some reason or another Ferrari needs to be in the battle. Mercedes is an iconic brand, no question, but when it comes to motor racing and Formula 1 especially Ferrari is the yardstick somewhat. They need to be up front. But they know it. You can tell that everyone is frustrated, beginning with Luca di Montezemolo. I think the drivers are using every bit of restraint not to express themselves. You can't really criticise, as we all know…

They have a job ahead of them. I think the whole package needs help. You could see in Bahrain that Force India, Red Bull and Williams are all definitely ahead of them. I don't know how quickly they can recover, but there's a lot of work for them to do. From that standpoint, I hope that they can pull something out of the hat.

Fernando Alonso, a two-time title winner with Renault, is contesting his fifth season at Ferrari. Can you see him looking elsewhere at the end of the campaign if the situation doesn't improve?
I wouldn't be surprised, quite honestly. He's still at the top of his game and he cannot afford to lose too many seasons. So I'm sure if the proper opportunity comes up he'll consider it.

When Lewis [Hamilton] made the decision to go to Mercedes, lots of people were saying, 'What the hell is he thinking?' But look at what has happened. You never know what the next opportunity could be at the very top. And once [Alonso] becomes free of the contract [with Ferrari] I'm sure he'll get plenty of calls to consider.

While there were plenty of fantastic battles in Bahrain, we also saw Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado tip Sauber rival Esteban Gutiérrez into a dramatic roll. What did you make of the incident?

I can't believe how long it took for the Safety Car to come out. The man [Gutiérrez] went upside down. It took forever for them to get the Safety Car out on track. Without the Safety Car out there you cannot get the emergency that is needed to the car. It took me back a bit. That could have been a very serious situation. Obviously he was stunned but you never know… I thought they could have reacted much quicker. 

In terms of the collision, it takes two to tango. Maybe Maldonado could have been given just a little bit more room. It's a fine line. If you examine it closely, each side could probably have helped it.

We are three races in to Formula 1's new turbocharged era, which has sparked plenty of debate amongst fans and paddock figures. What is your take on the sound of the V6 power units?
I thought that the really unique sound was the sound of 18,000rpm with a normally aspirated engine! That was the most glorious sound that Formula 1 ever produced. It stood alone, there was no other discipline that came even close. But now it's along with the rest of them… That's the unfortunate nature of a turbocharged engine. I don't care what you do with a turbocharged engine [to boost noise], you're not going to have that sound.

From a technical standpoint, how much is that side of the sport appreciated up in the grandstands? Maybe five percent… But the old sound was a feature that was just phenomenal for Formula 1. You can try to pacify the new sound by saying, 'Oh yes, this is still OK', but for me they lost something huge from an appeal standpoint by moving to the turbocharged engines. But it is what it is. I suppose we'll all get used to it (laughs).

We have seen some drama regarding the new fuel flow rate regulations, which limit a driver to 100kg of fuel per race and 100kg/h. As a pure racer, how does this sit with you?
Technology is encouraged and that's what Formula 1 is all about. But I think they've taken a big bite in that area. Just 100kg of fuel per race… I think they could have waited another year, to let them figure out these engines.

When you come to races such as Monza and Spa, the really long straightaway races, unless you get a Safety Car out there the last 10 laps will probably have to be done at half throttle to get to the finish. It will become a fuel consumption race rather than a competitive one. So I think in that area they could have waited a little bit. They got very ambitious with these rules. If I was to criticise, I think that's one area that deserves criticism.

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Thursday 29 September 2016

  2. 11:02

    Latest GP3 photos: Thursday at Sepang

    GP3
  3. Drivers offer views on new track surface 10:36

    Drivers offer views on new track surface

    Formula 1 drivers have offered their views on the resurfacing and reprofiling work at Sepang, with Jenson Button suggesting that…

    F1
  4. Video: Vettel previews Malaysian GP 10:22

    Video: Vettel previews Malaysian GP

    Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel looks ahead to the Malaysia Grand Prix as he goes in search of back-to-back victories.

    F1
  5. Steiner rules out Leclerc for 2017 seat 09:05

    Steiner rules out Leclerc for 2017 seat

    Haas team boss Guenther Steiner has ruled out giving a race seat to Ferrari youngster Charles Leclerc for 2017, stating that a…

    F1
  6. Alonso to trial upgraded Honda engine 08:28

    Alonso to trial upgraded Honda engine

    Fernando Alonso will test an updated engine during practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix, as Honda works through its final…

    F1
  7. 07:52

    Latest F1 photos: Thursday at Sepang

    F1
  8. Sainz Jr. says Renault interest an 'honour' 07:15

    Sainz Jr. says Renault interest an 'honour'

    Carlos Sainz Jr. has admitted that Renault's interest in acquiring his services is an "honour", though insists his current…

    F1
  9. Brazil organisers surprised by 'TBC' status 07:13

    Brazil organisers surprised by 'TBC' status

    Organisers of the Brazilian Grand Prix have expressed surprise that their race has been given provisional status on next year's…

    F1
  10. Pérez: Next week 'crucial' for F1 future 06:41

    Pérez: Next week 'crucial' for F1 future

    Sergio Pérez says that the next week will be "crucial" for his Formula 1 future as he looks to finally confirm where he will be…

    F1
  11. Comtec in line for V8 3.5 return at Jerez 05:02

    Comtec in line for V8 3.5 return at Jerez

    Comtec will make a return to the Formula V8 3.5 championship at Jerez next month with Australian youngster Thomas…

    FV8 3.5
  12. Video of the Day: Life in the pit lane - #4 04:04

    Video of the Day: Life in the pit lane - #4

    Andy McMillan discusses his 'wheel off' duties in the next part of Williams' 'Life in the pit lane' series.

    F1
  13. Wednesday 28 September 2016

  14. 18:44

    Latest F1 photos: Wednesday at Sepang

    F1
  15. Formula E 2016/17 calendar confirmed 18:43

    Formula E 2016/17 calendar confirmed

    Formula E's 2016/17 calendar has been formally confirmed, ahead of next weekend's season-opening round in Hong Kong. The…

    FE
  16. McLaren gets 2018/19 FE battery deal 18:32

    McLaren gets 2018/19 FE battery deal

    McLaren Applied Technologies has been confirmed as the exclusive battery supplier to the Formula E championship for the 2018/19…

    FE
  17. Early 2017 compound choices mandatory 17:51

    Early 2017 compound choices mandatory

    The FIA's World Motor Sport Council has revealed that Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli will mandate the number of sets of…

    F1
  18. FIA reveals provisional 2017 F1 calendar 17:37

    FIA reveals provisional 2017 F1 calendar

    The FIA's World Motor Sport Council has released a largely unchanged provisional 2017 Formula 1 calendar, which will once again…

    F1
  19. Lynn to make WEC debut with Manor 16:25

    Lynn to make WEC debut with Manor

    Williams development driver Alex Lynn will make his World Endurance Championship debut with Manor at Fuji Speedway next…

    Misc
  20. Renault e.dams unveils 2016/17 FE livery 16:12

    Renault e.dams unveils 2016/17 FE livery

    Renault e.dams has unveiled a revised blue livery for the 2016/17 Formula E championship, which will begin next weekend in Hong…

    FE
  21. Ericsson escapes cycle collision with chicken 15:54

    Ericsson escapes cycle collision with chicken

    Sauber's Marcus Ericsson has revealed he was lucky to escape with "bruises and scratches" after suffering an unusual incident…

    F1
  22. Abiteboul sure Renault can score more points 14:26

    Abiteboul sure Renault can score more points

    Renault Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul is confident that the team can add to its points tally after Kevin Magnussen returned…

    F1
  23. Porsche Supercup stays on F1 support bill 12:36

    Porsche Supercup stays on F1 support bill

    The Porsche Supercup will remain as a Formula 1 support race for at least the next three years after signing a new…

    Misc
  24. Video: Hamilton and Rosberg in Malaysia 11:14

    Video: Hamilton and Rosberg in Malaysia

    Watch as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg spend time in Kuala Lumpur ahead of the Malaysia Grand Prix.

    F1
  25. Mercedes out to make up for 2015 defeat 10:06

    Mercedes out to make up for 2015 defeat

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team is focused on maintaining its momentum at its 'second home race' in Malaysia this…

    F1
  26. Buller returns to V8 3.5 series at Monza 08:40

    Buller returns to V8 3.5 series at Monza

    Will Buller will make a return to the Formula V8 3.5 championship with RP Motorsport at Monza this weekend. Buller, 24…

    FV8 3.5
  27.  Preview: Malaysian Grand Prix - Round 16 07:36

    Preview: Malaysian Grand Prix - Round 16

    Formula 1 moves from Singapore to Malaysia for the second race of the sport's late flyaway phase, as the title battle heats up.…

    F1
  28. Video of the Day: Life of a suspension bolt 05:26

    Video of the Day: Life of a suspension bolt

    Red Bull, which produces over a million Formula 1 car parts a year, tells the story of a front suspension bolt.

    F1
  29. Tuesday 27 September 2016

  30. 17:02

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  31. Verstappen: Positive to be 'talking point' 15:36

    Verstappen: Positive to be 'talking point'

    Max Verstappen says it is positive to be a "talking point" in Formula 1, whether comments are good or bad, and insists he has…

    F1
  32. Video: Ricciardo previews Malaysian GP 13:02

    Video: Ricciardo previews Malaysian GP

    Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo looks ahead to this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

    F1
  33. Soft tyre favoured for Japanese Grand Prix 11:13

    Soft tyre favoured for Japanese Grand Prix

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has revealed the driver-by-driver selections for the Japanese Grand Prix, with the yellow-marked…

    F1
  34. BMW announces Andretti Formula E tie-in 10:49

    BMW announces Andretti Formula E tie-in

    German car manufacturer BMW has announced a tie-in with Andretti ahead of the 2016/17 Formula E season, in a move that could…

    FE
  35. Video: Formula E reflects on second season 10:32

    Video: Formula E reflects on second season

    Formula E looks back at its second season, ahead of the 2016/17 campaign beginning in Hong Kong.

    FE
  36. Mallya wary of 'twists and turns' over P4 09:38

    Mallya wary of 'twists and turns' over P4

    Vijay Mallya has hailed a strong atmosphere at Force India, as the team looks to strengthen its grip on fourth in the standings…

    F1
  37. Pirelli: New Sepang surface 'big unknown' 08:12

    Pirelli: New Sepang surface 'big unknown'

    Pirelli's Motorsport Director, Paul Hembery, is viewing the new track surface at the Sepang International Circuit as a "big…

    F1
  38. Video of the Day: Life in the pit lane - #3 05:26

    Video of the Day: Life in the pit lane - #3

    Next up in Williams' 'Life in the pit lane' series is Ed Smith, in charge of putting a wheel on the car.

    F1
  39. Monday 26 September 2016

  40. Hamilton out to end Rosberg's winning run 15:12

    Hamilton out to end Rosberg's winning run

    Lewis Hamilton has admitted that he needs to get back to winning ways if he is to clinch the 2016 title, after Mercedes…

    F1
  41. Honda still unsure over Malaysia upgrade 13:18

    Honda still unsure over Malaysia upgrade

    Honda is still unsure about introducing a power unit upgrade at the Malaysian Grand Prix, and will make a final call later in…

    F1
  42. Video: Hülkenberg's Malaysian GP preview 12:16

    Video: Hülkenberg's Malaysian GP preview

    Force India driver Nico Hülkenberg looks ahead to this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

    F1
  43. Rosberg: Upcoming races 'anyone's game' 11:16

    Rosberg: Upcoming races 'anyone's game'

    Nico Rosberg is refusing to get carried away by his recent run of victories, which have moved him back into the title lead…

    F1
  44. Haas to re-test new front wing in Malaysia 10:41

    Haas to re-test new front wing in Malaysia

    Haas will re-test its upgraded front wing at this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix, after a troubled weekend in Singapore last…

    F1
more news