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. Monday 2 March 2015

  2. Renault 'quietly confident' ahead of Australia 14:14

    Renault 'quietly confident' ahead of Australia

    Renault Managing Director Cyril Abiteboul says the French power unit supplier is 'quietly confident' ahead of the opening...

    F1
  3. FIA confirms clampdown on helmet changes 13:08

    FIA confirms clampdown on helmet changes

    Formula 1 drivers will be restricted to just one helmet design per season after a proposals put forward by figures inside...

    F1
  4. Final Barcelona pre-season test in numbers 11:01

    Final Barcelona pre-season test in numbers

    The final pre-season test at Barcelona saw Nico Rosberg and Mercedes top the timesheets, and Sauber lead the mileage stakes....

    F1
  5. Vettel expecting close fight behind Mercedes 10:52

    Vettel expecting close fight behind Mercedes

    Sebastian Vettel says he expects a close fight between Williams, Red Bull and his Ferrari team this year - albeit some way...

    F1
  6. Mick Schumacher to race in German Formula 4 10:45

    Mick Schumacher to race in German Formula 4

    Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Michael, will make his car racing debut in German ADAC Formula 4...

    Misc
  7. Pons Racing parts company with Tunjo 10:33

    Pons Racing parts company with Tunjo

    Formula Renault 3.5 outfit Pons Racing has confirmed that it has parted company with Colombian youngster Óscar...

    FR 3.5
  8. 09:57

    Photos: Red Bull presents RB11 livery

    F1
  9. Red Bull reveals final RB11 livery 09:32

    Red Bull reveals final RB11 livery

    Red Bull has revealed the RB11 in its final race colours, ahead of the squad's planned filming day at the Circuit de...

    F1
  10. Tost happy with Toro Rosso's preparation 08:38

    Tost happy with Toro Rosso's preparation

    Toro Rosso Team Principal Franz Tost says he is encouraged by the progress the squad has made across its pre-season testing...

    F1
  11. Chilton joins Nissan's LMP1 project 08:15

    Chilton joins Nissan's LMP1 project

    Former Formula 1 driver Max Chilton has confirmed that he will make the switch to the World Endurance Championship this year...

    LM
  12. Video of the Day: Chilton links up with Nissan 08:12

    Video of the Day: Chilton links up with Nissan

    Former Marussia racer Max Chilton and Nissan GT Academy mentor Alex Buncombe discuss their roles with Nissan ahead of the...

    LM
  13. Sunday 1 March 2015

  14. 19:26

    Photos: Barcelona pre-season testing – Day 4

    F1
  15. Pérez upbeat after first experience of VJM08 19:12

    Pérez upbeat after first experience of VJM08

    Sergio Pérez expressed his optimism after he received his first taste of Force India's VJM08 at the Circuit de...

    F1
  16. McLaren prepared for tricky start to 2015 18:57

    McLaren prepared for tricky start to 2015

    McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier says the squad is prepared for a tricky start to its 2015 campaign after pre-season...

    F1
  17. Lotus: Brake issue caused Maldonado crash 18:33

    Lotus: Brake issue caused Maldonado crash

    Lotus has confirmed that a brake problem caused Pastor Maldonado's crash on the final day of pre-season testing in...

    F1
  18. Rosberg pleased with Mercedes' pre-season 18:13

    Rosberg pleased with Mercedes' pre-season

    Nico Rosberg declared himself happy with Mercedes' pre-season preparations, after topping the combined times at the final...

    F1
  19. 17:08

    Barcelona pre-season testing: Day 4 results

    F1
  20. Bottas tops final day of pre-season testing 17:03

    Bottas tops final day of pre-season testing

    Williams driver Valtteri Bottas set the fastest time as the third and final pre-season test reached its conclusion at the...

    F1
  21. Hamilton explains decision to keep #44 13:06

    Hamilton explains decision to keep #44

    World Champion Lewis Hamilton says he chose to keep #44 as his car number for the upcoming season as it "means more to me"...

    F1
  22. 07:51

    Follow Barcelona pre-season testing live!

    F1
  23. Magnussen wanted Le Mans drive with father 07:46

    Magnussen wanted Le Mans drive with father

    McLaren test and reserve driver Kevin Magnussen says he enquired over the possibility of racing alongside father Jan for...

    F1
  24. Barcelona pre-season testing: Day 4 line-up 06:47

    Barcelona pre-season testing: Day 4 line-up

    The final pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya concludes on Sunday and, to keep you up to date with who is...

    F1
  25. Video of the Day: Official Formula E anthem 05:24

    Video of the Day: Official Formula E anthem

    Spanish musician and record producer Nacho Cano had released an official anthem for Formula E.

    FE
  26. Saturday 28 February 2015

  27. 21:12

    Photos: Barcelona pre-season testing – Day 3

    F1
  28. First Ferrari race simulation pleases Allison 20:04

    First Ferrari race simulation pleases Allison

    Ferrari Technical Director James Allison expressed his happiness after the squad was able to conduct its first race...

    F1
  29. Hamilton: Predicting main rivals is 'irrelevant' 19:34

    Hamilton: Predicting main rivals is 'irrelevant'

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton says it is "irrelevant" to make predictions over who the outfit's main rivals will be in...

    F1
  30. Ricciardo content with Red Bull progress 19:05

    Ricciardo content with Red Bull progress

    Daniel Ricciardo played down his lowly position on the timesheets during the penultimate day of pre-season testing at the...

    F1
  31. Magnussen feels 'very good base' with MP4-30 18:47

    Magnussen feels 'very good base' with MP4-30

    McLaren tester Kevin Magnussen says the team's Honda-powered MP4-30 feels better in many areas compared to its...

    F1
  32. 17:05

    Barcelona pre-season testing: Day 3 results

    F1
  33. Hamilton keeps Mercedes on top in Barcelona 17:04

    Hamilton keeps Mercedes on top in Barcelona

    Lewis Hamilton ensured that Mercedes remained at the top of the times on the penultimate day of the final pre-season test at...

    F1
  34. Symonds supportive of Manor revival 14:28

    Symonds supportive of Manor revival

    Williams' Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds says it will be a boost for Formula 1 if Manor can make it to the grid for the...

    F1
  35. Booth: Manor 'very close' to making first race 10:25

    Booth: Manor 'very close' to making first race

    John Booth says Manor Marussia is "very close" to making it to the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, after the team was...

    F1
  36. Video: Vergne drives Ferrari Formula 1 car 08:47

    Video: Vergne drives Ferrari Formula 1 car

    Jean-Éric Vergne completed his first laps in a Ferrari F1 car during a demo in Adelaide on Saturday.

    F1
  37. Vergne completes Ferrari demo in Adelaide 08:11

    Vergne completes Ferrari demo in Adelaide

    Jean-Éric Vergne got behind the wheel of a Ferrari Formula 1 car for the first time on Saturday when he completed a...

    F1
  38. 07:52

    Follow Barcelona pre-season testing live!

    F1
  39. Barcelona pre-season testing: Day 3 line-up 06:43

    Barcelona pre-season testing: Day 3 line-up

    The final pre-season test at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya continues on Saturday and, to keep you up to date with who...

    F1
  40. FIA wants new cameras for crash investigations 06:28

    FIA wants new cameras for crash investigations

    New high speed cameras could be fitted to Formula 1 cars from 2016 in a bid to improve investigations into...

    F1
  41. Video of the Day: Getting ready for pre-season 05:16

    Video of the Day: Getting ready for pre-season

    Mercedes documents the final push to getting the F1 W06 Hybrid ready for pre-season testing.

    F1
  42. Friday 27 February 2015

  43. 21:02

    Photos: Barcelona pre-season testing – Day 2

    F1
  44. Button: It was like completing 1000 laps 20:14

    Button: It was like completing 1000 laps

    Jenson Button says McLaren's ability to rack up over 100 laps at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Friday felt "like...

    F1
more news