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. Tuesday 3 May 2016

  2. Toro Rosso: Russia a 'huge opportunity missed' 13:38

    Toro Rosso: Russia a 'huge opportunity missed'

    Toro Rosso Technical Director James Key says that the outfit's failure to register a point at the Russian Grand Prix was a "huge…

    F1
  3. Pirelli begins 2017 tyre testing at Fiorano 13:02

    Pirelli begins 2017 tyre testing at Fiorano

    Pirelli has commenced its 2017 tyre testing programme with Ferrari's Jean-Éric Vergne behind the wheel of the F14-T, the…

    F1
  4. Márquez hoping to confirm Honda gains 12:42

    Márquez hoping to confirm Honda gains

    MotoGP championship leader Marc Márquez is eager to confirm the gains Repsol Honda has made with its RC213V across recent…

    MotoGP
  5. Arrivabene adamant Ferrari will keep fighting 11:26

    Arrivabene adamant Ferrari will keep fighting

    Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene maintains that the outfit is still in the hunt for the World Championship, despite…

    F1
  6. Pirelli reveals Spanish GP tyre selections 10:59

    Pirelli reveals Spanish GP tyre selections

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has revealed the tyre compound selections which drivers have made for next weekend's Spanish…

    F1
  7. McLaren: Points finish reflects progress 10:40

    McLaren: Points finish reflects progress

    McLaren Racing Director Eric Boullier is confident that the outfit has "turned the corner" after Fernando Alonso and Jenson…

    F1
  8. Sauber pair positive despite more struggles 09:48

    Sauber pair positive despite more struggles

    Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr were left content following the Russian Grand Prix, despite the team failing to…

    F1
  9. Renault to hold Silverstone filming day 09:02

    Renault to hold Silverstone filming day

    Renault will hold a Formula 1 filming day at Silverstone this Friday, with free admission for spectators. Race drivers Kevin…

    F1
  10. Video of the Day: IndyCar Space Camp 05:16

    Video of the Day: IndyCar Space Camp

    Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi recently attended the US Space & Rocket Center's Space Camp.

    Indy
  11. Monday 2 May 2016

  12. 17:02

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  13. Winners and Losers: Russian Grand Prix 16:42

    Winners and Losers: Russian Grand Prix

    Nico Rosberg extended his championship lead with a seventh straight victory while Lewis Hamilton completed a Mercedes 1-2.…

    F1
  14. Mann back with Coyne for Indy 500 14:57

    Mann back with Coyne for Indy 500

    Pippa Mann will take part in the Indianapolis 500 with Dale Coyne Racing for the fourth consecutive season as part of the team's…

    Indy
  15. Haryanto says he had 'nowhere to go' 14:18

    Haryanto says he had 'nowhere to go'

    Manor driver Rio Haryanto says that he was left with "nowhere to go" as he became the third retiree of the first-lap drama in…

    F1
  16. Manufacturer 'reluctance' delays 24th entry 13:44

    Manufacturer 'reluctance' delays 24th entry

    MotoGP's field will not increase to 24 bikes in 2017 due to what the championship has described as a "reluctance" from…

    MotoGP
  17. Button: Sochi complex needs changes 13:36

    Button: Sochi complex needs changes

    Jenson Button reckons officials need to look at revising the Turn 2/3 complex at Sochi Autodrom after another dramatic start to…

    F1
  18. Pérez left wanting more after puncture 12:03

    Pérez left wanting more after puncture

    Sergio Pérez was left wanting more from the Russian Grand Prix, despite scoring his first points of the campaign, after early…

    F1
  19. Video: Nico Rosberg's post-race blog 11:12

    Video: Nico Rosberg's post-race blog

    Join Nico Rosberg as he boards a plane home with fellow drivers after winning the Russian Grand Prix.

    F1
  20. Toro Rosso duo lament 'unfortunate' race 10:22

    Toro Rosso duo lament 'unfortunate' race

    Toro Rosso drivers Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. were left to rue what might have been after points finishes slipped away…

    F1
  21. Grosjean: Still 'many things' to improve 09:32

    Grosjean: Still 'many things' to improve

    Haas' Romain Grosjean expressed his satisfaction at returning to the points at the Russian Grand Prix, though says there are…

    F1
  22. Wolff: Mercedes feared double retirement 08:48

    Wolff: Mercedes feared double retirement

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has revealed that the manufacturer briefly feared that neither Nico Rosberg nor Lewis Hamilton would…

    F1
  23. Video of the Day: Kvyat learns bobsleigh 05:28

    Video of the Day: Kvyat learns bobsleigh

    Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat met up with the Russian National bobsleigh team ahead of his home race.

    F1
  24. Sunday 1 May 2016

  25. Ricciardo: I expect apology from Kvyat 17:50

    Ricciardo: I expect apology from Kvyat

    Daniel Ricciardo believes Red Bull team-mate Daniil Kvyat owes him an apology after triggering a first lap collision at the…

    F1
  26. Williams pair positive despite missing podium 17:29

    Williams pair positive despite missing podium

    Williams drivers Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa described the team's Russian Grand Prix as "positive" despite missing out on…

    F1
  27. Magnussen pleased to end points drought 16:44

    Magnussen pleased to end points drought

    Renault driver Kevin Magnussen ended his and the manufacturer's points drought with a spirited drive to seventh place at the…

    F1
  28. 16:32

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Sunday in Sochi

    F1
  29. Ocon to get FP1 outing at Spanish GP 16:29

    Ocon to get FP1 outing at Spanish GP

    Renault test and reserve driver Esteban Ocon will take part in free practice for the Spanish Grand Prix later this month, the…

    F1
  30. Räikkönen admits Ferrari 'not fast enough' 16:15

    Räikkönen admits Ferrari 'not fast enough'

    Kimi Räikkönen admitted that Ferrari had no answer to Mercedes' pace as he settled for a podium finish in the Russian Grand…

    F1
  31. Alonso: Points now a regular target 16:14

    Alonso: Points now a regular target

    Fernando Alonso is confident that McLaren can now target points on a regular basis after both he and team-mate Jenson Button…

    F1
  32. Hamilton 'not full throttle' on straights 15:54

    Hamilton 'not full throttle' on straights

    Lewis Hamilton says he had to avoid using full throttle on the straights as another technical issue struck his car in the…

    F1
  33. Kvyat apologises to Vettel for contact 15:40

    Kvyat apologises to Vettel for contact

    Daniil Kvyat has apologised to Sebastian Vettel for twice colliding with his rival on the opening lap of Sunday's Russian Grand…

    F1
  34. Rosberg: I'm still taking it 'race-by-race' 15:30

    Rosberg: I'm still taking it 'race-by-race'

    Nico Rosberg insists he is taking a "race-by-race" approach to the 2016 title battle, despite extending his lead with another…

    F1
  35. 14:46

    In full: Russian Grand Prix race results

    F1
  36. Rosberg heads Mercedes 1-2 in Russia 14:41

    Rosberg heads Mercedes 1-2 in Russia

    Nico Rosberg continued his 100 per cent race record in 2016 with victory in Sunday's Russian Grand Prix, while Lewis Hamilton…

    F1
  37. Vettel: Nothing I could have done differently 13:39

    Vettel: Nothing I could have done differently

    Sebastian Vettel expressed his frustration over first lap contact at the Russian Grand Prix which left the German driver…

    F1
  38. 12:41

    Follow the Russian Grand Prix live!

    F1
  39. 12:06

    Starting grid for the Russian Grand Prix

    F1
  40. Mercedes avoids penalty for Hamilton 12:03

    Mercedes avoids penalty for Hamilton

    Lewis Hamilton will start the Russian Grand Prix from 10th on the grid, after Mercedes mechanics worked on his car overnight and…

    F1
  41. Gutiérrez hopes for 'surprises' in Russia 10:36

    Gutiérrez hopes for 'surprises' in Russia

    Esteban Gutiérrez concedes Haas will be reliant on "surprises" further up the grid if the team is to score points at the…

    F1
  42. Pirelli still expecting a one-stop race 09:53

    Pirelli still expecting a one-stop race

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli still expects a one-stop strategy to be the preferred option during the Russian Grand Prix…

    F1
  43. Palmer sure Renault has solved issues 08:42

    Palmer sure Renault has solved issues

    Renault rookie Jolyon Palmer is confident that the outfit has addressed the issues which he believes have held him back across…

    F1
more news