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. Wednesday 18 October 2017

  2. Video: Red Bull drivers on race preparation 05:18

    Video: Red Bull drivers on race preparation

    Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen provide an insight into driver fitness, training and the work that goes…

    F1
  3. Tuesday 17 October 2017

  4. 23:29

    Follow us on Instagram for the best photos!

    F1
  5. Saudi Arabia set to host Race of Champions 23:27

    Saudi Arabia set to host Race of Champions

    Race of Champions organisers have announced plans to bring the annual end-of-season motor racing showcase to the Kingdom of…

    Misc
  6. Kubica completes another 'productive' test 16:09

    Kubica completes another 'productive' test

    Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica completed "another productive day" of running with the team at the Hungaroring on…

    F1
  7. Pierre Gasly's GPU column: My F1 debut 16:00

    Pierre Gasly's GPU column: My F1 debut

    It has been an eventful period for GPUpdate.net columnist Pierre Gasly, having made his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso…

    F1
  8. Wolff: Hamilton on 'another level' since break 14:44

    Wolff: Hamilton on 'another level' since break

    Lewis Hamilton has been "on another level" since Formula 1's summer break, according to his Mercedes boss Toto…

    F1
  9. Video: Kvyat's 'Wild West' Austin preview 13:26

    Video: Kvyat's 'Wild West' Austin preview

    Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat looks ahead to the United States Grand Prix with a 'Wild West' themed guide to the challenging Circuit…

    F1
  10. Renault: Error-free Austin weekend 'essential' 12:02

    Renault: Error-free Austin weekend 'essential'

    Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul has stressed that an "error-free" weekend at the United States Grand Prix is "essential" in the…

    F1
  11. Video: Adelaide's 'Race To The City' demo run 11:42

    Video: Adelaide's 'Race To The City' demo run

    Watch as historic Formula 1 machinery hits the streets of Adelaide in this promotional film for the city's 2017 Motorsport…

    F1
  12. Bolt to launch formation lap at US Grand Prix 11:09

    Bolt to launch formation lap at US Grand Prix

    Eight-time Olympic Gold-medallist Usain Bolt will signal the start of the formation lap at this weekend's United States Grand…

    F1
  13. Tech 3 hopes Nozane gets another chance 10:56

    Tech 3 hopes Nozane gets another chance

    Tech 3 chief Hervé Poncharal says he hopes the outfit can give Kohta Nozane a chance to demonstrate his "full potential" after…

    MotoGP
  14. Leading F1 teams split on Mexico tyre choices 09:51

    Leading F1 teams split on Mexico tyre choices

    Leading Formula 1 teams Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have taken different stances regarding tyre compounds for next weekend's…

    F1
  15. Video: Rookie Rast clinches 2017 DTM title 09:42

    Video: Rookie Rast clinches 2017 DTM title

    Watch as Audi rookie René Rast clinches the 2017 DTM championship at Hockenheim, after finishing in second position in the…

    DTM
  16. Alonso optimistic of points return in Austin 08:54

    Alonso optimistic of points return in Austin

    Fernando Alonso is confident that he can return to the points-paying positions at the United States Grand Prix, off the back of…

    F1
  17. Video: British Superbike finale highlights 05:42

    Video: British Superbike finale highlights

    Watch race highlights from the British Superbikes championship showdown at Brands Hatch, which featured a terrifying crash for…

    Misc
  18. Monday 16 October 2017

  19. Espargaró left perplexed by race struggles 16:28

    Espargaró left perplexed by race struggles

    Aleix Espargaró conceded he had "big problems" during the Japanese Grand Prix and was left perplexed by his lack of pace…

    MotoGP
  20. Mercedes: Recent swings aiding progress 15:17

    Mercedes: Recent swings aiding progress

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff believes the team has gained "a lot more understanding" about its performance swings at recent Grands…

    F1
  21. GPUpdate readers expect Mexico decider 14:43

    GPUpdate readers expect Mexico decider

    GPUpdate.net readers expect the 2017 Formula 1 title to be settled at next weekend's Mexican Grand Prix, with two rounds to…

    F1
  22. Video: Force India for Breast Cancer Care 14:02

    Video: Force India for Breast Cancer Care

    This October, as part of its association with Breast Cancer Care, Force India is printing the names of two inspiring women, Emma…

    F1
  23. Pirelli's Ultra Softs to be pink for Austin 13:38

    Pirelli's Ultra Softs to be pink for Austin

    Pirelli's Ultra Soft tyre will be coloured with pink sidewalls for this weekend's United States Grand Prix, as part of Formula…

    F1
  24. MP Motorsport to replace DAMS in GP3 13:10

    MP Motorsport to replace DAMS in GP3

    MP Motorsport will join the GP3 Series in 2018, championship officials have announced, taking the entry currently held by…

    GP3
  25. Suzuki pair hail 'best weekend' of 2017 12:48

    Suzuki pair hail 'best weekend' of 2017

    Suzuki riders Andrea Iannone and Álex Rins hailed the progress made by the team after the pair secured top five finishes on the…

    MotoGP
  26. Video: Verstappen previews US Grand Prix 11:08

    Video: Verstappen previews US Grand Prix

    Red Bull driver Max Verstappen looks ahead to this weekend's United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Mobil 1…

    F1
  27. Hartley to race with number 39 on F1 debut 10:32

    Hartley to race with number 39 on F1 debut

    Brendon Hartley will race with #39 on his Formula 1 debut at the United States Grand Prix, taking up one of Toro Rosso's…

    F1
  28. Haas to bring final 2017 upgrade to COTA 10:15

    Haas to bring final 2017 upgrade to COTA

    Haas will apply its final upgrade package of the season for its home race, the United States Grand Prix, team boss Guenther…

    F1
  29. Parkes to replace Folger at Australian GP 09:02

    Parkes to replace Folger at Australian GP

    Broc Parkes will fill in for the recovering Jonas Folger on home soil at this weekend's Australian Grand Prix, Tech 3 Yamaha has…

    MotoGP
  30. Lorenzo: Rear grip woes ruined prospects 08:12

    Lorenzo: Rear grip woes ruined prospects

    Jorge Lorenzo says it was "impossible" for him to set a quicker pace in the Japanese Grand Prix, after struggling for rear grip…

    MotoGP
  31. Video: Carpentier tests Formula E car 05:24

    Video: Carpentier tests Formula E car

    Watch as former Champ Car and NASCAR racer Patrick Carpentier samples the Formula E test car during a recent run at Valencia's…

    FE
  32. Sunday 15 October 2017

  33. In photos: New Zealand's Formula 1 racers 16:34

    In photos: New Zealand's Formula 1 racers

    Brendon Hartley will become the ninth New Zealander to compete in Formula 1 when he links up with Toro Rosso at the Circuit of…

    F1
  34. Video: WEC Fuji 6 Hours race highlights 13:10

    Video: WEC Fuji 6 Hours race highlights

    Watch race highlights from the rain-affected, truncated round of the World Endurance Championship at the Fuji Speedway.

    WEC
  35. Sainz Jr. aims to 'hit the ground running' 12:48

    Sainz Jr. aims to 'hit the ground running'

    Carlos Sainz Jr. says he aims to "hit the ground running" with Renault as he prepares to make his first start for the…

    F1
  36. 11:21

    Final 2017 European Formula 3 standings

    F3
  37. 11:20

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Motegi

    MotoGP
  38. Viñales: Ninth was 'maximum' for Yamaha 11:18

    Viñales: Ninth was 'maximum' for Yamaha

    Maverick Viñales says ninth position was the "maximum" possible for Movistar Yamaha at the Japanese Grand Prix, as his title…

    MotoGP
  39. 10:36

    Latest F3 photos: Sunday at Hockenheim

    F3
  40. Günther caps Formula 3 season with victory 10:35

    Günther caps Formula 3 season with victory

    Prema's Maximilian Günther concluded the 2017 European Formula 3 campaign with victory at Hockenheim, as Joel Eriksson sealed…

    F3
  41. Miller to attempt Phillip Island comeback 09:34

    Miller to attempt Phillip Island comeback

    Marc VDS has confirmed that Jack Miller will return to action at his home event in Australia next weekend. Miller fractured…

    MotoGP
  42. Dovizioso, Márquez laud Motegi win battle 09:26

    Dovizioso, Márquez laud Motegi win battle

    Andrea Dovizioso and Marc Márquez revelled in their race-long scrap at the Japanese Grand Prix, after the Ducati rider…

    MotoGP
  43. 07:58

    MotoGP standings after the Japanese GP

    MotoGP
  44. 06:54

    In full: Japanese Grand Prix race result

    MotoGP
more news