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. Sunday 26 March 2017

  2. 10:02

    Follow GPUpdate on Instagram in 2017!

    F1
  3. 09:32

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday in Melbourne

    F1
  4. Wolff: Ferrari had quicker package in race 09:24

    Wolff: Ferrari had quicker package in race

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has conceded that Ferrari simply had the quicker package during the Australian Grand Prix, highlighting…

    F1
  5. Alonso: McLaren last 'in normal conditions' 09:08

    Alonso: McLaren last 'in normal conditions'

    Fernando Alonso fears that McLaren-Honda could be Formula 1's slowest team "in normal conditions", despite an encouraging…

    F1
  6. Ricciardo: Separate issues caused dramas 08:57

    Ricciardo: Separate issues caused dramas

    Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo says two separate issues on his RB13 compounded his dismal Australian Grand Prix weekend, as he…

    F1
  7. Marchionne praises Ferrari's winter push 08:36

    Marchionne praises Ferrari's winter push

    Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne has reacted to Sebastian Vettel's victory at the Australian Grand Prix with a statement…

    F1
  8. Hamilton 'ran out of grip' during first stint 08:29

    Hamilton 'ran out of grip' during first stint

    Lewis Hamilton conceded he simply "ran out of grip" during the first stint of the Australian Grand Prix, as he missed out on…

    F1
  9. Vettel 'over the moon' with Australia win 08:07

    Vettel 'over the moon' with Australia win

    Sebastian Vettel described himself as "over the moon" after he opened his and Ferrari's 2017 Formula 1 campaign with victory at…

    F1
  10. 07:39

    In full: Australian Grand Prix race results

    F1
  11. Vettel beats Hamilton to Australian GP win 07:36

    Vettel beats Hamilton to Australian GP win

    Sebastian Vettel beat Lewis Hamilton to victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, after going longer on a one-stop…

    F1
  12. 05:34

    Follow the Australian Grand Prix live!

    F1
  13. Williams gets suspended fine over gearbox 05:16

    Williams gets suspended fine over gearbox

    Williams has been handed a €25,000 fine, suspended for the entirety of the season, after failing to inform the FIA of its…

    F1
  14. 05:02

    Starting grid for the Australian Grand Prix

    F1
  15. Ricciardo hit with five-place grid penalty 03:27

    Ricciardo hit with five-place grid penalty

    Daniel Ricciardo has been dealt another blow at his home event in Australia, with Red Bull changing his gearbox after he crashed…

    F1
  16. Pirelli expects one-stop Australia race 03:12

    Pirelli expects one-stop Australia race

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli is expecting a one-stop strategy to emerge as the favoured approach by drivers for the…

    F1
  17. Mercedes braced for 'big fight' with Ferrari 02:44

    Mercedes braced for 'big fight' with Ferrari

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the team is braced for a "big fight" with rival Ferrari ahead of the season-opening Australian…

    F1
  18. Alonso: McLaren 'better than expected' 02:32

    Alonso: McLaren 'better than expected'

    Fernando Alonso says that McLaren-Honda's Australian Grand Prix weekend has gone "better than we'd expected" after pre-season…

    F1
  19. Video of the Day: Formula 1 2017 explained 02:01

    Video of the Day: Formula 1 2017 explained

    Ahead of the season-opener, Lewis Hamilton provides a refresher on what's new in F1 in 2017.

    F1
  20. Saturday 25 March 2017

  21. 18:28

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday at Losail

    MotoGP
  22. Viñales, Márquez back qualifying cancellation 18:27

    Viñales, Márquez back qualifying cancellation

    Yamaha's Maverick Viñales and Repsol Honda's Marc Márquez backed the call made by MotoGP officials to cancel all of Saturday's…

    MotoGP
  23. MotoGP cancels qualifying, pole for Viñales 17:23

    MotoGP cancels qualifying, pole for Viñales

    MotoGP has cancelled all of Saturday's action for the floodlit Qatar Grand Prix due to inclement weather conditions at Losail…

    MotoGP
  24. Rossi: Corner entry weakness hurting pace 14:22

    Rossi: Corner entry weakness hurting pace

    Yamaha's Valentino Rossi says he is still suffering from a lack of speed on corner entry after scraping through to Q2 at the…

    MotoGP
  25. 13:12

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday in Melbourne

    F1
  26. Giovinazzi thought F1 call-up was a joke 13:02

    Giovinazzi thought F1 call-up was a joke

    Formula 1 debutant Antonio Giovianzzi says he thought he was being tricked when he received the news that he would be competing…

    F1
  27. Bratches: No shortage of aspiring F1 hosts 12:46

    Bratches: No shortage of aspiring F1 hosts

    New Formula 1 commercial chief Sean Bratches says that he has received a substantial number of enquiries from venues keen to…

    F1
  28. Williams referred to stewards over gearbox 12:31

    Williams referred to stewards over gearbox

    Williams has been referred to the Australian Grand Prix stewards after failing to notify the FIA of its intention to replace the…

    F1
  29. Magnussen rues 'messed up' qualifying runs 11:20

    Magnussen rues 'messed up' qualifying runs

    Haas' Kevin Magnussen admitted he "messed up" his qualifying runs through overdriving as he was knocked out of Q1 at the…

    F1
  30. Ocon eyes first points from 14th place 10:12

    Ocon eyes first points from 14th place

    Esteban Ocon is optimistic that he can make amends for a mistake on his final flying lap in Q2 to compete for points during his…

    F1
  31. Sainz Jr. relieved after Q1, Q2 struggles 10:00

    Sainz Jr. relieved after Q1, Q2 struggles

    Carlos Sainz Jr. says he was relieved to take eighth on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix after struggling with the balance…

    F1
  32. Pérez escapes with reprimand for violation 09:08

    Pérez escapes with reprimand for violation

    Force India's Sergio Pérez has escaped with a reprimand after the stewards deemed that he breached the regulations during…

    F1
  33. Pérez summoned over alleged rule breach 08:43

    Pérez summoned over alleged rule breach

    Sergio Pérez has been summoned by the Australian Grand Prix stewards over an alleged rule breach during Saturday's qualifying…

    F1
  34. Grosjean: Best of rest 'awesome' for Haas 08:29

    Grosjean: Best of rest 'awesome' for Haas

    Romain Grosjean labelled Haas' Australian Grand Prix qualifying result as "awesome" after it finished as the best of the rest…

    F1
  35. Palmer labels Renault car a 'disaster' 08:13

    Palmer labels Renault car a 'disaster'

    Renault driver Jolyon Palmer labelled his car as "awful" and a "disaster" as he finished as the slowest competitor during…

    F1
  36. Ricciardo 'caught by surprise' in Q3 crash 08:07

    Ricciardo 'caught by surprise' in Q3 crash

    Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo says he was "caught by surprise" as he crashed out of qualifying for his home race at the…

    F1
  37. Vettel: Mistakes didn't cost Ferrari pole 07:58

    Vettel: Mistakes didn't cost Ferrari pole

    Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel described himself as "not entirely happy" with his final Q3 effort but does not believe a couple of…

    F1
  38. Hamilton expects 'tight' race from pole 07:45

    Hamilton expects 'tight' race from pole

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton says he expects a "tight race" at the Australian Grand Prix after he opened the season with the…

    F1
  39. 07:17

    Australian Grand Prix: Qualifying results

    F1
  40. Hamilton takes pole, Vettel splits Mercedes 07:13

    Hamilton takes pole, Vettel splits Mercedes

    Lewis Hamilton stormed to pole position for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, as Sebastian Vettel put his Ferrari…

    F1
  41. Stroll 'staying calm' despite Q1 exit 06:51

    Stroll 'staying calm' despite Q1 exit

    Williams rookie Lance Stroll insists he will "stay calm" despite enduring a difficult Saturday as he prepares for his Formula 1…

    F1
  42. 05:45

    Follow qualifying for the Australian GP!

    F1
more news