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. Saturday 29 April 2017

  2. 19:16

    Follow GPUpdate on Instagram in 2017!

    F1
  3. 19:14

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Saturday at Sochi

    F1
  4. Alonso: McLaren losing 2.5s on straights 19:10

    Alonso: McLaren losing 2.5s on straights

    McLaren driver Fernando Alonso has continued his criticism of power unit supplier Honda, believing the MCL32 is giving away 2.5…

    F1
  5. Ocon 'a bit frustrated' despite maiden Q3 run 16:16

    Ocon 'a bit frustrated' despite maiden Q3 run

    Force India youngster Esteban Ocon believes he could have qualified in a higher position, despite making his first Q3 appearance…

    F1
  6. Ricciardo 'staying positive' despite gap 15:24

    Ricciardo 'staying positive' despite gap

    Daniel Ricciardo says he is "staying positive" about Red Bull's prospects in 2017 despite a sizeable deficit to pole position at…

    F1
  7. Massa enjoying fight with Red Bull drivers 15:09

    Massa enjoying fight with Red Bull drivers

    Williams driver Felipe Massa says he is enjoying being able to fight with the Red Bull pair at this weekend's Russian Grand…

    F1
  8. Bottas eyes start gains from third place 14:54

    Bottas eyes start gains from third place

    Valtteri Bottas is optimistic that the nature of the opening sequence of corners at the Sochi Autodrom can provide him with the…

    F1
  9. Hamilton laments final sector struggles 14:48

    Hamilton laments final sector struggles

    Lewis Hamilton lamented balance troubles in the final sector as he wound up fourth during qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix…

    F1
  10. Räikkönen felt pole was within reach 14:45

    Räikkönen felt pole was within reach

    Kimi Räikkönen reckons pole position was within his grasp before he was overhauled by Ferrari team-mate Sebastian Vettel in…

    F1
  11. Vettel 'over the moon' with Sochi pole 14:36

    Vettel 'over the moon' with Sochi pole

    Sebastian Vettel has labelled himself as "over the moon" after he claimed his first pole position since 2015, with Ferrari…

    F1
  12. 14:08

    Russian Grand Prix: Qualifying results

    F1
  13. Vettel on pole, Ferrari locks out front row 14:06

    Vettel on pole, Ferrari locks out front row

    Sebastian Vettel took pole position for the Russian Grand Prix in a tight qualifying at Sochi Autodrom, ahead of team-mate Kimi…

    F1
  14. 12:45

    Follow qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix!

    F1
  15. 11:06

    Russian Grand Prix: Full Practice 3 results

    F1
  16. Vettel, Ferrari stay on top in final practice 11:01

    Vettel, Ferrari stay on top in final practice

    Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari continued to set the pace during Saturday's final free practice session for the Russian Grand Prix…

    F1
  17. Video: Andretti 'Visor Cam' at Phoenix 10:06

    Video: Andretti 'Visor Cam' at Phoenix

    Go onboard with Marco Andretti's visor camera for a lap of the Phoenix International Raceway.

    Indy
  18. 09:46

    Follow final practice for the Russian GP!

    F1
  19. Sirotkin set for second FP1 run in Spain 07:38

    Sirotkin set for second FP1 run in Spain

    Sergey Sirotkin is set to receive another opportunity to drive the R.S.17 during practice for the Spanish Grand Prix, after his…

    F1
  20. Video of the Day: Alonso visits IndyCar 05:38

    Video of the Day: Alonso visits IndyCar

    Follow Fernando Alonso as he makes his first visit to the IndyCar paddock and Andretti headquarters.

    F1
  21. Castroneves gets Phoenix pole, lap record 05:12

    Castroneves gets Phoenix pole, lap record

    Hélio Castroneves reset his own track record from 2016 en route to pole at Phoenix on Friday night. The Brazilian led the field…

    Indy
  22. Friday 28 April 2017

  23. 16:22

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Friday at Sochi

    F1
  24. Hamilton describes 'difficult' opening day 16:15

    Hamilton describes 'difficult' opening day

    Lewis Hamilton described a "difficult" first day at the Russian Grand Prix as main rival Ferrari displayed strong short- and…

    F1
  25. Wolff: Mercedes has 'a bit of work to do' 15:47

    Wolff: Mercedes has 'a bit of work to do'

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that his team has "a bit of work to do" after trailing Ferrari on the first day of practice for…

    F1
  26. Red Bull drivers 'not expecting much' 15:24

    Red Bull drivers 'not expecting much'

    Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen are braced for an unsuccessful Russian Grand Prix weekend, with Red Bull again significantly…

    F1
  27. Vettel reckons Mercedes is sandbagging 15:01

    Vettel reckons Mercedes is sandbagging

    Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel reckons Mercedes will up its pace as the Russian Grand Prix weekend develops, after the team's…

    F1
  28. 14:36

    Russian Grand Prix: Full Practice 2 results

    F1
  29. Vettel heads Ferrari 1-2 in second practice 14:31

    Vettel heads Ferrari 1-2 in second practice

    Sebastian Vettel led Kimi Räikkönen in a Ferrari one-two during Friday's second practice session for the Russian Grand Prix…

    F1
  30. Video: F1 fans FaceTime Verstappen 13:12

    Video: F1 fans FaceTime Verstappen

    F1 fans from around the world chase down Red Bull driver Max Verstappen for a live FaceTime chat.

    F1
  31. 12:44

    Follow second practice for the Russian GP!

    F1
  32. Vandoorne to get 15-place grid penalty 11:40

    Vandoorne to get 15-place grid penalty

    McLaren driver Stoffel Vandoorne will take a 15-place grid penalty at the Russian Grand Prix, after a precarious engine…

    F1
  33. Video: Ferrari's Russian Grand Prix guide 11:16

    Video: Ferrari's Russian Grand Prix guide

    Ferrari analyses the challenges of the Sochi Autodrom, the venue for the Russian Grand Prix.

    F1
  34. Vandoorne moves closer to engine penalty 11:05

    Vandoorne moves closer to engine penalty

    McLaren-Honda driver Stoffel Vandoorne is moving closer to an engine-related grid penalty after taking on new power unit…

    F1
  35. 10:35

    Russian Grand Prix: Full Practice 1 results

    F1
  36. Räikkönen edges Bottas in first practice 10:32

    Räikkönen edges Bottas in first practice

    Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen edged out Mercedes rival Valtteri Bottas during Friday's first practice session for the Russian…

    F1
  37. 08:46

    Follow first practice for the Russian GP!

    F1
  38. Ricciardo hopes for 'bullet' RBR update 08:23

    Ricciardo hopes for 'bullet' RBR update

    Daniel Ricciardo says he hopes Red Bull's upcoming upgrades will give him a "bullet" which is capable of challenging current…

    F1
  39. Vettel: Sochi track made for Mercedes 07:12

    Vettel: Sochi track made for Mercedes

    Sebastian Vettel has played down Ferrari's victory prospects at this weekend's Russian Grand Prix, claiming that Sochi Autodrom…

    F1
  40. Video of the Day: Kvyat goes curling 05:32

    Video of the Day: Kvyat goes curling

    Watch as Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat tries his hand at curling ahead of the Russian Grand Prix.

    F1
  41. Thursday 27 April 2017

  42. Rins out for 'six to eight weeks' after surgery 16:07

    Rins out for 'six to eight weeks' after surgery

    Suzuki rider Álex Rins has undergone successful surgery in Barcelona following a heavy accident during practice for the Grand…

    MotoGP
  43. 15:22

    Latest Formula 1 photos: Thursday at Sochi

    F1
more news