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 24 May 2016

  2. Grosjean helmet pays tribute to Bianchi 08:50

    Grosjean helmet pays tribute to Bianchi

    Romain Grosjean will pay tribute to the late Jules Bianchi with a special helmet in Monaco. Grosjean's design features a…

    F1
  3. Video of the Day: Indianapolis 500 preview 05:10

    Video of the Day: Indianapolis 500 preview

    A host of IndyCar drivers look ahead to this weekend's centenary edition of the prestigious Indianapolis 500.

    Indy
  4. Monday 23 May 2016

  5. 16:34

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  6. Force India still looking to maintain fifth 15:22

    Force India still looking to maintain fifth

    Force India team boss Vijay Mallya says the outfit is still looking to maintain fifth position in the championship standings…

    F1
  7. Baz could miss Barcelona due to foot injury 14:50

    Baz could miss Barcelona due to foot injury

    Avintia rider Loris Baz could miss the upcoming MotoGP round at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya due to the injuries which he…

    MotoGP
  8. Alonso: Monaco to test McLaren chassis 13:37

    Alonso: Monaco to test McLaren chassis

    Fernando Alonso expects to see where McLaren's chassis stands compared to its rivals at this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, with…

    F1
  9. Hülkenberg sees Monaco as 'fresh start' 12:02

    Hülkenberg sees Monaco as 'fresh start'

    Force India driver Nico Hülkenberg says he is hoping to mark a "fresh start" at this weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, following…

    F1
  10. Mercedes drivers clear air after clash 11:38

    Mercedes drivers clear air after clash

    Mercedes team-mates Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton have held clear-the-air discussions following their dramatic first-lap clash…

    F1
  11. Nasr: Points would feel like a victory 11:12

    Nasr: Points would feel like a victory

    Felipe Nasr and Sauber have endured a challenging start to the 2016 season, amid a sub-standard package and financial woes.…

    F1
  12. Rossi: Mugello DNF 'weighs very heavily' 10:05

    Rossi: Mugello DNF 'weighs very heavily'

    Valentino Rossi says his exit from his home Grand Prix in Italy "weighs very heavily" after rivals Jorge Lorenzo and Marc…

    MotoGP
  13. Stroll opens lead with double Austria win 09:32

    Stroll opens lead with double Austria win

    Prema driver Lance Stroll extended his championship advantage in European Formula 3 with a double win at the Red Bull Ring, in a…

    F3
  14. Lorenzo lauds 'unexpected' Mugello victory 09:08

    Lorenzo lauds 'unexpected' Mugello victory

    Jorge Lorenzo hailed an "unexpected" victory at the Italian Grand Prix as he fractionally edged out Honda's Marc Márquez to…

    MotoGP
  15. Video of the Day: Button's Monaco preview 05:22

    Video of the Day: Button's Monaco preview

    McLaren-Honda's Jenson Button looks ahead to this weekend's Grand Prix on the streets of Monte-Carlo.

    F1
  16. Sunday 22 May 2016

  17. Resurgent Hinchcliffe wins Indy 500 pole 23:54

    Resurgent Hinchcliffe wins Indy 500 pole

    James Hinchcliffe completed a fairy tale comeback today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, capturing pole position for the…

    Indy
  18. Vaxivière survives treacherous conditions to win 15:53

    Vaxivière survives treacherous conditions to win

    Matthieu Vaxivière secured his first victory of the season as he mastered treacherous conditions in the second Formula V8 3.5…

    FV8 3.5
  19. Video: FE Berlin ePrix race highlights 15:24

    Video: FE Berlin ePrix race highlights

    Watch highlights of Formula E's visit to Berlin as Sébastien Buemi sets up a title showdown with Lucas di Grassi.

    FE
  20. 14:00

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Mugello

    MotoGP
  21. Lorenzo beats Márquez in Mugello thriller 13:58

    Lorenzo beats Márquez in Mugello thriller

    Jorge Lorenzo beat Marc Márquez by just 0.019s during a thrilling climax to the Italian Grand Prix as Valentino Rossi retired…

    MotoGP
  22. Haryanto admits future at Manor unclear 11:45

    Haryanto admits future at Manor unclear

    Rio Haryanto has admitted that his future at Manor remains unclear, and cannot be certain that he will finish the current…

    F1
  23. Feature: When Hamilton ruled GP2 - Part 2 10:02

    Feature: When Hamilton ruled GP2 - Part 2

    It has been a decade since Lewis Hamilton's GP2 triumph. In the final part of a special reflection, GPUpdate.net speaks to those…

    F1
  24. Espargaró criticises Suzuki for lack of respect 09:22

    Espargaró criticises Suzuki for lack of respect

    Aleix Espargaró has criticised Suzuki for a lack of respect amid rider moves, as he chases a 2017 seat with the Japanese…

    MotoGP
  25. Video of the Day: Márquez hidden camera 05:36

    Video of the Day: Márquez hidden camera

    Repsol Honda rider Marc Márquez surprises residents in Villamartín, Spain in this hidden camera video.

    MotoGP
  26. Hinchcliffe fastest on first day of 500 qualifying 01:37

    Hinchcliffe fastest on first day of 500 qualifying

    James Hinchcliffe topped the first of two days of IndyCar qualifying at the track where he nearly lost his life a year ago. A…

    Indy
  27. Saturday 21 May 2016

  28. 16:12

    Latest Formula E photos: Berlin ePrix

    FE
  29. Buemi wins to set up di Grassi title fight 16:10

    Buemi wins to set up di Grassi title fight

    Sébastien Buemi dominated proceedings at the Berlin ePrix to set up a last round showdown with Lucas di Grassi for the 2015/16…

    FE
  30. Ricciardo: Spain defeat still 'hard to take' 14:56

    Ricciardo: Spain defeat still 'hard to take'

    Daniel Ricciardo has admitted not winning the Spanish Grand Prix is still "hard to take", as he missed out on claiming his first…

    F1
  31. 14:04

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday at Mugello

    MotoGP
  32. Rossi beats Viñales to pole at Mugello 14:02

    Rossi beats Viñales to pole at Mugello

    Valentino Rossi will start his home race from pole position after topping a close qualifying session at the Italian Grand…

    MotoGP
  33. Orudzhev resists Dillmann for Spa victory 13:37

    Orudzhev resists Dillmann for Spa victory

    Egor Orudzhev held off Tom Dillmann to claim victory during a tense Formula V8 3.5 race at Spa-Francorchamps. Orudzhev took…

    FV8 3.5
  34. Video: Horror Formula 3 crash in Austria 12:08

    Video: Horror Formula 3 crash in Austria

    Peter Li is launched into a sickening aerial accident after striking the unsighted Ryan Tveter, in an incident which also…

    F3
  35. Rabat out due to broken collarbone 11:30

    Rabat out due to broken collarbone

    Marc VDS rider Tito Rabat has been ruled out of the remainder of the Italian Grand Prix weekend after fracturing his left…

    MotoGP
  36. Feature: When Hamilton ruled GP2 - Part 1 10:02

    Feature: When Hamilton ruled GP2 - Part 1

    It has been a decade since Lewis Hamilton swept to the GP2 Series crown and secured a promotion to Formula 1 with McLaren.…

    F1
  37. Iannone stays ahead in third Mugello session 09:49

    Iannone stays ahead in third Mugello session

    Andrea Iannone stayed ahead during a tightly contested third practice session for this weekend's Italian Grand Prix. Ducati…

    MotoGP
  38. Renault set to bring engine upgrade to Monaco 08:42

    Renault set to bring engine upgrade to Monaco

    Renault is set to bring its B-spec power unit to next weekend's Monaco Grand Prix, following positive feedback during the…

    F1
  39. Video of the Day: Get to know Pierre Gasly 05:22

    Video of the Day: Get to know Pierre Gasly

    Get to know Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly, who tested for Toro Rosso in Barcelona this week.

    F1
  40. Friday 20 May 2016

  41. Buemi, Prost retained by Renault e.dams 15:30

    Buemi, Prost retained by Renault e.dams

    Renault e.dams has announced that it will field Sébastien Buemi and Nicolas Prost for the 2016/17 Formula E campaign. Buemi…

    FE
  42. Ferrucci: Haas role a learning process 15:26

    Ferrucci: Haas role a learning process

    Santino Ferrucci says that his primary goal with Haas this year is merely to understand more about Formula 1, after being signed…

    F1
  43. Iannone surges clear in second practice 13:58

    Iannone surges clear in second practice

    Andrea Iannone flew to the top of the times during the second practice session for his and Ducati's home race at Mugello this…

    MotoGP
  44. Di Grassi extends Formula E Abt stay 13:46

    Di Grassi extends Formula E Abt stay

    Formula E championship leader Lucas di Grassi has confirmed that he will remain with Audi Sport Abt for the 2016/17 season of…

    FE
  45. Video: Mercedes' post-race challenge 11:32

    Video: Mercedes' post-race challenge

    Mercedes Chief Operating Officer Rob Thomas and Head of Build Peter Hodgkinson explain how the team is getting Lewis Hamilton…

    F1
more news