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F1 | Exclusive interview with Mario Andretti: F1 teams questioning the credibility of Andretti's F1 entry "hurts" and is "very offensive"

In an exclusive interview with MotorLAT, the 1978 F1 World Champion talks about his son's plans to have teams in F1, F2 and F3, the opposition they're facing from current teams and getting on with the project despite not getting official conformation from the FIA that they'll be on the grid in 2024.

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F1 | Exclusive interview with Mario Andretti: F1 teams questioning the credibility of Andretti's F1 entry "hurts" and is "very offensive"
Fuente imagen: F1.com

The Andretti name is a big one in motorsports on both sides of the Atlantic.

Mario Andretti is a Formula One World Champion. He also won four IndyCar titles and took a victory at the Indy 500.

His son Michael is also a former F1 driver. He won the IndyCar championship in 1991.

He’s also been an owner in the North American series for many years under the Andretti name. His drivers have won races, championships and the Indy 500. His next goal is to create his own F1 team after a deal with Sauber fell through.

Mario Andretti has talked exclusively to MotorLAT about the plans of his 59-year-old son.

“It's been quite a while. I've been hearing him talking about this in the last five years at least,” stated the 82-year-old when asked how long Michael Andretti has been interested in running an F1 team.

“It's part of his ambition as a car owner. He expanded his operations, even as far as Australia [Andretti own a stake in the Walkinshaw team in V8 Supercars].

“Motor racing is his business. He lives and breathes this sport like we always did.

“Now in his capacity as an owner, he just wants to take advantage of the opportunity to stay at the top level.

“Why not Formula One? Gene Haas did it. He's not a 100% racer – we're 100% racers.

“He has fabulous backing, people that are serious and capable. Everything is for the long-term.

“Obviously we're experiencing some resistance – and it's very disappointing at the moment.

“Are we giving up? No. I think we deserve to be there.”

Speaking after qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix, Toto Wolff seemed more enthusiastic about the potential of a manufacturer like Audi joining the grid as a new team instead of Andretti.

While the 1978 F1 World Champion has no problem with manufacturers joining, he believes there is one key difference: Andretti would enter F1 to stay.

“We hear resistance with 'okay, manufacturers [are] coming in' – manufacturers are always welcome, no question. Why wouldn't they be?

“Toto mentions Audi and [he says] we'd rather have Audi as the eleventh team. In my opinion, Audi would be welcome anywhere, no question. But I don't see Audi been a start-up team.

“I see Audi actually merging with a top team as an engine supplier. I'll tell you why.

“You can better justify the investment because as an engine supplier with any team – you win races, the engine wins – when you don't win races, it's the team's fault. It's always like that and that's the way it is. It's fine.

“We're one of the teams that would be open for another manufacturer. We're working already with the present manufacturers to make some decisions; that's the way it works.

“You absolutely welcome manufacturers but the manufacturers come and go. We don’t come and go – we come and stay.

“Manufacturers don’t depend on the sport – we do. It’s our life. That’s all we do. We breathe this. Why deprive us from it? We’re serious about it.”

The last time F1 had more than ten teams on the grid was back in 2014. As the sport has prioritised making sure teams are financially healthy – thanks to measures such as the budget cap – there has not been much talk of new teams entering on their own.

Andretti is adamant they want to add to the spectacle and not harm any potential competitors in the future.

“It’s not a bad thing for Formula One to have eleven or twelve teams quite honestly.

“I don’t know why they're resisting and thinking ten teams are enough. We're not giving up by any means because this is our life.

“We want to contribute and we don't want to take anything away from anyone. We want to contribute for the big picture and ourselves.”

Despite the potential risk of not being granted a slot on the 2024 grid, Andretti confirmed that they’re already in full swing with regards to the project. Renault has agreed to supply engines to them.

“We're working already. It's not that when they tell us 'okay, go' that we'll start. We're working on it. This has been a work in progress since the decision was made to go.

“It's not that all of sudden we go 'oh yes, now we're going to lay out the first brick’, no. A lot of people don't realise we're taking a big risk because there's a lot of investment already going on with the hope that proper reasoning will prevail in this because it's an honest approach. I just don't understand where there is a negative.

There has been a rather underwhelming reaction to Andretti’s F1 bid in certain sections of the paddock. The F1 World Champion from 44 years ago admitted it hurts that the credibility of the bid is been questioned by some.

“I just don't understand some of the objections that we're hearing from the other teams. You hear some of the comments like that we're not credible and all that sort of thing – that hurts. It's very offensive – we've been around much longer than the people that have been talking to us.”

“I think so for sure. We have some,” said Andretti when asked if he has the support of two or three teams. “Some of the ones that don't want us, I don't know why. Give us specific reasons and maybe we'll see if we can fix it. Tell us exactly where the objection is and maybe we can shed some light on something like that. Maybe it's not what you really think.”

F1’s popularity in the USA has risen massively in recent years. After eventually getting into the 21st century on the social media side of things when Liberty Media took over, Drive to Survive has also proven to be a huge hit on Netflix.

With the possibility of a second American-owned team on the grid by 2024, Andretti sees their entry as a great opportunity to expand the fanbase even further in the USA, especially as they would have Californian Colton Herta as one of their drivers.

“Why not? I think so. With three Grands Prix in the United States, to have another American F1 team with at least one American driver, you cannot tell me that would not be a positive thing for Formula One. We’d like to think that we’d be an asset to F1 in that respect.”

As well the ambitions to get into F1, Michael Andretti has committed to having teams in Formula 2 and Formula 3 as well. It would provide an opportunity for young American drivers to show their skills in the main junior categories below F1 as they look to reach the pinnacle of motorsport.

They've already done this in IndyCar by promoting drivers from their Indy Lights squad. 

“Michael and the team – and this is clear – they're committing to field teams in Formula 3 and Formula 2 as well.

“How many major Formula One teams have Formula 3 or Formula 2 teams? Name me one? No, they don't. We would.

“This is something that was promised and committed to the FIA because Michael has done this on his own. [Andretti Autosport] is basically the only team [from IndyCar] that field [cars] in Indy Lights.

“He has brought up talents right from those ranks, and so there's another thing that I think is a plus. We're all in,” he concluded.

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