MotorLAT had the opportunity to speak to Mario Andretti during the F1 summer break as the 1978 World Champion gave his opinion on various topics within in the F1 world at the moment.
It’s no secret that Ferrari has disappointed in 2022 to date. Their 2022 package has proven to be extremely quick. The F1-75 has taken five wins this year – but strategy errors, unreliability and driver mistakes has held the team back.
Andretti was baffled by the decision to start both cars on the medium tyre last time out in Hungary. He’s in no doubt the championships are out of reach for them, too.
“It’s been very disappointing [Ferrari's season] to say the least. I’m sure not just for the fans like ourselves but for them as well. The mistakes are clear.
“The last race [in Hungary], I’m sitting on the couch, and I called every mistake they made right from the very start – starting with the medium tyres in a situation like that, for instance. It was one mistake after another.
“Then going to the hards [with Leclerc]. I was watching the pace of other cars on them and how they fell off the pace. I mean, for god’s sake, what are they watching? What are they really watching? This time they did him [Leclerc] wrong, for sure. He didn’t do anything wrong.
“If you’re starting up front, I think you were going to go with what really made sense and go with softs for sure. This is not a call after the fact, all you had to do was look around [at what the others were doing]. I called it from the couch.
“It’s a shame to see because they’re competitive. They have the pace, they have the speed.
“Going back to their season, they just technically threw away a championship a few races ago already.”
Andretti knows about the scrutiny you face when driving for Ferrari. He was part of the driver line-up for the famous Italian squad on two separate occasions in the 1970s and 1980s.
The 82-year-old believes Leclerc is feeling some extra pressure because the Monegasque driver has to try and make up for the deficiencies in the strategy department.
“Of course he’s under pressure but here again, he has the quality of a champion – and Carlos, I’m a great supporter. He’s capable. They have two great guys, but I think the team has been making more mistakes than the drivers, quite honestly.
“I feel that Charles is World Champion material, for sure. He’s felt the pressure a little bit because there is obviously always added pressure with Ferrari – but only because sometimes he has to make up for some of the team’s shortcomings on the [strategy] calls.”
Andretti was full of praise for George Russell following the Brit’s impressive start to life at Mercedes.
The 24-year-old has secured five podiums, and he claimed Mercedes’ first pole of the season in Hungary. With nine races to go, he’s 12 points ahead of Hamilton in the standings.
“Let’s give George some kudos. He’s really shown what he’s capable of. He’s a young lad who looks like he’s making his mark. Against Lewis, he’s really holding his own – and not only just in terms of pure speed but also racecraft. He’s done really well. That’s great to see.”
Ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel confirmed he would be retiring at the end of 2022.
Andretti says Vettel will be missed but can leave the sport with pride. He also shared a story involving Vettel back in 2009.
“He will be missed, no question. He’s made his mark – a four-time World Champion, 53 Grand Prix wins and so forth. He’s still young.
“You could tell he’s not been having very much fun the last couple of years, and so that’s always the cause for decisions like this. There was no possibilities of any openings for a better seat.
“But it’s a decision that needs to be respected. Everyone is allowed to make their own decisions, of course. He made the call, and I’ll respect that forever.
“I got to know him a little bit when he was still at Red Bull, immediately after moving from Toro Rosso to Red Bull.
“I remember when we were in Bahrain at the airport, we were chatting and I said ‘what are your long-term ambitions?’, and he said ‘one day I’d like to be at Ferrari’, so he accomplished all that. However, things probably didn’t go as well at Ferrari as he was hoping in the long-term.
“Overall, though, he probably accomplished what he set out to accomplish. He’s going away from Formula One as a driver with pride, no question.”
Sebastian, I want to acknowledge your brilliant career -and your heartfelt explanation of who you will be after racing. I wish you peace in what is left this year & in your journey to self-discovery after. I wish you strength in family ties & as a parent. I'm happy I know you pic.twitter.com/FkflluCrWa— Mario Andretti (@MarioAndretti) July 28, 2022
Vettel’s replacement at Aston Martin is going to be two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard signed a multi-year deal with the Silverstone-based squad following the news of the German’s retirement.
Andretti admits he loves the news of Alonso continuing on.
“I love that. I think he’s truly having fun and doing whatever he wants to do.
“Again, it’s hard to know what motivates the individual – but the bottom line is he’s still on right top of everything as a driver. He’s capable to take everything out of the car.
“He has the experience to back him up in regards to maintaining race pace, racecraft and all of that.
“While he’s having fun, he’ll just keep on going. I like to see that.”