Mario Andretti was initially tight-lipped when asked how his son Michael Andretti’s bid to join a Formula 1 team was progressing, but his frustration with the process became more apparent as he spoke.
“This will. It’s going,” said Andretti when initially asked at Darlington (SC) Raceway, Friday.
When asked if that would happen, he replied, “Great.”
Three months ago, Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said Michael Andretti was “not smart” when he called the current team greedy to protect their financial interests. The FIA, Formula 1’s governing body, has opened the application process for potential new teams, but most existing Formula 1 operations are rejecting new teams due to the impact on their share of prize money. A decision on whether new Formula 1 teams will be allowed is expected this summer.
Michael Andretti wanted to bring General Motors into Formula 1 with his Cadillac brand.
Mario Andretti believes General Motors’ entry into Formula 1 will be “a big thing for motor racing”.
“Let’s face it, since the international Formula 1 is to have strong American teams and manufacturers, it must be good for them,” said the elder Andretti.
“I know Gene Haas has a team and he never planned to have an American racer. Michael is committed to always having at least one American driver. Also, there is no official team offering Formula 3 or Formula 2 and Michael has volunteered to own a Formula 3 and Formula 2 team to give some American drivers the opportunity to go to Europe and pursue Formula 1.
“So, there’s a lot to play for here. This is a big long-term commitment.”
Andretti, who won the Formula 1 World Championship in 1978 driving for Lotus, said the FIA believed there should be 12 teams on the grid. Currently there are 10 teams providing cars for 20 racers.
“They’re adding more races to the schedule in Formula 1 and they’re crossing continents, (and) that puts a huge burden on all the teams,” Mario Andretti said. “Having 22 or 24 cars on the grid instead of 20, I think it’s like insurance.”
The 83-year-old Andretti says allowing his son to enter Formula 1 with General Motors means he has accomplished something the elder Andretti attempted more than 50 years ago. In the late 1960s, he said he tried to get Zora Arkus-Duntov to race for General Motors Formula 1. Arkus-Duntov was the brilliant engineer who turned the Corvette into a high-performance machine. Andretti said Arkus-Duntov told him, “I was talking, talking, talking and nobody heard me.”
Today, someone at General Motors was listening to Michael Andretti, who competed in Formula 1 in 1993. Also, the United States has three Formula 1 races this year – Miami, Circuit of the Americas, and Las Vegas.
“No other country on the planet has it,” Mario Andretti said.