Thoughts for Young Drivers from Mario Andretti

In a follow up conversation with Mario Andretti this weekend about Americans driving in F1, the arrival of Haas F1 Team, based in Kannapolis, North Carolina brought to mind a new interest in the sport from young driving talent here in America.

Mario’s reaction was great to hear, and he has some advice for younger drivers getting their start along a racing career.

[Haas F1 Team] is going to spark a lot of interest, and quite honestly I know that theres some young talent in America that will probably see [F1 as] a potential vehicle to be noticed and be potentially evaluated . . . its a positive for sure that we have the prospect of an American F1 team, so lets see how it plays out, but it can only be good.

When asked about advice to share with a potential pool of American drivers to build their racing resume, Mario had some wise advice for young racers with a goal to race professionally:

Just do your thing. theres no formula that if you follow this, this, and that you’re gonna be there.  You’ve just gotta find your way, based on wherever you are, whatever your possibilities are… you’re going to have to be creative, find maybe somebody that will back you up. 

You know its never easy, its always going to be a road filled with a lot of potential stumbles here and there.  Let your desire, let your passion drive you and you’ll find a way.  I wish I had the formula, I would bottle it and sell it – I don’t have it.

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Filed under American F1 drivers, American F1 talent

Getting an American Driver Back in F1 with Mario Andretti

The Marussia Garage sits empty this weekend at Circuit of The Americas

The Marussia Garage sits empty this weekend at Circuit of The Americas

As Circuit of The Americas track ambassador, world champion Mario Andretti spoke to me last year about Alexander Rossi’s return to FP2, and what that meant to him to see an American return to F1 during a Grand Prix weekend on US soil after a 6 plus year absence.

It’s now a year later, and Formula 1’s economic climate has left Alexander without a current team or a former team, let alone a drive, and fans continue to look for signs that an American will get behind the wheel in the near future.

Given the current state of affairs, I started off asking Mario how he would engage American fans about the sport this weekend and to speak to their desire to see an American drive at Circuit of the Americas:

“Can you imagine what it would do to the interests of this event if Mercedes would say, ‘OK, we’re going to have Alexander Rossi as our guest driver this weekend in his home country’?   At least leave that option open. . . “

Mercedes had no official comment, but off the record it was made clear what would be involved to allow someone outside a team a test, as development and driving in top teams go hand in hand today at every race, and mainly with the two best racing drivers a team can hire.  Seat time for a reserve driver alone is very limited, so giving a weekend drive to a someone from outside the team at a Grand Prix would seem very unlikely given the value of the track time permitted teams.

Times have changed, but it’s clearly not just about the ability to get any drive in F1, according to Mario, who spoke from his own experience:

“… I say this because that’s how i started my career, as a guest driver and I was very successful at it, so a driver [like Alexander Rossi] could surprise a lot of people by being in the car that’s actually competitive, not a Marussia, not a Caterham but a car thats actually competitive.”

He went further to say: 

“It could open up a whole new world for a driver like himself and the possibilities . . . and the good thing about this is that option is there to exercise, and I hope that sooner or later it will be exercised because it’s beneficial to everyone, it can be beneficial to the series, period.  In every possible way, I don’t see any negatives, thats why I’m talking about it.”

More from Mario shortly, but how do you think Formula 1 can do a better job getting American talent on track here at home?

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Filed under American F1 drivers, American F1 Fans, Circuit of the Americas

Team Principals Speak on the State of F1

It’s a chilly Saturday morning here at Circuit of The Americas, and for the first time since 2005, only 9 teams will be qualifying for a grand prix.  A lack of finances at Caterham and Marussia has created a situation that provided the backdrop for one of the most revealing Q&A sessions with team principals representing both the front and what’s left of the rear of the grid.

As money takes center stage in any endeavor at the expense of it’s genuine focus, in this case. how can fans enjoy a pure competitive F1 experience?

Watching the interview from one team’s hospitality center, it is clear that the paddock is following this story closely in the hopes of keeping the sport about racing, and not just about the shrinking grid (transcript):



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