Former Williams F1 driver Mario Andretti has taken a Formula 1 McLaren for a spin around the Laguna Seca circuit in California, almost 25 years after he won his one and only F1 crown – the last win for a US driver.
Mario Andretti – thought to be the oldest driver to drive a contemporary(ish) Formula 1 car (the car he used for the run was actually a McLaren MP4-28 from the 2013 season, and so the numerous reports claiming it was a ‘modern’ F1 car are slightly wide of the mark) – is widely regarded as one of the greatest drivers of all-time, having won the F1 title, the Indy 500, the Daytona 500, and he Indycar title in a career spanning 35+ years.
The opportunity for Andretti to once again get behind the wheel of an F1 car came after an on-air discussion with Zak Brown – CEO of the McLaren F1 team – at this year’s Miami Grand Prix.
However, as you might imagine, despite his years, Mario wasn’t taking it easy:
“Obviously I left a lot on the table” Andretti told RACER after the run.
“It’s all about getting the proper gearing and some of the problem for me was the way my helmet was vis-á-vis my steering wheel. I couldn’t see the numbers on my downshift. In some corners I got it right and in others I didn’t.”
“In general, though, it is what I expected. It’s a sweet feeling as a driver, so satisfying. The car just does what it should do.”
The demo run for the bona-fide legend is a timely reminder of the significance of the Andretti name to Formula 1 – especially in the US, as his son Michael Andretti continues his efforts to secure an entry for his team Andretti Autosport.
And with the recent announcement that the final turn at COTA, the venue for the USGP, being named in Andretti’s honour, it would appear that the reinforced connection between F1 and the Andretti name is far from accidental, and may be intended to strengthen Andretti jnr’s case for a future place at the most prestigious table in world motorsport.