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Mario Not Pushing Marco For Start-Up F1 Ride

| Contributing Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 16 2009
Marco Andretti's hat.

Marco Andretti's hat.

Bill Fleischman | Senior Correspondent

Catching up with Mario Andretti on some racing issues, I spoke with him by cell phone after he watched grandson Marco finish 13th in the IndyCar Series season opener in St. Petersburg, Fla.

When I asked if there was anything new about Marco as a possible driver for the new Charlotte, N.C.-based Formula One team, Mario said, “I’d like to clear that up.”

Referring to the teleconference hosted by the Speed channel, Mario said, “I was invited to chime in on that press conference by Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson. During the conversation, Bob Varsha said that Marco was not mentioned among the potential young talent that they’re going to be looking at.

“He asked if I’d like to see Marco in Formula One. I love Formula One. I said `Absolutely, I’d love to see Marco in Formula One.’ But I would not recommend him to go with a start-up team. That would be a career killer. They recognize that. I was not trying to push Marco for that team.”

Mario, the 1978 F1 champion, reiterated his support for the new F1 team.

“When they told me (the new team) would be announced, I expressed my 100 percent approval and excitement over it,” he said. “They’re credible people: they know the scene, they didn’t just drop out of the sky and say `we’re doing Formula One.’ ‘’

Marco, 22, is beginning his fourth season in the IndyCar Series. He has one win (Infineon in 2006) and 16 top-five finishes in 49 starts.

“It’s a very important season for him,” Mario said. “Last year, there were many missed opportunities for good results.”

Marco finished seventh in points last year. He drives for his father, Michael, a successful former IndyCar Series driver and one of Mario’s sons.

“Michael made a lot of changes within the team to try to match up some experience with Marco’s relative inexperience,” Mario said. “(They) tested so well, on the road courses and ovals. I figured they’d be a definite contender at St. Pete, but it turned out to be one of those weekends.”

A major change by Michael is having Kyle Moyer guide Marco through races. Michael is now calling Danica Patrick’s races.

“Marco wanted Kyle, who the last three years was with Danica,” Mario said. “The first year he was with Marco, and there was some chemistry there.”

Despite some racing disappointments, Mario says Marco’s mind-set is strong.

“He has a very optimistic attitude,” Mario said. “He kind of takes a little after me with that: he doesn’t really put his chin in his socks. He’s ready to fight. We went through a couple hours of conversation analyzing exactly what went wrong (in 2008) and what needs to be done different.”

There was more good racing news for Mario when it was announced that Richard Petty is entering a car for John Andretti in the Indianapolis 500 on May 24. John provided the Pettys with their last NASCAR Sprint Cup victory, at Martinsville in 1999.

“I’m happy, for John’s sake,” Mario said about his nephew. “His best days in NASCAR were with the King (Petty). It’s great to see the King involved in our side (of racing).”

Note: When I informed Mario that my wife Barbara and I had visited the International Motorsports Hall of Fame at Talladega Superspeedway during a recent trip to Alabama, he sounded delighted.

“For our sport, that’s the sanctuary: it’s international,” he said. “My experience there, besides being inducted, I was honored to induct my hero, Alberto Ascari. His son, Antonio, was able to accept the award posthumously. That was a very meaningful day for me.”

Ascari, a two-time world champion, was killed during a test at Monza in 1955.

When I wondered how Formula One people feel about the International Hall of Fame being in Alabama instead of perhaps Monaco or Paris, Mario replied, “It’s a great facility. It doesn’t matter where it is. It represents our sport in a magnificent way.”

| Contributing Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 16 2009
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