Ex-F1 champion aims dig at FIA over anti-US system

Mario Andretti claimed the 1978 Formula 1 World Championship.

American racing driver Mario Andretti has revealed how “sweet” it was to finally drive a modern Formula 1 car, 42 years on from his World Championship success.

The 82-year-old claimed the F1 World Championship back in 1978, a year where he claimed six victories for Lotus across the 16-round season.

Andretti is undoubtedly one of the most successful drivers in the history of motorsport, after claiming titles in almost every major motorsport category, including, IndyCar and the Le Mans 24 Hours.

He finally got the chance to drive a modern F1 car at Laguna Seca last weekend, as part of Velocity Invitational.

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Thanks to McLaren CEO Zak Brown, Andretti drove the 2013 McLaren MP4/28, whereas two-time F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen circulated the American circuit in the 1985 McLaren MP4/2B.

To no surprise, it didn’t take the American long to push the car to his limits, with it looking somewhat magical seeing Andretti pushing the car through the famous Corkscrew.

Andretti loved the few laps he did at the wheel of the 2013 model but admitted he “left a lot on the table”.

“I can say it’s sweet. But, obviously, I left a lot on the table, because there’s a bit to learn about when you are on the can with this engine,” he said in an interview with RACER after his run.

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“It’s all about getting the proper gearing and some of the problems for me was the way the helmet was vis-a-vis the steering wheel, I couldn’t see the number of my downshift.

“Some corners, I had it right, others I didn’t. If you don’t get it right, the power falls off tremendously. So I just need to put the full lap together, and I’d feel a lot better.”

For a man who appears to have driven absolutely everything now, the legendary driver revealed that his bucket list is “pretty much” complete, with any other future antics, simply a bonus.

“I keep saying my bucket list is pretty much satisfied,” said Andretti.

“Anything that we do after this, that’d be icing on the cake!”

Despite being 82 years old, Andretti was talking like he was 30 after his run in the car, as he pinpointed where he was making mistakes and what he needed to do to improve his performance.

“Obviously, you got some butterflies, which is normal, or should be,” he said.

“But I was just trying to figure in my mind what to expect, and I was pretty correct. Zak was giving me some bits of information about it, but the biggest trick here is to really be in the right gears at the exit of every corner. Because, otherwise, the power falls off tremendously. And that’s really what I was lacking.

“I was good in two or three corners, then I was flat on a couple of others because I couldn’t see my downshift. You can only count so quickly at that speed. So we’re trying to fix that situation, but I knew that I was going to have some quirks as far as the fit, because there’s only so much I can do here.

“Some of it is fixed, they can only do so much with a pedal, so they had to move me forward. The steering wheel is very, very close to me, which is not normal.”

Hilariously, Andretti took a small dig at the FIA seemingly over their controversial point system, in which a driver needs to achieve a certain amount to race in Formula 1.

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IndyCar drivers are awarded next to no points for a successful season, with some FIA junior categories offering more points for success than is on the IndyCar table.

It’s because of a lack of points that AlphaTauri were unable to sign American star Colton Herta, resulting in Andretti joking that he was targeting his own super licence.

“I’m trying to get some points for my Super Licence!” he joked.