Mario Andretti on TFL
It was an absolute joy to chat to Mario Andretti on Wednesday’s edition of The Flying Lap (see link above) – and, for me, one of the best moments came when Mario was describing his return to Ferrari (at Monza, 1982). We used this beautiful Sutton Image during the show but I wanted to reprint it here because it certainly deserves closer analysis. It’s taken at the entry to the Parabolica, of course, but what I particularly love about the pose here is the absolute neutrality of Ferrari 126CK2/061 – something that Mario was able to reproduce almost to perfection when his car was right and he could “feel” the surface of the road. There’s a certain slip angle at the rear but Mario’s subtle use of steering against a decreasing brake pedal pressure has given him exactly the poise he needs mid-corner. There’s no doubt that Mario used lower minimum corner speeds than, say, Ronnie Peterson (at John Player Team Lotus) or Patrick Tambay (at Ferrari) but for sure he was able to make up for that – and give himself an edge – with his exits. Earlier in the interview, I was also fascinated to hear Mario talk about how much he learned about driving from Bruce McLaren. We perhaps tend to think of Bruce these days as one of the ultimate driver-engineers and forget that he was, too, a first-rate racing driver. It was in slow-corner rotation (an area often taken too much for granted by drivers blessed with great car control) that Mario told us Bruce had been particularly instructive. In the picture above (taken, I believe, by the great Nigel Snowdon) note, too, that Mario is leaning his Bell helmet slightly to the left. Peter Revson also used to do this (on both left- and right-handers): I think it is a characteristic of drivers who have seen plenty of banked corners (ie US ovals) in their time.