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.
Great show it was indeed! I mean you obviously look at pics of the 1970s with Mario, etc., but hearing him is another matter. Especially here in Europe because we don’t really have proper info on what its like for American drivers to compete over here or proper info on racing life in the US. Amazing personal story as well.
Regarding Marco’s test in Jerez, I remember it quite well because I was sitting in the grandstands thinking “Wow, cool. Andretti name back in F1!” http://www.formula1.com/gallery/testing/2007/66.html Didn’t know it was so political actually but Honda was almost on its way out of F1 by then. Dude, we need some in-season testing back, as Peter or Pedro de la Rosa were saying, to give young and talented guys more opportunities because American drivers prefer to race in the States, while European guys move to GT or Le Mans type of championships.
Love the articles Peter – thanks for sharing. I think the Ferrari 126C2 of ’82 is one of my favourite Ferrari F1 cars ever, a beautiful car, especially considering 1980’s & 1981’s ugly offerings (in more ways than one).
But what struck me was that if you want to see the development of the grand prix car just look at this photo & compare it with the other (black & white) photo of Andretti with Chapman in another of your stories… like night & day & how many years difference? 13 years? 14? In contrast compare todays F1 cars with those running around in 1998…….Ok so maybe a pointless comment considering how the saturation point of aero dynamics hasnt been able to move on design in the same way, but maybe thats why F1 doesnt exite me that much anymore – all the cars have all looked the same….for years………