The 33rd F1 Beyond The Grid podcast of 2019 has Mario Andretti speak on early days/move to USA, single-seater racing, F1 move, title wins & more.
Andretti started the F1 Beyond the Grid podcast by talking about how his career kicked-off. He revealed how Italy losing the war paved way to his family relocating to America, where his dad had to wait for three years to get his US visa.
The idea was to stay only for five years but they stayed back for life. He talked about the early struggles in America and his and his brother’s schooling. The topic shifted to his racing in USA and how he watched the Italian GP from the States.
An interesting reveal from Andretti came about hiding their birth dates to meet the minimum age requirement to compete in the USA. He also described cooking up a story to get access into the racing scene, having stated that they raced in Formula Junior in Italy.
He then talks about his experience of working with cars as he was not taught by anyone but learnt everything he knew from trial and error as a basic necessity to protect his interest. He also spoke about his street racing experience.
They discussed about their parents role, who were against him and his brothers racing. In fact, they hid from their father about competing for almost one season. They also talked about his brother’s first accident at the local racing scene, which caused a crack in his skull and put him in a coma for almost a month.
The journey into racing was next up as Andretti talked about his single-seater racing since 21-years of age. With the help of his father, he bought a Midget to race indoors during the winters in a hockey rink. He revealed that he made a deal with his father that he would pay 50% of everything he will earn in the racing scene, if he bought the car for him.
They then discussed about 1965, which Andretti regards as pivotal year in his racing career where he met Colin Chapman and also finished third in his first Indy 500 race. He told Chapman that he wanted to race in F1, to which he stated: ‘Mario whenever you are ready to call me, I will have a car ready for you’.
He also added about meeting Bruce McLaren and learning from him. Andretti then revealed why it took him until 1968 to test his first F1 car. He also explained about his only road racing experience in the Midget and how he won it.
Andretti then talked about his feelings in a F1 car at Monza. He also spoke about the 24hr rule and how he spoke to the organisers at Monza to waive off the rule to allow him to participate in both the F1 test and also the biggest dirt racing event at Indianapolis.
It eventual led to a protest against him and his team because of which he was not allowed even to race. He spoke about his actual F1 debut at the US GP in 1968 and how he put the car on pole even after all the problems he faced.
He also spoke about how he had friends everywhere who helped him get through the politics against him in F1. The topic then shifted to his Ferrari offer which he had to give up and how and when Enzo then approached him.
He also spoke about Enzo and how he treated people who tried with utmost respect and care. He discussed how he handled his race contracts and how he broke it to drive in Monza and how he managed to drive in multiple championships at one point.
Moving back in time, he spoke about the Italian blood and American upbringing, where they discussed in detail as to how Chapman helped him in his career. Going into technical aspect, he spoke about driving cars with ground effect.
He shared a story of driving the March car in 1970 and how Champan and he worked together to break the lap record in a car made in the shape of the wing. The topic shifted to his maiden F1 title, which he won in 1978 with Lotus.
He spoke all about the Lotus 79 which he loves and how it was better than the 78 they started the season with. Andretti revealed about the brake issues with the car. They ended the podcast by talking about having no regrets in his racing career. He added that had he committed to F1 before, he could have achieved more.
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The report was written by Venkatesh P Koushik and edited by Darshan Chokhani