mario andretti is not a retiree like the others. Although his racing career has spanned more than thirty years, his thirst for motorsport remains inexhaustible, even at the height of his 82 years. The 1978 F1 World Champion is used to slipping into the cockpit of old single-seaters during demonstrations and historic events, but this time, McLaren will entrust him with the wheel of a single-seater from the modern era.
A promise made by Zak Brown, CEO of the British team, at the Goodwood Festival in 2021, and which will materialize this weekend, on the Californian circuit of Laguna Seca.
« It happened when we were at Goodwood, I had moved into a current F1 car and it was incredible »explained Andretti, interviewed by Road & Track. « I said I’d like to try it and Zak was like, ‘I’m going to make it happen’. But that was it. We joked about it a bit every time we we saw each other again and then, at the Miami GP , in front of Martin Brundle, he said it again. Everyone knew about it so I guess he shouldn’t have chickened out! »
Mario Andretti driving a Lotus 49B at the 2021 Goodwood Festival
« And so Zak organized [ce test] for this weekend. I’m going to do a few sessions. He told me it would be a hybrid-era car, probably from [la saison] 2014 or something like that. I want to feel the power of the hybrid, the sensations in the car. You can rush it but you have to be careful, you have to bring it back in one piece! »
Andretti’s last major championship appearance was in 2003, when he drove an injured Tony Kanaan’s car to potentially qualify for the Indianapolis 500. An attempt that ended with a takeoff at more than 300 km / h, the result of passing over debris, and an impressive accident.
Racing car technology has evolved enormously between 2003 and 2022, however Mario Andretti does not expect to be out of place. The American revealed that he had taken part in several test sessions for the IndyCar team of his son, Michael, so he already knows how to handle modern steering wheels and transmissions.
« A lot of people don’t know that I tried out for Michael »he launched. « IndyCars have basically the same type of steering wheel where you operate the clutch and all that, so it’s not a big deal. It’s a lot easier than trying to handle a manual transmission. six-speed; you have no idea how much easier it is. You never take your hands off the wheel, which I think helps, especially under hard braking, cornering and all that It’s the best way to drive a race car. »