Formula 1 Racing

Profile: Michael Andretti – Indy champion, future F1 entrant? · RaceFans

Profile: Michael Andretti - Indy champion, future F1 entrant? · RaceFans

Michael Andretti is used to being underrated in Formula 1.

He spent all 13 grands prix of his short career trying to prove he deserved his place on the grid. Now, 30 years later, he’s attempting the same – only this time as a team owner.

The son of 1978 world champion Mario Andretti, Michael had a short stint in F1, followed by a return to the CART IndyCar series where he was already a star. But his desire to return to the top of motorsport has remained, and last week’s announcement he has secured the backing of General Motors to make it happen has brought it closer than ever, though obstacles still remain.

Andretti was first linked to F1 in 1986 when he made a superb start to the CART season. However he was denied the chance to make an F1 debut as a substitute in Detroit that year.

Feature: The forgotten story of the first time F1 snubbed Michael Andretti in 1986

He continued in CART, winning the 1991 CART title with Newman/Haas Racing. He scored 27 IndyCar race wins and pole positions before his move into F1. That could have come a year earlier than it did, as he had a contract with Ferrari for 1992, but team boss Carl Haas wouldn’t let him go.

Instead the McLaren F1 team came knocking to sign him for 1993, and the third time around the stars finally aligned for Andretti’s grand prix debut to finally happen.

“I think he can win grands prix and become the world champion,” said Ron Dennis, McLaren’s team principal at the time. “It’s not a question of which country you come from. It’s how you demonstrate your desire to win.”

Andretti’s eventual introduction to F1 involved a few setbacks, as he later explained. “There was interest probably starting in 1990. I’d tested before I even won the CART championship. But every test I went to, unfortunately, something was out, or the weather was bad, and I never got a real proper test.”

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Andretti switched to F1 after 1992 CART IndyCar season

His expectations that McLaren would find a new manufacturer engine partner to replace Honda, who left at the end of 1992, were dashed. “From the time I signed my contract to the time that everything started to happen, we lost an engine deal. We were supposed to have the Renault engine, but that went away.”

McLaren therefore resorted to customer Ford Cosworth DFVs – and not even the latest specification, which went to rivals Benetton. Meanwhile Andretti started on the back foot. After stalling at the…

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