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Mario Andretti, Ferrari 126C2
Prime
Interview

The Ferrari comeback of American F1 icon Mario Andretti

As new US hopeful Logan Sargeant joins the grid for 2023, it’s 40 years since America’s last Formula 1 champion moved back Stateside after making a fairytale comeback with Ferrari. Mario Andretti reflects with Anthony Rowlinson on a seminal experience at the track where his F1 debut was foiled.

Things were different, then.

You could be racing on a US dirt oval on a Saturday and attempting to start your first Formula 1 grand prix – the Italian, at Monza – on the Sunday. You could jet overnight from Indiana to Milan, with your chief championship rival as your wing man – the guy for whom you’d also found an F1 ride that weekend with the BRM team, so you could tow each other around Monza’s long straights like you did back home. You could pass through customs and commandeer the waiting Mini, previously steered by a Lotus mechanic, because you, Mario Andretti, and your partner in crime, Bobby Unser, were really in a dreadful hurry.

You might even be able to dupe a track security guard by faking your pass, gunning your engine before he knew what was happening and arriving finally in the Monza paddock where Lotus team boss Colin Chapman, the man who had promised you a Formula 1 drive “any time you were ready”, would greet you with bad news.

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