Q&A with Michael Andretti
With Andretti Green Racing taking over the running of the US team in A1GP this season, A1GP caught up with team boss and racing legend Michael Andretti at Zandvoort for an exclusive chat to discuss his thoughts ahead of the season.
Michael, you’ve announced that your IndyCar drivers, Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti, your son, will be your lead drivers this season, but you aren’t sure who will drive where yet. I guess you’re pretty excited?
MA: “I’m very excited. I mean that was the big carrot for us really when we initially were in contact about this series, because in our series [IndyCar] it’s very difficult to get miles for our drivers because of the testing limitations and this is a great opportunity to put our guys in a really difficult series racing on road courses. From that stand point it was really good for us, as well as from the team side in getting our Andretti Green brand out there on a solid, international platform. This is a great, great way to do it.”
I know you don’t know how it is going to work yet in terms of drivers, and who is going to do each race yet, but how do you go about making that decision? Are you planning to do a roughly even split between the two?
MA: “I don’t know yet. Part of it is going to be scheduling and the other is just going to be who is more influential and begs me more! You know, every weekend one of them is going to be bummed out!”
What we have seen with other teams, when France won the title in the first season, that both drivers were always present even if it was only one of them behind the wheel. Could this happen with you?
MA: “I don’t think that will happen because of scheduling. It will be too difficult to do that. It will basically be one at each event.”
How do you think the world will see your team and drivers? America knows Danica and Marco very well, but how will the world get to know these two drivers?
MA: “Hopefully by running up front, you know. That’s going to be our goal and its going to be really difficult. We’re not kidding ourselves, but we know Marco and Danica have a lot of talent and if we can put a good race car under them they can go and show their stuff to the international crowd. Hopefully, that’s what we are going to be able to do.”
How do you deal with the media attention that’s going to suddenly come to your team in A1GP? Is that a good thing?
MA: “We are pretty used to that. You know, in the states we have a lot of that. I mean we have Danica for one and now Marco, two of the more popular drivers in the US. So we’ve been used to dealing with that so I don’t see it as being a problem. The real pressure is going to be coming from within the walls of our garage. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to win and that’s what we are going to do here. We’re not coming over here to just dilly dally around, we want to win races.”
What was their first reaction from Marco and Danica, when you talked to them about A1GP; I mean, what do they know?
MA: “Both of them said ‘I want to do all the races’ and we’re like ‘Errrr…that might not happen.”
And so you’ve been watching, obviously, the new A1GP Powered by Ferrari car develop over the summer and then got your car early last week.
MA: “For the team to do what they have done here, has been incredible. Once they get everything caught up, I think its just going to be tremendous. It’s going to be really good and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
You touched on this briefly but what are your expectations for the season? One advantage coming in now, as opposed to if you had come into A1GP this time last season, is that everyone is starting again with new A1GP Powered by Ferrari car.
MA: “If it wouldn’t have been with the current car it would have been a lot more difficult. The timing is right – the new car, the new engine and so it worked out right for us. Things happen for a reason and we got very excited when we heard Ferrari was getting involved. It gives great credibility and this is one of those deals where it was the right time for us.”
You mentioned race wins and targets. Have you got a very clear set of targets this season?
MA: “Not yet. I just want to be competitive, you know, I think we can do it. In this series it is about preparation and having good drivers. We know what our two drivers can do, and so our expectations are to hopefully be competitive.”
And one of the great things about this, as you said, is it getting your brand out internationally. But it probably works the other way for A1GP, in that A1GP will become better known in America. How do you think the Danica and Marco fans will react to that?
MA: “I think that’s great. American fans are very excited about Danica and if she is involved I’ll guarantee you more people are going to want to look at it. I think it’s going to work for everybody.”
And Americans are very into the international concept of sport, aren’t they? We have all just watched the Olympics.
MA: “The international concept is great for fans, who are also very proud to be American. That’s another neat thing about this series, in that you are representing your country, so there is a patriotic element to it. It’s another thing that gets us excited but it’s also good for the American fans. If they know that a credible driver is representing them with a credible team, its going to get a lot of patriotic feeling from them.”