Trying to copy F1’s ultra successful Drive To Survive TV series would come back to bite IndyCar in the posterior, says Mario Andretti.
“I’m not sure I would vote for that,” the 82-year-old Andretti told Autoweek. “(Drive to Survive) has worked and gained so much interest as far as waking up a somewhat dormant fan base in the States and bringing on some new (fans).
“But all of all of a sudden, you would fall into the category of copycat brands. Copycat brands are everywhere, but there can be a negative aspect to that. You don’t want to be called out as a knockoff version, if you will.”
Now in its fourth season as an in-depth view of F1 both on- and off-track, the Nexflix series Drive to Survive has definitely raised the attention and passion for the F1 series in the U.S.
“This thing has been so successful and here we’re following steps in that,” Andretti said. “Then people will not really be well-informed and they will draw conclusions. And if there’s any chance that would be a negative effect, I wouldn’t do that, I would not take that approach. That’s my opinion.”
“No, I think there’s too much of a chance to have comparisons made that could be negative, that’s my take on it,” Andretti said. “I don’t think you embark on something because you’re going to be compared (to F1) and there’s going to be a lot of misinterpretation. That’s my personal opinion and I would not pursue that.”
“It’s all about promotion, promotion, promotion,” the former F1, USAC and CART champion said. “This event has to be talked about in advance, and they’ve got to give reasons for it to create not just a race but an event.”
“Look what they did for Nashville for instance,” he said. “There was TV spots that I did some, just to draw the attention to it. You can’t just go out there like, ‘Okay, this week, we’re in Texas, providing a phenomenal event.’ But up until the day before at the hotel where I was staying (at Texas earlier this year), nobody even knew there was going to be an IndyCar race. It’s all about it promotion, promotion, promotion, and everybody has to contribute to that.
“The series has to have, in my opinion, more of a professional PR group, more of like in the CART days when they brought in some ad agencies that promoted the series. Somewhere along the line, I think that’s where you have to start arming yourself with that kind of talent. More than just a local group, it’s got to be somebody that has more national involvement and promote these events properly.”
“That’s the problem, it’s all driven by that,” Andretti said. “(They’re) cutting corners here and there and slicing. Even from the series standpoint, I think they’re a little bit skinny in their area. It’s a touchy subject, but that’s what needs to be addressed, in my opinion. It’s all about dimension.
“Look what NASCAR has got. That’s how they got so popular, that’s where they went, what they reinforced, their PR, their capacity the way it should be.
“I mean, when IndyCar had all these problems back in the ‘90s (the split between CART and the Indy Racing League), NASCAR just stepped it up and became the 900-pound gorilla. Why? How? By just exploding in their PR area. The schedule didn’t change much at all. That’s what we need to do.
“It just needs some more reason to talk about the series, because it’s got the product, it’s got the talent, it’s got the teams. We’ve got, what, 26-28 starters in these races? The series is solid, and the rest of the world needs to know about it.”
“Money makes money,” Andretti said. “You’ve got to spend money to make money, you can’t just keep retreating. If you keep retreating, all you do is go into a hole even more. You have to invest to be able to derive the results.”