When we opened the gate for RACER.com readers to send questions to be answered by Michael Andretti, we assumed that we’d probably get a decent response. What we didn’t expect was that the final document containing all of your questions would run to 21 pages.
But then when you look at his extraordinary driving career, the huge success he’s achieved as a team owner, and the many other activities he’s been involved in over the years, there’s clearly a lot of ground to cover.
It also goes without saying that when you wake up in the morning and a five-car IndyCar team (with an occasional sixth for James Hinchcliffe) is only a slice of what you have to think about on any given workday, you have a lot of things competing for your attention, and we’re grateful to Michael for finding time to answer reader questions.
Due to the volume of submissions and the amount of other stuff that Andretti has on his plate, we’re going to publish the answers in installments, so look out for the next part of this Guest Mailbag soon. We also received a lot of questions that were very similar (1993, anyone?) and needed to trim out some repetitions, so if your question doesn’t appear, it’s very likely because somebody else asked the same thing.
And now, over to 1991 CART champion, 42-time CART race-winner (and still only ‘semi-retired’, according to Wikipedia), five-time Indy 500-winning and four-time IndyCar championship-winning team owner, and general man-of-many-race-programs Michael Andretti.
Q: Will we ever see you field a full-time or even a part-time IMSA or WEC sportscar program? And will we ever see you behind the wheel of a race car again? Please?
Frank from Rochester, NY
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I’d really like to get the team back into sportscar racing. If an opportunity comes along that is a good fit, it’s something we would, for sure, explore. As for me back in a race car, I don’t think you’ll see that anytime soon. I’m pretty happily retired from driving.
Q: Michael, I have really enjoyed watching your team evolve and grow over the past 15 years. Since you expanded into other series, do you anticipate an Andretti Autosport IMSA team in the near future, especially with the chance of racing at Le Mans?
Finally, you and Zak Brown seem to have a great connection and make a great combination. I foresee some potential partnerships with him in the future. What are your thoughts?
Rod, West Chester, OH
MA: I’d love to field an IMSA team again. It’s something that is on our radar and we are just looking for the right timing and opportunity. It’s exciting that the FIA has adopted the rules of DPi, so it opens up an opportunity. It’d be great to see an Andretti Autosport car at Le Mans!
Zak has been a great friend and is already a partner in our Walkinshaw Andretti United team. I think you can anticipate seeing some of those partnerships grow to other areas.
Q: Do you envision your team returning to top-line sportscar racing in IMSA, as you had with Andretti Green in the ALMS and the Acura P2 protoype? Any thoughts of a Marco/Jarrett pairing?
Terry Johnsen, Germantown, MD
MA: Sportscar racing for Andretti Autosport seems to be a hot topic! Glad to see there’s a fan appetite there because it’s something we would love to do when the time is right. Marco has always been strong in sports cars and Jarett is really coming on in the GT4 program. It would be cool to see two Andrettis co-driving.
Q: Big ‘if’ here — if Formula 1 ever came in line with costs similar to IndyCar or even twice as much as IndyCar, would you have a team?
Best regards, Mark Ferrara
MA: I never say never. Always looking for opportunities.
Q: I’ve been following your career since 1992, and I drove 300+ miles from SoCal to Laguna Seca in 1992 specifically to watch you race in person before you left for Formula 1 with McLaren in 1993. It was awesome to see you take pole and win in the first CART/IndyCar race I ever attended!
My question is, Andretti Autosport currently has teams in IndyCar, Formula E, Supercars, etc. Have you ever contemplated having a Formula 1 team? Now that F1 has lowered its budget cap, the technical regulations change 2021 (2022), and the potential for customer cars? Maybe as a partner team with McLaren (now that Zak Brown is involved). Much like the Red Bull/AlphaTauri relationship.
Thanks, Al Palacio
MA: First, thanks for being a fan and making that drive in ’92! Formula 1 is still a great interest for us. But, as with any racing program, it has to make sense. The timing and opportunity needs to be right. It’s something we will keep an eye on.
Q: This might be a touchy question, but here it goes: What happened with McLaren in ’93 to make things go so sideways? I’ve heard bits and pieces through the years, but nothing concrete. Thanks for helping make IndyCar as great as it is!
Dallas from Gilbert, AZ
MA: Let’s just say that was a program destined to fail.
Q: You speak very little of your time in F1 driving for McLaren, but when you do you seem very discouraged. If I read between the lines, I get the sense that you feel you were sabotaged. If that’s the case, could you speak more to what you believed was going on? This was at the height of IndyCar really beginning to threaten F1’s market share, and here comes IndyCar’s biggest star to their stage. Was this a matter of the team not wanting you to succeed over Senna, or was this about Bernie trying to prove an IndyCar star was not as good as their drivers proving F1 to be the better of the two formats?
Or was it simply a case of them having three drivers (you, Senna, and Mika) and you quickly became the odd man out? I would love to hear you elaborate more about what was going on. I’m fascinated by that point in your career. I know you feel it wasn’t a highlight, but you should be proud about your adventure there. You were signed by one of the biggest teams, as one of America’s biggest stars, to partner one of the greatest drivers of all time whom you proved to be on pace with, and against all odds finished third in Monza in spite of having little support. That is something I think you should wear as a badge of honor!
And to prove my point you came back and won at Surfers first race back, with basically a start-up team and beat their biggest star Mansell, who ironically was driving for your old team! What does that say about everything? You are a legend, Michael.
MA: Thanks, Gonzo. Very interesting observation. Not sure I care to comment as it would probably come across sounding like sour grapes. But just know, as I’ve said, it was a program destined to fail.