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F1 2023

Michael Andretti's 30 years of unfinished F1 business

Michael Andretti wants another crack at Formula 1, this time as an owner, as his previous spell as a driver ended early 30 years ago.

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To news overview © XPBimages

It is 1993. The CART champion of just two years prior is moving across to Formula 1, racing for one of the biggest teams in their most successful ever era of Grand Prix racing.

To boot, he's bringing with him a surname famous throughout the 50 states of the union.

What should have turned out a dream for Michael Andretti and McLaren rather quickly soured into a nightmare as he would leave Grand Prix racing before the season was out, replaced by Mika Hakkinen.

30 years after his unsuccessful 13-race spell in F1, Andretti is back and he means business.

The crack racing squad - Andretti Autosport, founded with father Mario - are set to launch an entry bid to join as an 11th team in F1 with the backing of General Motors and their Cadillac brand.

Andretti says he is very confident that a deal will be agreed to see Andretti accepted. If it is, he will be hoping it goes a lot better than his F1 driving career.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

Michael Andretti the driver

As a driver back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Andretti was capable of holding his own against the best CART (now IndyCar) had to offer, including the likes of Emerson Fittipaldi, Rick Mears and Al Unser Jr.

His eight wins, including four of the last six races, was enough to secure the title in 1991, including beating Mario in a one-two finish in Toronto - one of four father/son podiums throughout the year.

After some tests with McLaren, it was announced before the end of the 1992 season that he was off to Europe to join the team for '93, partnering Ayrton Senna.

However, before Andretti even joined the team, McLaren's fortunes were about to enter a downward spiral.

Engine partner Honda announced it was off for 1993, leaving boss Ron Dennis looking for alternative power, being rebuffed by Renault - who powered the Woking squad's big rivals, Williams.

Frank Williams' squad had pulled ahead of McLaren in the tech explosion of the early 1990s, with the 1992 FW14B proving nearly unstoppable in Nigel Mansell's hands, and so understandably the prospect of supplying Senna and co was not appealing.

In the end, Dennis managed to get a Ford customer supply, but crucially a step behind the units being used by Benetton - something Senna was not amused by, especially as great rival Prost was returning for 1993 with Williams.

So, with an engine down on power, a car just lacking compared to the best, and a moody Brazilian threatening to go AWOL, Andretti embarked on his maiden, and only season in F1.

Challenging start

Andretti would suffer more than his fair share of bad luck during his 13 Grands Prix and the fact he did not base himself in Europe, preferring to commute from America, did not help perceptions.

He later defended his lengthy travel arrangements in a 2018 interview with McLaren.

"People loved to say that, and I think Ron liked to use that as an excuse," he said of the travelling from America.

"I spent one or two months in the heat of it over there. I could be there [Woking] in six hours because of Concorde, and I never let myself get off the time, I always stayed on European time when I was in the US.

"I could get to Woking almost as quickly as Senna could, living in Monaco!"

Nevertheless, whilst he qualified ninth on debut in South Africa, he was 3.002s slower than Senna who was P2.

This began a disastrous start to the season with four straight retirements, including a big crash after gearbox problems on the opening lap in Brazil and another first lap DNF at Donnington Park - the scene of Senna's iconic opening tour.

A breakthrough would come in Spain with his first points courtesy of a fifth-place finish, but rumours about Hakkinen being slotted in alongside Senna were already started to swirl.

Further points came in France, but a run of three DNFs all but ended his career, with Mario getting in Dennis's ear to ensure Michael could drive in the Italian Grand Prix.

Ironically, despite a first lap spin, he claimed his best result with a third place finish before Hakkinen was promoted as Andretti headed back stateside with a plum Chip Ganassi ride for 1994.

Michael Andretti's F1 races

Grand Prix Qualifying Race
South Africa 9th DNF - crash
Brazil 5th DNF - crash
Europe (Donington) 6th DNF - crash
San Marino 6th DNF - spin
Spain 7th 5th
Monaco 16th 8th
Canada 12th 14th
France 16th 5th
Great Britain 11th DNF - spin
Germany 12th DNF - collision
Hungary 11th DNF - throttle
Belgium 14th 8th
Italy 9th 3rd

End of Andretti's F1 career

While the case seems simple on first glance: underperforming driver replaced by young gun, Andretti says that's not the case.

"Mika was never quicker than me ever in a test. I was always quick, I was always right there with Ayrton in testing, and it’s not like Ayrton was running slow," he said in the McLaren interview.

"I knew I was capable of being on the podium in a lot of the races. In many of them stupid things were happening that were unexplainable, so it was very frustrating, really disappointing, but that’s life.

"Nobody was going to touch me with a 10-foot pole, there was no way! Honestly, I was over it. I loved IndyCar racing, and I just went that way."

Returning stateside, Andretti won his first race back in CART in 1994, claiming a further 15 wins across the next eight years, claiming second in the '96 standings, although he never did break the 'curse' in the Indy 500.

As a team owner, Andretti has harboured ambitions of joining F1, most likely bringing Colton Herta over with him to spearhead the attack.

It's tantalising prospect for the man whose first dalliance with the series promised so much but ultimately underdelivered. Should he be successful in his entry bid, history hopefully will not repeat itself.

Also interesting:

Video: How expensive is champagne in F1?

Although champagne has not been exclusively used on the podium, with F1 recently moving back to using sparkling wine, it forms a key part of post-race celebrations.

But what are the origins of this world-famous tradition? And with so many litres of this luxury drink sprayed throughout the season, how much money does such a champagne shower actually cost?

Check out our handy explainer video below.

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