Mario Andretti says that there’s “something wrong” if “that Russian kid” Nikita Mazepin has a superlicence to compete in F1 and his “Formula 1 quality” IndyCar driver Colton Herta cannot get one.
Haas driver Mazepin has had two difficult opening races in his Formula 1 career, spinning regularly throughout the weekends in Bahrain and Imola, although the Russian has defiantly said he is here to stay in the F1 paddock.
Meanwhile, 1978 World Champion Andretti is “pushing like hell” for 21-year-old Herta, who drives for Andretti Autosport, to gain a competitive seat in Formula 1, following an impressive drive to win Sunday’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida, which is Herta’s fourth IndyCar victory.
Now that Miami has been confirmed as a new host venue for F1 from 2022, Andretti believes that if an American driver like Herta can get on the grid and compete at the front in the sport, America would “go crazy” for Formula 1.
“Quite honestly, I think F1’s fanbase in America is somewhat understated, but it needs to be perked up – and the only thing it’s really missing is an American driver,” Andretti said to Motorsport.com.
“I’m pushing like hell for Colton. You’ve got to remember, Colton went to race in England when he was 15 years old, all by himself. That’s always been his objective [to get to F1] but he’s very quiet and unassuming, he’s not pushy, but I see a quality there – a Formula 1 quality.
“That’s from the word go – he’s a great qualifier, and that’s really important, from what I’ve seen the races he won at COTA and Laguna Seca, both races were won by raw speed. Not strategy, not fuel mileage, and he’s winning against the best IndyCar has to offer – Scott Dixon and Will Power – they were on him from the start, and he didn’t put a wheel wrong, all the pitstops were perfect.
“I’m really a fan of Colton, I’m in his pit during the races, and he’s just very calm and collected. I love that. He adapts to everything, that’s a big key to everything. You hear people complaining – ‘it’s too slippery, it’s too windy’ – he just gets on with it, it’s the same for everybody, just find a freakin’ way to do it! And that’s what he does every time. I like that.
“We’d need the American driver with a top team, not in the back with no chance. If you could get an American driver in F1, producing results, you’d have America going crazy for F1.
“Mercedes sells a lot of cars here, it’s a huge market, imagine what they could do with him? It would juice up the TV ratings too. But it has to happen within a year or so, or they’ll consider him to be too old.
“He’s 21, so it’s a great time, and I realise the lack of testing and licence restrictions. But, I mean, that Russian kid [Mazepin] gets a superlicence, and the guy who’s at the very top level over here can’t get one? There’s something wrong there!”