Mario Andretti issues ‘don’t overdo it’ warning amid major F1 expansion plans

Oliver Harden
A portrait shot of Mario Andretti after testing a McLaren F1 car at the 2022 United States Grand Prix

Who says it's too late for a comeback? Mario Andretti drove a McLaren F1 car at the 2022 United States Grand Prix

Mario Andretti, the 1978 World Champion, has warned F1 to avoid “overdoing it” in its efforts to grow a loyal fanbase in the USA.

F1 has made a concerted effort to appeal to an American audience since Liberty Media’s takeover in 2017 with such innovations as Drive to Survive, the widely acclaimed Netflix docuseries, geared towards gaining new fans.

Mario Andretti wary of F1 expansion plans

The sport held three races across the United States for the first time in 2023 as Las Vegas joined Austin and Miami on the calendar, with Williams driver Logan Sargeant becoming the first American to race in F1 on a permanent basis since Scott Speed in 2007.

F1 risked alienating large sections of its US fanbase in January by formally rejecting Andretti’s entry application, which had already gained the approval of governing body the FIA.

Andretti appear unmoved by the rejection and this week opened a new facility at Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix, as the team’s plans proceed uninterrupted. recommends

Follow’s WhatsApp channel for all the F1 breaking news!

F1 2024: Where to buy, how to watch, cheapest ticket prices and best package deals

Amid suggestions that F1 could add a fourth race in Chicago after lodging trademarks on variations of the ‘Chicago Grand Prix’ name in January, Andretti has warned the sport against trying too hard to please the US fanbase.

He told Sports Illustrated: “Personally, I think you have to be a bit careful not to overstay.

“I think there has to be something that you really look forward to. Sometimes if you have too much of a good thing, you don’t appreciate it as much. That’s my opinion.

“I can take it any way they’d like, but I think three Formula 1 races where, 75 years ago, we were hoping for at least two, but now we have three. They’re three very popular races. We’ve seen that with the attendance and so forth. Let’s not try to overdo it.

“I think even from the standpoint of the teams. The season is to be able to move from continent to continent.

“I think you have to be realistic somewhere. It’s one thing about wanting to grow but somewhere along the line, you want to make sure that you don’t overdo it.

“I think you have to be very careful not to overdo certain things because of the logistics of it. Not just the drivers.

“At the time [of my career], going on the Concorde, in three hours and 20 minutes I could cross the continents. Nowadays the travel is a little different, but it’s just the logistics of moving the teams.

“That’s where the issue is. The drivers can get there. It’s not the drivers.

“As a matter of fact, as a driver, the way I thought was the more races, the better. I never said let’s not have any more races.

“It’s the teams that are the important part and the lives of team members, the mechanics, everyone that has to be there, not just the race weekend, but throughout the preparation and everything.

“Those are the logistics that need to be paid attention to.”

Andretti’s final F1 appearance came at the unloved Caesars Palace circuit in Vegas in 1982, with F1 returning to Nevada after more than 40 years in 2023.

The 84-year-old has admitted to being “mesmerised” by the show F1 put on in Vegas last November, with the street circuit complementing the other current F1 venues in Texas and Florida.

He said: “There’s no comparison to that race in Caesars Palace.

“It was the preparation and the effort that went into the infrastructure and so forth. What was done in Las Vegas was purely spectacular, so no comparison here.

“It’s awesome that you have three totally different venues far away from one another, but it doesn’t matter.

“They create the interest that you were hoping for because all three of the venues, they had tremendous attendance and so you want to keep cultivating that.

“It was presented properly, beautifully, and the one that was probably the most delicate was Las Vegas, because you’re intruding in the centre of the city as popular as that is.

“It turned out to be just spectacular and viewing that, I was mesmerised, quite honestly.

“So let’s keep cultivating that side of it. It’s in a good place right now.

“I think Formula 1 is enjoying [one of the] greatest moments ever as far as popularity in the United States so let’s keep the bubble going.”

Read next: How will the Andretti F1 saga end? Six possible scenarios await the one true US team