Mario Andretti: “Formula One should loosen up a bit”


Formula One comes to Texas on the heels of distressing news involving Caterham and Marussia, who have both had to withdraw from Sunday’s United States Grand Prix.

Those decisions have reduced the USGP grid to 18 cars and have put something of a dark cloud over the sport as it heads for one of its most critical markets.

However, one of its former World Champions, Mario Andretti, has some advice for F1.

“Formula One should loosen up a bit,” he told the UK’s Guardian newspaper. “I think they’ve gone slightly overboard with the technical side of the engine. And we saw in [the Russian Grand Prix], teams backing off for fuel reasons just to make it to the end.

Andretti’s also keen on helping build interest by having teams field third cars for “a special event.”

“For the US Grand Prix, say, Mercedes could invite a third car, having groomed some well-known American driver in testing, to take part as a guest competitor,” he said. “Can you imagine what that would do for the promotion of the event? Every newspaper in the country would write about it.”

“There are ways of using a little bit of creativity to enhance and increase the interest. It’s all there for the taking. It’s just a question of looking at some of the stranger rules they have in F1. Some people might laugh at that, but what I’m saying is very valid. And as time goes by they may have to look at things like this. F1 should explore every angle.”

Andretti, who serves as an ambassador for the home of the USGP, Circuit of the Americas, isn’t the only COTA-connected figure sounding off on what can be done to strengthen the sport’s health.

Track co-founder Bobby Epstein thinks F1 can learn lessons from America’s most popular motorsport, NASCAR, and even Hollywood in making the sport more personality-driven (“People connect with people. They don’t connect with metal,” he tells the Guardian.).

And track president Jason Dial is pushing an emphasis on social media engagement with the fan base to make the sport younger and, in his words, “grow the pie.”

“I’d like to see F1 taken off the track and be more about engagement,” he adds. “There is real upside in the brand really growing, in terms of accessibility and digital social engagement. I think these type of things could really move the needle.”

Obviously, F1’s American contingent is being free with their guidance. But it remains to be seen if the sport’s power players will listen.

Watch the United States Grand Prix from Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas – this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on your local NBC station.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”