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

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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.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.