"Always have a bit of an itch to scratch" - Former world champion might return to F1 in a McLaren cockpit

Mario Andretti (left), McLaren CEO Zak Brown (center), and Emerson Fittipaldi (right) on the grid before the 2022 F1 Miami GP (Image Courtesy: @ZBrownCEO on Twitter)
Mario Andretti (left), McLaren CEO Zak Brown (center), and Emerson Fittipaldi (right) on the grid before the 2022 F1 Miami GP (Image Courtesy: @ZBrownCEO on Twitter)

McLaren CEO Zak Brown has reportedly agreed to let 1978 F1 world champion Mario Andretti drive for him later this year.

The pair were in conversation with Martin Brundle on the grid at the Miami International Autodrome when Andretti was asked about his chances of driving a modern F1 car. The American motorsport legend said:

“Of course! Always have a bit of an itch to scratch. I’ll get in it, if they allow me. It’s been on my bucket list.”

The McLaren boss, who enjoys a cordial relationship with the Andretti family, added, saying:

“I’ve always wanted Mario Andretti to drive for me. So, you know what? I think we give it a go [at the Circuit of the Americas] Austin. But we’re going to have to figure out some sort of bet, because that’s what I do with my drivers. Let’s give it a go. Austin, you’re in!”

Brown later confirmed the plan through a tweet from his official account which read:

Honoured to stand between @MarioAndretti and @emmofittipaldi on the grid in Miami. Two world champions and legends of our sport.Struck a deal with Mario to tick something off his bucket list - he'll be driving a previous @McLarenF1 race car at this year's US GP in Austin 👊

The second race weekend of the year on American soil is set to be held at the Circuit of the Americas from October 21 to 23. It remains to be seen which McLaren car will be selected for this special drive.

"They will no doubt help us grow the sport in North America" - McLaren boss Zak Brown backs Andretti F1 bid

Earlier in 2022, McLaren CEO Zak Brown backed Mario Andretti's son Michael's bid to join the F1 grid as a new constructor in 2024.

Speaking in an interview during the first pre-season shakedown in Barcelona, the McLaren man called them 'highly credible' and saw them as an avenue for F1 to increase its footprint and popularity in the USA. Brown said:

“I think Andretti as a name, as a highly credible racing team, and knowing who his backers are, and who he is, they will no doubt help us grow the sport in North America. I think the teams that may not support another team are being short-sighted. Are we trying to grow the sport? Or are we doing what racing teams have a bad tendency to do, which is think about today and not the future?”

Michael Andretti, who raced in the sport 13 times in 1993, recently confirmed that he had spoken to Liberty Media Group CEO Greg Maffei about the opportunity to join the grid. In an interview with AP, the American said:

“I talked to Greg [Maffei] and I asked him, ‘Just let it go to a bid, we’ll beat everybody.’ Not that they give it to us. Let us have a shot and we will beat anybody else that’s out there. We have great backers. Money is not the issue.”

Reports have also suggested that Andretti has a deal in principle agreed with French manufacturer Renault for F1 power units if and when they join the grid.

They, however, still face some opposition from some existing teams who have concerns regarding the financial aspect of the agreement. Most notably, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has stated that he feels Andretti needs to do more to deserve the chance to be the 11th team on the grid.

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Edited by Anurag C
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