By the 1980s, Andretti has become established as a true legend. He regularly accompanied his son Michael, who in 1993 arrived in Formula 1 as Ayrton Senna’s team mate at McLaren. At the same time, Mario was still competing himself, which helped the Italo-American even more to hand out precious pearls of wisdom. “If you’re going flat out and you feel it’s all under control, that means you’re not going fast enough,” he famously quipped in an interview.
Legends only tend to grow, of course. But when they imprint themselves indelibly on even the most rational minds of motorsport’s top designers, that’s another thing entirely. One day, Mario was testing a Reynard in the United States. Its designer and technical director was none other than Adrian Newey, who later became technical guru for Williams, McLaren and Red Bull, sweeping up countless race wins and championships.
“I was on the pit lane and watching Mario closely, who had just got going again after a long break,” remembered Newey. “As he was leaving the pits, I saw from a distance that his rear wing appeared to be moving: it wasn’t properly attached. I feared the worst. There was no radio so it was impossible to get a message to him. I was listening intently from the pit lane: the engine was at maximum revs, then, suddenly, silence. I found a car and a couple of mechanics and headed out onto the track, not sure what I was going to find. When we got to the scene of the accident, there were bits scattered everywhere. The car was half-wrecked and Mario was standing next to it, intently staring at his wrist. I asked him what the matter was and he said: “Goddam! My watch has stopped...”.
He may have cheated the reaper once more, but Mario was more concerned with his non-functioning timepiece…