Marco Andretti (Meet the rookies)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Marco Andretti, IRL, Kentucky, 2007 | Dana GarrettWith a surname like Andretti, how can he fail? This kid’s got to end up in F1 sooner or later.

Whether he’ll sink like father Michael, or swim to the title like grandfather Mario, is the big, big question.

It’s big, because it could also be the key to unlocking F1 popularity in the States.

After Mario’s family emigrated to Nazareth, Pennsylvania, the family stayed there and that’s where Marco was born in March 1987 – six year before Michel’s ill-fated F1 debut with McLaren.

F1 fans invariably bring up Michael Andretti’s F1 career when looking for an example of an American racer who failed in F1. That rather oversimplifies things, as Michael could have made a better fist of his F1 career had he been more realistic about it and chose to base himself closer to McLaren, rather than stay in the States.

And of course it ignores the record of Mario, an extremely versatile and accomplished racer who won a hell of a lot more than just the 1978 world championship.

Marco began his career in the Barber Formula Dodge Eastern Championship in 2003, winning eight times. He was Barber National and Southern champion the following year.

In 2005 he raced in the Star Mazda championship and Indy Pro Series. He was fifth in Star Mazda but it was the six races in junior Indy Car category where he made his mark – winning three times and setting three pole positions.

With that he moved up to the Indy Car Series in 2006 with his father’s team, Andretti-Green, aged 19. He came within a lap of winning the Indianapolis 500, finishing second behind Sam Hornish Jnr. He won at Sears Point and ended the season seventh in the championship, beating team mates Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta, and being named rookie of the year.

He tested for the Honda F1 team in December and again in February but stayed in Indy Cars – which, of course, is supplied exclusively by Honda. However 2007 has not been kind to him. He suffered major crashes at Indianapolis and Mid Ohio, and is yet to repeat the win he scored in his maiden season.

The young Andretti could be the driver that switches on a generation of Americans to F1. But a season of GP2 on the F1 tracks might give him a better preparation for the top flight than the Indy Racing League.

Photo: Dana Garrett

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