McLaren has begun a series — compiled by AutoSport’s Alan Henry — profiling the 50 greatest drivers to pilot the team’s cars over the years. Appropriately, Michael Andretti is #49.
It seemed as though Michael Andretti had all the credentials to lay claim to a significant F1 career, but this son of the 1978 world champion Mario Andretti saw his world championship hopes thwarted by the unfortunate timing of his move into the sport’s most senior category. For 1993 McLaren signed up Michael to partner Ayrton Senna in the Cosworth V8-engined MP4/8s and, when the deal was announced at Monza over the weekend of the 1992 Italian GP, most observers nodded approvingly. Only when things went wrong did the critics emerge with that priceless of all commodities, hindsight.
1993 was the season in which the American tried to master a difficult McLaren — stripped of electronic “driver’s aids” by FIA rule changes and mated to an underpowered Cosworth engine — without testing and while commuting on the Concorde, crashed in his first four outings, and was sent limping home after a single podium finish. The sad tale of Michael’s Formula 1 fiasco is summarized in the grim statistics. He ended his career with just 7 points and one podium finish (3rd at Monza, his last race) in 13 starts.