I sometimes wonder what the FIA are setting out to achieve with their spoilsport rules. In particular, what is gained by raising the entry fee from $100,000 to $50,000,000?
Sure a few bad apples slipped in through the net, but it’s now nigh on impossible for a privateer team to enter F1.
Of the bad apples few were worse than Andrea Moda, a team so pitiful their existence has been all but expunged from F1 history: the outfit not even meriting a mention in the 1992 season review. This is their tragic and comic story.
That anyone would want to buy the remnants of the Coloni team beggars belief. But in the winter of 1991 Italian businessman Andrea Sassetti took the plunge and bought their assets, believing that he had also bought their entry for the 1992 season.
Enrico Bertaggia and Alex Caffi were duly signed as drivers and the outfit set off for the first race of the year in Kyalami. Upon arrival, following some protracted wrangling, it became apparent that Sassetti had only acquired Coloni’s equipment but not their entry.
So after four acclimatisation laps for Caffi on the Thursday the team were packed off home.
During the gap between Kyalami and Mexico Sassetti decided to dump the old Coloni cars for a new, Nick Wurth-designed chassis. After two weeks of frenzied labour the two new cars were ready to travel to Mexico.
Bizarrely upon the cars arrival at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Sassetti withdrew the cars citing freight delays. This understandably pleased neither Bertaggia and Caffi, nor the authorities who had helped smooth the team’s passage. The drivers voiced their disapproval at being left on the sidelines and were promptly sacked for their troubles.
Moreno and McCarthy
The team (at this stage appearing to be well supported by sponsors) brought in the undisputed king of ‘tail end Charlies’ – Roberto Moreno. He was paired with British rookie Perry McCarthy (later to become Top Gear’s ‘Stig’), who could be guaranteed to give 100%.
Next up was Brazil and before the action had even begun McCarthy had his superlicence rescinded, so it was left to Moreno give Andrea Moda its first official grand prix laps. He was 15 seconds off the pre-qualifying pace and thus failed to even make it as far as qualifying.
At Spain McCarthy finally got his first outing although much to the chagrin of Sassetti. Bertaggia had returned with $1m of backing the FIA blocked his reinstatement to the team as it had already used up its quota of driver changes.
McCarthy only got 18 yards past the end of the pit lane before the car died, while Moreno managed one entire tour of the circuit before his Andrea Moda expired. It was becoming increasingly clear the team would not be upsetting the F1 hierarchy any time soon.
The first – and last – race
At Monaco the unbelievable happened, Roberto Moreno not only got the car through pre-qualifying, but onto the grid as well. Quite how this was achieved has never been explained, but it’s safe to say that the driver was considerably quicker than his car.
McCarthy on the other hand got three laps in a car with the structural integrity of an Airfix model. Moreno ran last throughout, retiring on the 11th lap when his Judd engine died, presumably of embarrassment.
From these dizzying height things went downhill quickly. Drivers and cars arrived in Canada but the engines didn’t, and a borrowed engine for Moreno landed him last in pre-qualifying, while McCarthy was a spectator once again.
In France the drivers were all that arrived after the team’s transporters got stuck in the lorry drivers blockade. Naturally, Andrea Moda were the only team to be so afflicted.
At Silverstone – McCarthy’s home race – the cars were actually present and running. Moreno got a crack on slick tyres but was hopelessly off the pace, as was McCarthy who was (for financial reasons) sent out onto the dry track with wet tyres. Neither car made it past Friday morning.
The German round saw both cars sent out on slicks, but McCarthy was excluded after missing a weight check, and the car was too slow to give Moreno a chance.
Hungary saw at least some optimism permeate the team. For reasons never understood the team had picked up a couple of sponsors, and with Brabham being reduced to a one-car effort, at least one Andrea Moda was guaranteed to make it through pre-qualifying.
In a weird pre-cursor to what went on with Lewis Hamilton’s car this year, McCarthy was only released from the pits with 45 seconds of the pre-qualifying to go, so he never got the chance to set a flying lap. Moreno, despite pulling out all the stops, was 1.3s adrift of the grid.
After the debacle of McCarthy’s DNPQ Sassetti got an unequivocal message from the powers-that-be – run two cars or get out. But the next round at Spa-Francorchamps would be the team’s swansong.
With the Brabham team and Eric Comas’ Ligier missing both cars were straight through to qualifying.
Not that it made a blind bit of difference. McCarthy came within inches of a monumental accident after the team sent him on track with a flexing steering column. Unsurprisingly, he was a non-qualifier, as was Moreno for the un-developed Andrea Modas were massively off the pace.
Midway through the weekend the police swooped and arrested Sassetti on suspicion of fraud. That was the final straw for the FIA who booted out the team for bringing the sport into disrepute.
For McCarthy the whole episode effectively spelt the end of his single-seater career, while Moreno would re-appear for Forti Corse in 1995. They too never troubled the back of the midfield, but were still incomparably more professional than Andrea Moda.
If the outfit are ever remembered at all, it is for being unequivocally the Worst F1 Team Ever.
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