Michael Andretti reveals he had a Ferrari contract for 1992

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Michael Andretti revealed he nearly emulated his world championship-winning father Mario by racing for Ferrari in Formula 1.

The younger Andretti made an unsuccessful move into Formula 1 with McLaren in 1993. He suffered a series of crashes and left the team before the end of the season, after taking his first podium finish at Monza.

However speaking to the Marshall Pruett podcast Andretti revealed he had a deal in place to drive for Ferrari the year before. He was on his way to the 1991 CART IndyCar title and had just signed a new contract with Newman/Haas team principal Carl Haas.

“I had just signed a contract with him for ’92,” said Andretti. “But there was a there was a clause in there about Formula 1, that he said that he would never enforce that if I went to go Formula 1 he would never stop me.

“So in ’91, I happened to sign a contract – this is something that not too many people know – I signed a contract with Ferrari to drive for them in ’92.”

Michael Andretti, McLaren, Monza, 1993
Andretti left F1 after sole podium at Monza in 1993
However Haas refused to release him and Andretti did not join Ferrari. “When I brought it back to Carl, he said, ‘I’m not going to let you do it’. I’m like ‘well you said you would’. So I was really, really mad at him.

“The next race was Elkhart Lake and we were staying at the same hotel and we were heading out race morning and I wasn’t even talking to him. And he’s in the car in front of me and we get in the car and here his coat arm sleeve was sticking out the side of the door.

“So the whole way to the airport you see this thing flapping in the wind and I was like God I want to be so mad at him but I just couldn’t stay mad at him. That type of guy.”

Andretti said his team mate was going to be Alain Prost, who was fired by Ferrari ahead of the final race of 1991.

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Ivan Capelli, Ferrari, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, 1992
Andretti would have driven the F92
“I think it was a three-year deal that I signed,” he said. “They knew that it was going to take some time for me to get going.

“Prost was going to be my team mate and so I felt like I was going to be able to learn a lot there. I thought it was a great opportunity, to drive for Ferrari right out of IndyCars would have been awesome. It’s something that was really disappointing. It would have been cool even though that year wasn’t very strong [for Ferrari].

“Hopefully if I could have run with Prost which at that time you were able to do unlimited testing I would’ve been able to be a lot more prepared. And I think it would have been less political with me going to do that than it was when I joined McLaren. So I think it would have been interesting exercise, but unfortunately never happened.”

While Andretti struggled at McLaren in 1993, driving for Ferrari the year before would likely have been no less challenging. The team endured a win-less season with the F192. Jean Alesi reached the podium twice, while Ivan Capelli never made it onto the rostrum and was replaced by Nicola Larini before the season ended.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “Michael Andretti reveals he had a Ferrari contract for 1992”

  1. Michael dodged a bullet there…

    1. +1 he dogded a massive bullet of that toxic enviornment.

      1. more like traded a bullet for a canon ball. I agree with him, on paper sounds like it could have worked out, more feasible than joining Senna.

  2. Interesting tidbit, and I agree with the last paragraph: the McLaren of 1993 was at least a race-winner, the 1992 Ferrari was an interesting concept executed horribly, so I can’t Andretti doing much better in that machinery.

    Also, interesting to speculate if Andretti’s year with Ferrari had gone as badly as it did with McLaren in 1993 (and he had left F1 mid-season or after the season), would that mean that Häkkinen would have had McLaren race drive for the entire 1993 season? Or would McLaren have hired someone else, with Häkkinen being again relegated back to testing role after Senna decided to drive for the team after all?

    1. @kaiie his comment that “if I could have run with Prost which at that time you were able to do unlimited testing” is a bit odd though, as one of the criticisms levelled against Michael was that he was spending time living in the United States and had a tendency to rely on Hakkinen to undertake development testing for McLaren on his behalf.

      In fact, that was one point that Hakkinen picked up on in later years, noting that the team was frustrated by the fact that Michael often wasn’t on hand to help with development of the car and did a fairly poor job of trying to integrate himself into the team.

      If Michael adopted a similar approach of living in the USA and tried to have the same sort of remote relationship with Ferrari that he did with McLaren, I suspect that his relationship with Ferrari would have hit similar problems to that he hit at McLaren.

      1. Jose Lopes da Silva
        23rd June 2020, 10:56

        “one of the criticisms levelled against Michael was that he was spending time living in the United States”
        This. The first thing that hit me when I read that.
        I would say that not being close to Italy would have made Andretti’s relationship with the team even worse than it was with McLaren.

  3. FormulaOne May have lost a chapter in its history by NOT teaming young Michael with Prost. A significantly better teacher and leader who would have developed this Andretti name into his potential at that time.
    Instead he partnered with the False God from Brazil. That decision pretty much ruined any future he had. What driver would ever want the Prima Donna for a team mate ?? Those who did saw there careers grind to a halt. Name one driver who paired with him that ever had any season long success while doing so.?? Are there any?

    1. Ahh yes, it was Ayrton’s fault that Michael didn’t succeed, just like it was Ayrton’s fault none of his team-mates were as good as him.

      1. Tommy Scragend
        22nd June 2020, 15:22

        Yep. The fact that Andretti struggled to keep the thing on the circuit for more than a lap wasn’t a factor in him being fired by McLaren at all.

        Ferrari dodged the bullet just as much as Andretti did.

    2. Name one driver who paired with him that ever had any season long success while doing so.?? Are there any?

      … Prost himself?

      1. In their 3 races together after Andretti got the boot in 1993 Hakkinen’s average grid position was 3.67 were as Senna’s was 3.75. I know 3 races isn’t much but Mika came into the team and not only did better than an Andretti he was better than Senna. I’m not sure Senna is a ‘False God from Brazil’, but he was just a bit good at driving cars, also Mika went on to be not so bad himself.

      2. @hollidog as you note, Prost beat Senna to the championship in 1989 and also performed quite strongly against him in 1988. You could also add Gerhard Berger to the list as well, as he still enjoyed success at McLaren whilst paired with Senna (taking three wins and fourteen other podium finishes, and finishing the 1992 season only a point behind Senna by the end of the season).

    3. Ambrogio Isgro
      22nd June 2020, 22:58

      Ask to Arnoux or Mansell how much love them shared with Prost. Andretti was smashed by Senna and didnt worked too much to rest inside the team. Prost against Andretti? Same story, the french would have smashed him.
      Simply Andretti was not ready to do everything ti compete at the level required in F1 and his talent was not in the same league of Senna, Prost, Hakkinen or Schumacher.

      1. To be fair, wasn’t most of Arnoux’s grudge against Prost mainly down to Renault using team orders that Arnoux objected to, and not specifically Prost himself?

  4. I agree that I can’t see it having been any better for Michael being in that 92′ Ferrari. I’m guessing he’d have been with Alesi, and well fighting for 8th and eventually being chucked on the scrap heap after a year or two.

  5. And I think it would have been less political with me going to do that than it was when I joined McLaren.

    Less political at Ferrari? Did he mean an easier, lighter atmosphere??? Less pressure? Freedom to speak out?
    If yes, he doesn’t (or didn’t) understand the F1 universe. Maybe that’s why he could not stay.

    1. Haha, yeah a lot about this story doesn’t quite add up. I’m not saying he didn’t have the contract, though it seems a little far fetched, but his sense of confidence that he would have done well against prost is kind of hard to swallow. I think alesi would have destroyed him.

  6. Andretti was racing with the Saubers when he wasn’t binning his car and would’ve done worse than Capelli at Ferrari.

  7. Gobsmacked! I can’t think of any other word.

    Agree with others; a bullet very much dodged.

  8. Cam L Spyyder
    22nd June 2020, 22:41

    Andretti in the 92 Ferrari bus. That would have been incredibly bad.
    He achieved nothing in the hugely capable, multi race-winning 93 Mclaren, so to see him tugging that heap of a Ferrari around at the back would have been awful.
    The only question is would he have been fired faster than poor Capelli was.

  9. Jose Lopes da Silva
    23rd June 2020, 11:09

    Prost, the guy who insisted to talk in Italian at Ferrari’s meetings with him and Mansell so that Mansell wouldn’t understand. Prost would be a nice “Professor” to Michael Andretti, yeah, just like he was to Arnoux, Cheever and so many others.

    Formula 1 has this interesting characteristic: sometimes it seems the fans are watching different sports with different philosophies. For many many years, the main rival of a driver it’s his team mate. The “object of the exercise” is mainly to beat your team mate. Prost and Senna were both superb at this, having beaten all their team mates and each one of them being the only one able to beat the other (except for that 0,5 point of Lauda). I don’t see anything in Andretti’s career saying with would be any different if he partnered Prost.

    At least he can say he was beaten by Senna. Being beaten by Alesi would have been worst for the reputation.

    And by the way, few people remember that Prost did not have a bad season in 1991. He was clearly Ferrari’s team leader throughout that season. Ferrari “had” to stick with their 1991 number 2 driver for the next four seasons, who was hardly able to beat Senna’s McLaren sidekick. But somehow we ended up saying he was a rising star and Prost had a decaying season in 1991…

  10. I read this off Racer.com last week.

    I think Jean Alesi might have had something to say about it considering Frank Williams has/had a Ferrari F1 car as compensation to let Jean out of his 1991 contract. Ferrari were certainly dithering in 1990. My then favourite, Alessandro Nannini was reportedly close until his accident.

    Michael may have had a contract offer; it doesn’t mean he was going to drive. Let’s not get too excited about something that could maybe have happened nearly 30 years ago.

  11. Prost was going to be my team mate and so I felt like I was going to be able to learn a lot there.

    Michael seems to be overlooking the fact that Prost and Ferrari fell out and parted ways at the end of ’91, so he would never have had the chance to be Prost’s team-mate as things transpired. The intriguing question, though, is when would Ferrari have announced Michael’s signing if Carl Haas hadn’t blocked it? If they’d done it before the falling-out with Prost, it would have meant they’d have had to let Alesi go, which would thus have been quite a significant “what if” of F1 alternative history. Would Jean have ended up going to Williams after all, a season after he’d turned Grove down for Maranello? (That would have perhaps depended on Patrese’s contractual status at Williams at the end of ’91… I can’t remember now). If Ferrari were planning to announce Andretti after the end of the ’91 season, then Alesi would presumably have ended up as his team-mate in blissful ignorance of the fact he’d nearly got the push, but if he’d already been told arrividerci it’s difficult to see how Ferrari could have turned round to him and said “oh wait a minute when things went pear-shaped with Prost… and that’s assuming Alesi would have been prepared to stay in those circumstances anyway and/or hadn’t already signed for another team.

  12. I have a little insight about some of the things that went on that year Michael drove. I worked in the N/H Office. Yes, Michael should have been there from the first moment of testing and briefings. What’s little known it was not his choice to to not relocate to Europe, it was an over domineering wife.( who was divorced not long after) it was well-known the 93 McLaren what’s not the car like the all singing and dancing Williams was, which was the goal of that car. In fact from the third race on Senna had started setting the car up to its most nominal setting. Going from an Indy car, two in F1 car that shifted it active suspension, traction control ABS Etc, which is exceptionally foreign to any driver not used to them. And because of lack of time in the car, Michael had far less time to familiarize himself with it, and not to mention it was pretty much a passive suspended car after the first few races. Would Michael have done better, or worse? Who knows but I think this owes a little bit to the story

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