Mario Andretti plans to ‘persuade’ Max Verstappen to make huge career switch

Mario Andretti and Max Verstappen at the Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, May 2023. Credit: Alamy
Mario Andretti and Max Verstappen at the Monaco Grand Prix. Monte Carlo, May 2023. Credit: Alamy

1978 F1 World Champion Mario Andretti says he’ll be having a chat with Max Verstappen to try bringing him to the United States.

The 2023 Indy 500 took place in the hours after the Monaco Grand Prix, where Josef Newgarden claimed victory over former F1 driver Marcus Ericsson after a thrilling final-lap duel.

The eyes of the motorsport world were on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after an exciting and chaotic Monaco Grand Prix, which was won by Max Verstappen – Dutch compatriot Rinus Veekay also had a brief spell at the front during the 500-mile oval race.

Mario Andretti, the 1978 F1 World Champion and 1969 winner of the Indy 500, was on the ground at Indianapolis and spoke with Dutch broadcaster Ziggo Sport about how he intends on convincing Verstappen to make a big career change once he’s claimed his place in the history books in Formula 1.

“Motor racing is a big happy family if you will, all the different disciplines,” he said.

“But for me, I was interested and curious about riding it all, as you can see. I had the passion for all the top disciplines in our sport. And I’ve friends everywhere.

“So one of these days, I’m going to speak with Max Verstappen after he wins eight world championships to come here and win the Indy 500!”

Put to him that Verstappen has already said he has no particular interest in taking part in the Indy 500, and that the idea of motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ doesn’t appeal to him much, Andretti smiled.

“I will persuade him,” he said, mysteriously.

Why has Max Verstappen ruled out a Triple Crown attempt?

The Triple Crown of motorsport refers to three races across three disciplines – Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix, sportscar’s Le Mans 24 Hours, and IndyCar’s Indy 500.

The only driver to achieve the Triple Crown was Graham Hill, although several drivers have racked up two of the three. Juan Pablo Montoya has won the Indy 500 (twice) and the Monaco GP, but Le Mans evades him – although he has won the race in the LMP2 class.

Fernando Alonso has won Le Mans (twice!), as well as the Monaco Grand Prix, but the Indy 500 remains out of reach despite his two attempts at the race with McLaren.

Verstappen has won at Monaco (twice!) but, with the Indy 500 taking place on the same day as the race in Monte Carlo, taking part at Indianapolis would mean having to choose between events.

But Verstappen has previously ruled out any attempt at the Triple Crown, revealing he’d be interested in racing at Le Mans, but not in the Indy 500. recommends

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“I’ve no desire to chase the Triple Crown – at least, not IndyCar,” he said, in 2022.

“I appreciate what they do. It’s insane. These drivers… I have a lot of respect for what they achieve there but, for me, especially after now being in F1 for such a long time already – I don’t need to risk my life there and potentially injure myself, your legs, whatever…

“It’s just not worth it anymore, let’s say like that. I, of course, try to be good in F1 – I try to be good in whatever I do, but that desire of the Triple Crown or whatever – not interested.”

Oval racing still a fear for drivers growing up outside the US system

A fear of oval racing is a common complaint amongst drivers who have been brought up through the European/FIA system, with Romain Grosjean perhaps the best example of a recent driver to make the switch to the very different discipline.

Grosjean moved to IndyCar in 2021, following the end of his F1 career and his terrifying crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix. Dubbing himself ‘The Phoenix’ after surviving the impact and blaze that resulted in him picking up burn injuries, Grosjean set out on a part-time schedule to avoid racing on ovals.

But, signing with Andretti Autosport for 2022, Grosjean committed to racing on all track types. This included the Indy 500, where he failed to finish in both the ’22 and ’23 runnings – he crashed out of the 2023 race on Lap 149.

He revealed that it was his kids that convinced him to ‘be brave’ and go racing on the high-speed ovals.

“They asked me why I wasn’t doing the race that was turning around, around, around in 2021,” Grosjean told Jalopnik last year.

“I said, ‘Well, there’s a bit more risk involved, and I don’t want you to be in front of the TV and see bad things.'”

As his kids kept asking about why he wouldn’t compete at the ovals, Grosjean spoke to his wife Marion, with the family agreeing that it was OK for him to take on the very different challenge.

“So, I said, ‘Okay, let’s give it a go. Let’s get a big team and try to win the championship!

“Oval racing is more complicated than it looks. Races are usually very long, and I need to learn when to be patient and when to be opportunistic. It’s much more complicated than it looks on TV, where you just turn left and go flat!”

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