Mario Andretti has expressed his view that Mattia Binotto's decision to give Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc equal number one status is correct. The 1978 World champion added to this point by saying that Ferrari has two drivers capable of winning the World championship.
The Italian-American who had two spells with the Maranello based outfit in the 1970s and 1980s said in a Clubhouse room just under a fortnight ago that Sainz had earned his position as equal number one after a stellar 2021 season that saw him secure four podium finishes and fifth in the drivers' championship.
Andretti believes that the decision by Binotto to let the pair go into the season as equal number one drivers is the best possible solution for the team and its fans.
"I can't hide the fact that I am a big Ferrari fan, obviously, and Ferrari is Formula 1; I don't know of a team that has as much support as Ferrari because of its exploits throughout; the life of Formula 1."
"So we're all waiting for Ferrari to be at the avant-garde. As for the drivers, they (are) clearly capable (of being) World Champions, I believe that firmly. I think we've seen the revelation of Sainz; he was designated as the number two quietly. But I think Mr Binotto decided that coming into the 2022 season, they're going to be on equal terms, I think rightfully so."
"Let's see who's in the best position towards the end of the season, and then whoever is behind can somewhat help, like Sergio Perez was with Max. So to go into the season as equal number one, I think, is the best possible situation even for the fans."
"Mr Sainz definitely earned that position (as equal number one), he's done fantastically this year, and again Leclerc, of course, has shown his abilities on the way. So Ferrari should be happy with both drivers; I wish them well, I hope that they provide the type of performance that we are looking for."
Ever since the Colorado-based media company Liberty Media purchased Formula 1 from long time owner Bernie Ecclestone in late 2016, American interest in Formula 1 has blossomed, with last year's American Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas attracting 400,000 spectators for the weekend's action.
The recent upturn in popularity, which has been enhanced by the advent of the popular Netflix programme Drive to Survive, has helped the USA secure a second date on the Formula 1 calendar, with Miami looking set to welcome the sport in early May.
However, despite the renewed interest in the sport, America still hasn't had one of their own compete in a Grand Prix since Alexander Rossi completed a five-race stint with the Manor team in 2015.
When asked about what needs to change in order to get an American driver on the Formula 1 grid, Andretti responded by saying that one of the reasons why young American drivers may not head to Formula 1 is because of the country rich racing landscape that includes IndyCar, NASCAR and IMSA.
He also stated that the perception amongst some in the Formula 1 paddock that an American driver developed in the USA couldn't get results isn't valid.
"It's been debated over the years why there aren't more Americans in Formula 1. One of the reasons is that America, unlike any other country on this planet, is rich with motor racing on its own (shores). It's not like Formula 1, but you can complete your own career and be totally satisfied by racing here in IndyCar, NASCAR and in IMSA and so forth. But there are several drivers that would ultimately love to compete in Formula 1".
"There's a perception which I think is not valid in my opinion on the part of the Formula 1 contingent, that many of the talents that are developed here would not get it done in Formula 1 and I think quite honestly in the near future that will hopefully be proven wrong."
"I think America needs representation not just with teams but drivers in Formula 1, and I am trying to encourage it as much as possible from where I stand, and I just hope it's sooner as I think it will be good for Formula 1."
One man who Andretti believes can end the US's lack of representation on the grid is Californian Colton Herta who is currently one of the star drivers in the highly competitive Indycar series.
Herta, who spent two years of his junior racing career in Europe, was heavily linked to a seat at Alfa Romeo Racing when rumours swirled that his boss Michael Andretti would buy the team off the Sauber Group. However, Herta was confirmed for another season in IndyCar after talks between the two parties fell apart just days before a deal was due to be agreed.
Andretti believes that if Herta is given the right opportunity with a good team, he can shine in Formula 1 and make American fans proud. He added that Herta shares some characteristics with the newly crowned World Champion Max Verstappen, stating that both are very calm under pressure but also full of fire.
"I feel that the one that I know the best is Colton Herta; I just see something so special in this young lad's ability that to me, he mirrors like a Verstappen type of a guy, very cool, collected, but full of fire. I think again, with the proper opportunity with a proper team, this young lad could really make us proud."