Mario Andretti returned to Formula 1 in 1982 after Ferrari contacted him to replace the seriously injured Didier Pironi for the team’s home Grand Prix at Monza. The regular CART and Indycar driver had raced a dual programme of Formula 1 and American-Open-Wheel for thirteen seasons up until this point.
The New York Times reported in 1982 that “The Return of Andretti added Zest to the Italian Grand Prix”, stating,
“Tired of long-distance travel and discouraged by three years without a victory, Mario Andretti, the 1978 world driving champion, quit the Formula One circuit at the end of the 1981 season. Today, he returns to compete in the Italian Grand Prix for Ferrari, the team that brought him his first grand prix victory 11 years ago.
No matter how he does today, Andretti said that it is unlikely he’ll drive for Ferrari again. He has concentrated on Indy-car racing this year, and a schedule conflict will prevent him from piloting the Ferrari at Las Vegas, Nev., the site of the season’s last grand prix on Sept. 26. Ferrari has already signed contracts for 1983 with Tambay and his countryman, Rene Arnoux, who currently drives for Renault.”
– NY Times, September 12, 1982
Alonso’s appointment has sparked a similar buzz. Andretti’s struggles after winning the 1978 Driver Title with Lotus ultimately saw him scrap his F1 participation, and concentrate on racing at home. He returned to Monza and shattered the lap record in Qualifying, claiming a shock pole position. The race didn’t quite pan out, but his cameo was rewarded with a 3rd place finish. The same post-F1 Championship years have been difficult for Alonso too, and Andretti himself could see this back in 2014.
“I’d like to see Fernando stay there and get the rewards that he deserves because he’s suffering now.”
– Mario Andretti
It hasn’t been great for Alonso at McLaren either in Formula One. The Spaniard is a driver who expects to win, so why not try and claim the triple crown? He could pursue the Le Mans 24 later in his career, clinching the Indy 500 is the biggest hurdle in joining Graham Hill in the history books.
The move has riled some, but the victory milk is already curdling in Alonso’s mouth. Why limp around Monaco when he could fulfil his ambitions and chase the triple?