Best WDC Finish for Williams: NC
Total number of races entered for Williams: 1
Total points: 0
Best result for Williams: DNF
Debut: 1982 US Grand Prix West – Long Beach
Head to head qualifying vs team-mate: Andretti 0-1 Keke Rosberg (14th/8th)
Context - Nature of Arrival for driver
(I think in this example a lot is required)
Having won the world championship for Lotus in 1978 ahead of Ronnie Peterson, Andretti and Lotus both endured a slump in form, eclipsed first by Reutemann his teammate in 1979, then by Elio De Angelis in 1980 as his results steadily declined. He them moved to Alpha Romeo in 1981, which failed to relaunch his career, and he failed to eclipse his teammate Bruno Giacomelli.
He disliked the ground effect cars of this period which could have explained his difficulties…
“the cars were getting absurd, really crude, with no suspension movement whatever. It was toggle switch driving with no need for any kind of delicacy…it made leaving Formula One a lot easier than it would have been”
However, it’s worth noting that by 1982, Andretti was 42. As he had already won a world championship, it’s possible that his heart was no longer in it either. Formula 1 was still a very dangerous sport where racing on the edge involved putting one’s life on the line. Whether he lacked the ability to handle the current generation of cars, or no longer wanted to, is an interesting question. Certainly, Alan Jones explained that 2 seasons earlier, running with suspension was a lot nicer and easier to line the car up than having your kidneys pummelled bouncing around and having to try your best to be accurate
At the end of 1981, he decided to leave Formula 1 for Indy Cars, however, after 2 races of the new 1982 Formula 1 season, Carlos Reutemann, having dramatically lost the 1981 championship under odd circumstances, and having been eclipsed by Keke Rosberg in qualifying during the opening two rounds, (Q3/6, and Q7/8) suddenly decided to retire, leaving Frank in the lurch.
Frank initially contacted Alan Jones to fill the vacant seat, who insisted he was not available, so FW then contacted Mario who’s schedule that weekend did not clash with his Indy Car schedule
“I had nothing else to do, so I accepted”
He qualified 14th, 6 positions lower than Keke, and lower than any Williams driver that season up until that point, although again, it’s interesting to consider whether Keke was on fire at this point during what was to be his championship winning year, or whether Reutemann and Andretti were both simply lacking in form and motivation. Keke was a lot more familiar with the FW08 than Mario was for obvious reasons.
He spun off on the marbles on lap 19, his only race for Williams ending in the barrier. 100% his fault. However, 8 other drivers also spun out of the race that day entirely by themselves, notable amongst those Prost, Pironi and Piquet.
Career Great Moments
He progressed from 14th to 9th during the race, (though in fairness, 4 of those positions were gained due to drivers in front crashing)
He set a better fastest lap than Keke Rosberg (currently) before he crashed out- the man due to be world champion that year and who went on to finish in second place in the race. Not bad for an old timer coming in cold.
(sadly, I couldn’t find a video of the incident, or much coverage, but the aftermath of his collision can be viewed 40mins20sec’s in)
Nature Of Departure
Andretti left Williams after the USA West race to honour his Indy Car racing commitments. This was only ever going to be a one off substitution. He appeared twice more in 1982 for Ferrari, winning pole in Monza first time out and finishing 3rd, a way adrift of Tambay. He was also considered the following season by Renault to sub for Tambay, so clearly, he was still fairly well regarded by the paddock.
Meanwhile, at Williams, Derek Daly left Theodore to fill the vacant seat at Williams, and his debut for Williams was much the same as Andretti’s- Q13, Spun out, in Belgium. Daly would go on to regularly qualify outside the top 10 for Williams during 1982 before steadily making his way into the points in the race, whist Keke would generally be found within the top 10, though quite often at the bottom end.
On paper his effort looks worse than any other Williams driver past and present. Only drove one race, he had a poor qualifying and a DNF due to his own error. However, given his age, and the fact that he was coming into the race cold, he showed impressive speed vs the “in form” man of the moment, Keke Rosberg. He performed arguably on a par with Daly in the second Williams seat, and of course, he was a former world champion and a former great of the sport. Does he truly deserve to come bottom of Williams’ all time greatest driver list? I’m not sure he does.
This post was written by rrafekaj