Andretti team hoping to break through in Formula E

The Andretti name has been a constant in motorsport for half a century, but its fledgling Formula E team is still trying to “mix it with the big boys” in the all-electric series.

Three generations of the American family have competed across the racing spectrum, from Formula One to Indy Car, NASCAR to Formula E.

Mario Andretti is the name familiar to most, a dominant force in F1 who won the world championship in 1978 — the last American to so do, and the last to even win a race with victory in the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix.

He also claimed four Indy Car titles, won the Indy 500 in 1969, and boasts 111 wins from 879 career starts in all forms of racing; it’s no surprise the Andretti name looms large over motorsport.

Son Michael flew the Andretti flag during the 1980s and 90s, driving largely in the CART championship, which he won in 1991. His 42 race victories make him the third most successful driver in American open-wheel history — something he labels his proudest achievement.

“Having a name like Andretti is obviously something we grew up with and are very proud of,” Michael, whose son Marco drives in his Andretti Indy Car team, told CNN.

“My Dad started it. He did everything that you could do to accomplish in racing and we just wanted to carry it on. It’s been really cool for us to be able to keep the name going.”

Electric odyssey

Winning as individuals is one thing; winning as a team has recently also become a family trend.

Andretti Autosport, owned by Michael since 2009, is a dominant force in Indy Car with four Indy Car series champions and five Indy 500 winners — three of which have come in the past four races.

In recent years, however, the Andretti name has entered new territory.

A competitor in Formula E since the all-electric race series began in 2014, the team has quickly learned to punch above its weight.

“Us as a team, we’re basically a small guy, a small private team going up against some of the big ones like Renault and Jaguar and Mahindra that have budgets that are five, six, 10 times what we are,” says Michael.

“It’s a little tough, that’s why we need the help of a manufacturer like BMW to get us more competitive. I’m hoping season five [next season] we’re going to be able to mix it up with the big boys.”

‘Something new’

Results on the track have been steady. In Formula E’s three previous championships, Andretti has finished seventh twice and sixth once in the team standings.

This year’s team is being led by Portuguese driver Antonio Felix da Costa, whose best result so far has been a sixth-place finish in the season-opening race in Hong Kong.

A young championship when compared to its rivals, how does Formula E size up alongside its rivals?

“Do I think Formula E is going to take over Formula One and Indy Car? I don’t know, I don’t think that’s the goal of Formula E. Formula E is its own thing,” says Andretti.

“When you come to a Formula E event you have to open your mind up, because it is quite different.

“You don’t have the loud sound or things like that, but it’s something new, it’s a new technology so you have to come with more of an open mind and I think once you do get here you see it, you do get hooked to it.”