F1 legend Andretti relives Monza memories

Fri Sep 5, 2014 8:10am EDT
 
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By Alan Baldwin

MONZA Italy (Reuters) - Even at the age of 74, Mario Andretti is still living new experiences and setting firsts at Monza.

The great American, still the only man to win the Formula One title, Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500, marked his return to the Italian track by walking a lap of it for the first time on Thursday.

If the 1978 world champion was surprised not to have done it before, he at least had a good excuse.

"I never really took the time to walk (as a racer) because I was always sort of busy. I was keeping the candle lit at both ends," he told Reuters in an interview ahead of Sunday's Italian Grand Prix.

Monza, the venerable cathedral of Italian motorsport and temple to all things Ferrari, holds special significance to the Italian-born driver as the place where he was first bitten by the motor racing bug.

While the walk with NBC television triggered memories, they were ones that needed little prompting. Monza, like Indianapolis, is part of who he is.

It was here that as a 14-year-old refugee, from what is now Croatia but was Italian Istria when he was born there during World War Two, Andretti first saw Formula One cars in action when he attended the 1954 Italian Grand Prix.

In 1968 he drove a Formula One car for the first time at Monza and in 1978 won the championship there for Lotus in a race marred by the death of popular team mate and friend Ronnie Peterson.   Continued...

 
Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany (L) talks to racing legend Mario Andretti after winning the U.S. F1 Grand Prix final at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas November 17, 2013.    REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES  - Tags: SPORT MOTORSPORT F1)