Despite being confident that the new Circuit of the Americas can become a permanent home for the United States Grand Prix, Mario Andretti believes that F1 should make changes that would allow local talent the chance to compete with the sport's regulars.
Andretti got a chance to try out the 5.5km Austin circuit when it officially opened with a series of displays, including both his 1978 championship-winning Lotus and one of the current cars bearing the same name, but admits that he would be first in the queue if there was a chance to try it in the contemporary machine.
Andretti's run in the 2011-spec R30 was abandoned after its engine expired in the hands of regular reserve Jerome d'Ambrosio and, while his suggestion of allowing him to conduct Friday's practice session is slightly tongue-in-cheek, the legend is keen to see US talent given a chance to shine.
"I would really like to drive that baby — maybe I could do the Friday practice,” he told Canada's Globe and Mail
newspaper, referring to the latest cars, “I should give them a call.
"Man, getting into that car was going to be the highlight of the [official launch] weekend. I was all suited up and ready to go and I never got to try it. An F1 car today is an engineering marvel and that's the very reason I wanted to get into one. I haven't had that opportunity and that's why I was so disappointed but they promised me another day, so we are okay."
American's chasing the F1 dream appear to be few and far between at present, with only official Caterham driver development prospect Alexander Rossi and occasional Force India straight-line tester Conor Daly on the horizon. Rossi, ironically, has been denied the chance to run in Friday morning's first practice session, adding weight to Andretti's belief that perhaps there should be greater opportunities afforded to local talent of all nationalities.
"I would love F1 go back to the rule where you could add a third car and have guest driver come in — that's how I broke in," he said, “If you can have your own guys flying their own flag in their country, it brings a lot more attention. It always plays well and the more buzz you can create, the better."
The 72-year old, still the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and an F1 title, is excited by the prospect of the USGP having found a new, and permanent, home in Texas.
"It's a long time coming to have a facility such as that which is able to host proper road racing," Andretti said, "We have lots of classic road racing courses in the US and Canada but, outside of Montreal, many of them just really haven't kept up with the times as far as standards for safety and infrastructure. And a road course as part of an oval facility does not work, it does not draw and it does not have the ambience road racing fans look for. Now we have a place where we can showcase the top level of the sport — I think every F1 fan in North America should rejoice."