Red, White, and Overdue

Tony Di Zinno
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Senna threatened to leave the team when McLaren didn't get the factory Ford engines at the fourth race in Imola. A comedy of errors ensued as Senna tried to get to the race and sign a contract. The Brazilian agreed to drive only on a race-by-race basis and was a disappointing fourth on the grid, only two spots ahead of Andretti. This time, Andretti made it past the first corner and ran well until lap 33, when he spun off. Senna retired about ten laps later, and Prost won the race.

Liuzzi 05 Imola Hr 02

In 2004, Dietrich Mateschitz, founder and CEO of Red Bull, bought the assets of Jaguar and rebadged the team with the sports drink's name. Vitantonio Liuzzi, the 2004 Formula 3000 Champion, is shown above at Imola.

In Spain, Andretti started seventh and finished fifth, scoring his first two points. He followed that with an uninspiring ninth-to-eighth at Monaco. It had to provide some sense of relief that he finished the most prestigious event on the calendar even if it wasn't for points. Again, Senna won, taking his record sixth victory at the Monte Carlo street circuit.

But from there it began to go downhill for Andretti, as he began a string of six consecutive starts outside the top ten. At the only race on his home continent of North America, in Canada, he started twelfth and finished fourteenth. In France, he did come from sixteenth to score a point in sixth, but he retired in the next three events in Britain, Germany, and Hungary. He finished eighth in Belgium before earning the first and only podium appearance of his Formula 1 career with a solid third at Italy. It was there he left the McLaren team, after scoring seven points and finishing six of thirteen starts. Andretti was replaced by test driver Hakkinen, who promptly outqualified Senna at Portugal in his first start. The second car proved a better fit for the ice-cold Finn.

So Andretti the son couldn't match Andretti the father, Mario, who was America's last World Champion driver. After the '93 disaster, Michael Andretti returned to IndyCar racing and retired full-time in 2003, with a career zero for the Indianapolis 500.

Formula 1 hasn't had an American racing driver since, although in 1994, Elton Julian tested with the Larrousse-Ford team with hopes of a potential seat in 1995. Unfortunately the team closed its doors following the last race of the season due to a lack of funds.

In 2002, seeing the obvious need for an American driver in the sport, 1985 Indianapolis 500 champion and former Tyrrell F1 driver Danny Sullivan launched the Red Bull Driver Search, a program designed to give young Americans the opportunity to move overseas and progress toward a Formula 1 seat. Sullivan and a panel of other well-qualified judges made their four selections.

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