F1 Failures is a series of off-season articles profiling some of the biggest failures in the sport’s history, covering both drivers and teams. We start off with one of the most farcical teams ever to grace the sport, Andrea Moda.
We start with Andrea Moda for a reason. They may have only been in existence in the year 1992, but here and now, they still have a connection to F1. Nick Wirth designed the S921 they raced for most of their entries, but he is also designing Manor‘s 2010 car!
Not that Wirth would be proud of being associated with Andrea Moda though.
Andrea Moda was born after Italian fashion designer Andrea Sassetti bought the struggling Coloni team for $8 Million (almost nothing in today’s terms). He planned to use the existing Coloni C4 chassis mated to a Judd engine and Dallara gearbox. None of those 3 had exactly set the world on fire the previous season, especially the chassis, which didn’t even Pre-Qualify for a single race in 1991, in the hands of Pedro Chaves and then pay-driver Naoki Hattori.
Alex Caffi and former Coloni driver Enrico Bertaggia were chosen for an all-Italian line-up, the former for his racing skill and the latter for the size of his wallet. However we would not get to see the revised C4’s true ‘potential’ after a mix-up by Sassetti meant they did not even have an official entry for the season opener at Kyalami.
Andrea Moda had presumed that like Leyton House, Arrows, Osella and Larrousse they had simply changed their name from Coloni and were still the same team. However, they had only purchased Coloni’s equipment and not their entry. Therefore they had not paid the $100,000 entry fee required from all new teams, and was excluded from the race weekend before it had began.
Their car’s legality had also been called into question, as it was technically not even their car. So for the first time in the team’s history, team principal Sassetti made a wise decision – he looked to Nick Wirth’s Simtek company for a new car.
It was a race against time to get the new cars built and prepared. The mechanics worked round the clock assembling the new car, but struggled to get it ready in the two weeks until the next round in Mexico.
The mad rush to get the new cars up and running was all for nothing, as they withdrew before the beginning of pre-qualifying, citing freight issues as their reason for doing so.
Despite a reasonable explanation considering the circumstances, Caffi and Bertaggia were livid at Sassetti for having to sit out yet another Grand Prix, so Sassetti duly fired them both.
He quickly found two new drivers; Roberto Moreno, who would have driven a soapbox racer had it kept his F1 career alive, and Perry McCarthy, who is now more well known as The Stig from earlier seasons of Top Gear.
Confusion hit home once again, as McCarthy had his superlicense revoked before Brazil pre-qualifying, meaning Moreno was the only driver left to try and qualify. Not that it mattered, as the second car was far from ready for racing.
Moreno struggled for the whole session and wound up over 15 seconds away from making the cut for Qualifying proper, at his home track of Interlagos no less. It would set the tone for the rest of the season to come…
McCarthy had his superlicense reinstated by the FIA, but Sassetti wanted rid of him, as Bertaggia had come crawling back and offered $1 million in sponsorship in return for the second seat. But Sassetti’s attempt to change drivers was denied by the FIA, after already using his maximum number of driver changes for a season already.
Barcelona saw engine woes, with Moreno’s engine expiring before he had even done a full lap. McCarthy’s engine had already stopped, coasting 18 yards down the pit-lane and not even making it out onto the track. Thus McCarthy had to sacrifice his partially-working Judd engine to Moreno, who had another engine failure after 3 laps, and this time missed qualifying by 10 seconds.
San Marino was a little better, but still way off making the race. McCarthy managed 8 laps before a differential problem cut his pre-qualifying short at 8 laps, but he was still 8.5 seconds off of Moreno’s time and neither car past pre-qualifying still. McCarthy was forced to gift his car to Moreno at Monaco as a spare car, which he was probably glad of as he didn’t even have a proper seat fitting and was bumped and bruised after only 3 laps of the track.
But McCarthy’s car clearly possessed some sort of mythical power, as Moreno went on to qualify for the race, beating Ukyo Katayama‘s Venturi-Larrousse in pre-qualifying, and beating the Brabhams of Damon Hill and Eric van de Poele, the Footwork of Andrea Chisea and Paul Belmondo‘s March to 26th and last place on the grid!
After ten laps he had rocketed to the dizzying heights of 19th place before his Judd powerplant gave up 11 laps in. But for the first time in their history Andrea Moda had qualified for a Grand Prix. Surely, things could only get better from here?
No, to put it bluntly.
Away from the track, Sassetti saw his Discotheque burned to the ground in an arson attack, and was shot at while fleeing the flaming building, narrowly escaping being hit. On the track however, it got even worse for the team. They had turned up in Canada, minus their Judd engines!
Their V10s had infact been left behind in Europe, as due to story conditions, the British Airways flight due to take the engines to Canada had been forced to leave its cargo behind.
At the track, they had managed to borrow a sole engine from Brabham for Moreno’s car, but it didn’t make the slightest difference, still coming 15 seconds away from making Qualifying.
That was a pretty embarrassing mistake to make. Yet it got worse. A mass blockade by french lorry drivers had cut off the main roads to Magny-Cours, forcing all the teams to take the back roads to the track. Everybody got there eventually, except Andrea Moda, of course. They never even turned up at the track afterwards.
By now what few sponsors they had scattered and the team was short on money. McCarthy was now an afterthought and all resources were piled onto Moreno’s car. This was demonstrated perfectly at Silverstone, where they turned up with an almost completely blank car. Moreno did 3 laps on wet tyres, but the track had started to dry out. The team went one step further than ever before in terms of stupid decisions. They stuck Moreno’s used wets onto McCarthy’s car and sent him on his way, in the dry! Inevitably he was way off the pace, 16 seconds behind his team-mate who by now had switched to slicks before he went off the track and suffered a clutch failure.
It got even worse from there. McCarthy didn’t even set a time at Hockenheim, but it didn’t matter in the end, as he was disqualified for missing scrutineering, and Moreno was still struggling with the dog of a car at his disposal, still failing to pre-qualifying as usual. Despite the woeful performances, they actually gained a sponsor for Hungary, and thanks to Brabham dropping to a single-car effort, at least one car i.e. Moreno would make qualifying proper.
To make sure it was Moreno that made the cut and not McCarthy, the deliberately sent the Brit out for his quali laps with only 45 seconds of the session remaining. He was clearly livid at Sassetti by this point, and the feeling was definitely reciprocated as Bertaggia had come and gone with his enticing sponsorship deals.
As expected, Moreno came dead last in qualifying, but only 1.3 seconds from making the grid, an improvement nonetheless. The team was in hot water with race officials though, and was told to run McCarthy properly or suffer the consequences.
By the time the F1 circus reached Spa-Francorchamps, Brabham had gone completely, making Pre-Qualifying obsolete. It meant for the first time all season, McCarthy should have had a chance to make his first ever F1 race start.
His chances were boosted further when Erik Comas didn’t even set a time for Ligier and meant only 3 cars wouldn’t make the race.
But 2 of those 3 cars turned out to be the Andrea Modas, who could only manage 28th and 29th place. Moreno was 5.7 seconds from making the grid and McCarthy a further 10 seconds back, but the most worrying part was the latter had been knowingly sent out for his flying laps with a flexing steering arm, which could have given up at any moment, especially at the scarily fast Eau Rouge.
It would be the last time an Andrea Moda drove a racing lap, as Sassetti was arrested for fraud during the race weekend by the local authorities, and were subsequently banned from Formula One for bringing the sport into disrepute.
Andrea Moda was like a rollercoaster, only it started at the peak of a small hill and dropped right to the core of the earth. Autosport magazine summed up the team’s main problem from day one, saying; “Motor racing should really be left to motor racing people, people who have a vague idea what they are doing.”
By that logic a TCF Formula One team could probably have qualified for a few more races than they did.
Even more insight into the utter farce that was Andrea Moda can be found in Perry McCarthy’s autobiography, Flat Out, Flat Broke: Formula 1 the Hard Way. It’s probably the most interesting autobiography ever written, and I’d suggest buying it just to relive the sometime hilarious, sometimes unbelieveable, sometimes scary moments that were Andrea Moda.