Fernando Alonso, McLaren, IndyCar, Indianapolis, 2019

McLaren could give F1 rookie test chance to IndyCar driver


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McLaren may give drivers from its IndyCar team the opportunity to participate in its two Formula 1 rookie test days, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has said.

The team announced last week it had formed a new alliance with the Schmidt-Peterson team to field two cars in next year’s IndyCar championship. While it is yet to confirm who will drive for the team next year, Brown said he is open to using the team’s IndyCar drivers in its F1 rookie tests, where teams must field a driver with no more than two F1 race starts.

“We currently have a rookie driver who is under obligation of some rookie tests in Formula 1, and certainly if we feel that one of our IndyCar drivers has a credible chance in Formula 1, then for sure, we would look to put that driver in for some rookie testing,” said Brown.

“I think that’s one of the exciting things about a combined Formula 1 and IndyCar effort is it will create opportunities for drivers, engineers, especially as we look into the budget cap and Formula One will start to change. There will be different ways to deploy our resources.”

Schmidt Peterson’s current drivers are Marcus Ericsson, who as an ex-F1 racer is not eligible to take part in the rookie test, and James Hinchcliffe. According to Schmidt, Hinchcliffe’s close ties with current engine supplier Honda will not prevent him staying at the team when they switch to Chevrolet power next year.

“James has been a great asset to the team for the last five years,” said Schmidt. “He’s a brilliant ambassador for all of our partners.

“It’s one of those unfortunate things, when you do what’s best for the team, but the relationship with Honda Canada and American Honda was direct between James and them, and so we don’t even know – we don’t even know what those details were, what those obligations were.

“We don’t anticipate it having an effect on the final year of his contract as far as we’re concerned, but yeah, we’re excited to have him on our team.”

McLaren will transfer all the equipment it purchased for its unsuccessful attempt at this year’s Indianapolis 500 to Schmidt’s team headquarters. It will run two full-time entries in the series next year, painted McLaren orange, and Schmidt confirmed it will run a third car at Indianapolis.

“There certainly will be a third car in Indy, but I think our priority first and foremost is to position the two cars with identical liveries and every opportunity that those two cars have to win, win races, win the Indy 500, win a championship.

“A third full-time entry is not really on the radar now, but wouldn’t rule it out for sure.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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8 comments on “McLaren could give F1 rookie test chance to IndyCar driver”

  1. Sooo… Colton Herta? I’d imagine it’d be one of the younger guys. And Herta was already rumoured to being going to whatever McLaren team was set up in Indycar before the SPM partnership was announced.

  2. I am no Helmut Marko, but I would recommend some serious simulator time before placing an Indy driver behind the wheel of a F1. Somebody said (Mansell?) that the big difference is the reaction time. A quick reflex will get you killed at an oval. Everything needs to be gentle. In F1, of course, is the other way around. Young eletric shaky quick drivers for F1, not so young cerebral calm steady drivers for Indy.

    Maybe I am talking about 10 years ago, and today is not like that anymore. Your opinion below, please.

    1. You do know that 2/3’s of the IndyCar schedule are road and street courses don’t you? Yes, it takes lots of finese on ovals, but driving road and street courses in an IndyCar without power steering takes some very hard aggressive driving.

      No idea who the rookie driver Zak is refering to. Young stud Herta is under contract with Andretti so unless Michael lets them buy Herta out…

      Silly season is going to be interesting.

      1. COTA in Austin, TX holds both, F1 and Indy. F1 cars lapped an incredible time compared to what an Indycar could do. Indy is hard racing, no questions there. But the car is more forgiving, can be drifted, less “snappy”, you got the Idea.

        I am not saying that I could drive one of those. Absolute respect for the drivers. Specially at 400kph with Very low front downforce. Takuma Sato won Indy500 (last year?), and I guess he’s in his 40’s… Refined, calm, steady, you know what I meant.

        In no recent history an Indy driver could swap his seat for an F1 and do good right away. McLaren gave Michael Andretti a shot in the 90’s and we all know how that ended.

        The other way around seems to work. Mansell, Emmo, Alonso…

        1. Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya didn’t do too shabbily for themselves when they arrived in F1 from CART. That’s not exactly “recent”, but more recent than Michael Andretti.

          The quality of the car makes a big difference, too, and it’s not been since JPM that we saw an Indy car driver land with a truly top team in F1. The car makes a difference in IndyCar as well—as Alonso found out this year with McLaren. Mansell went straight into Newman-Haas and Fittipaldi to Penske, and for every successful F1 driver in IndyCar like them, there’s a Barrichello or Ericsson, who are respectable but don’t exactly impress.

          I take your point, though—it’s been almost two decades since JPM, who was probably the last one to make the transition with ease. And the formulae have drifted apart in the past few years. F1 has gotten 7 seconds quicker, and IndyCar a couple seconds slower, just through the very different downforce philosophies in the most recent regulations. Take off DRS, and 2016-era Indy and F1 cars would likely have been within a few of seconds of each other on most tracks.

        2. Mark in Florida
          14th August 2019, 2:20

          I think that you guys are forgetting about Jeff Gordon switching cars at Indy with JPM . He drove about 15 laps in June 2003 in the Williams BMW V10. He got to within 1.3 seconds of Montoyas time and he had never driven an open wheel race car before. Rick Mears also tested a Brabham in 1981 at Paul Richard where he was only fractionally slower than Nelson Piquet. At Riverside he was faster than the world champ. He ultimately decided to stay in America. Jackie Stewart said he could have been a champion in Europe. So to think that Americans can’t make it in F1 is wrong headed and not based in reality. Their are plenty of drivers that could do it but time, distance and opportunities elude most drivers that could be a success. Remember Jeff Gordon was 32 when he drove JPMs car. Imagine what he could have done in his 20’s living in Europe and going through the F3, F2, F1 ladder.

  3. @markzastrow, under what conditions exactly? When prepared for a single lap in qualifying, or when prepared for race trim?

  4. Boy, McLaren has a real modern, up-to-date feel about it these days. Synergy, I believe this is called.
    Last race the F1 cars were driving 5 or 6 seconds off their qualifying pace-there is surely some skill in that, but it’s not driving on the car’s limit.
    Would love to see some of the younger Indy drivers test a McLaren F1 car.

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