Josef Newgarden, Penske, IndyCar, Circuit of the Americas, 2020

F1 looks down on American drivers, says IndyCar champion Newgarden


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Reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden believes the Formula 1 world doesn’t take American drivers seriously.

Speaking to the New York Times, the two-times IndyCar champion said he’d like to race in the series but believes it’s difficult for drivers from America to get an opportunity.

“Nowadays, it’s kind of hard for any American,” said Newgarden. “There’s a Formula 1 bubble in Europe. I’ll be honest, they look down on Americans a bit over there.

“It’s really silly. There’s American talent that if they got the right seat at the right time, they could win championships, no problem.”

Newgarden drives for Penske, whose owner Roger Penske purchased the IndyCar championship and Indianapolis Motor Speedway last year.

His move into IndyCar racing came after he spent two years racing in Europe. Newgarden came second in Britain’s Formula Ford championship in 2009.

Josef Newgarden, Carlin, Monza, GP3, 2010
Newgarden returned to America after a season in GP3
He graduated to GP3 with Carlin the following year, finishing the season 18th. The title was won by Esteban Gutierrez while Newgarden’s future IndyCar rival and Manor F1 driver Alexander Rossi placed fourth.

“I wanted to stay over there and try for Formula 1,” Newgarden explained. “I did really well, but then ran out of money after my second year.”

While IndyCar uses a single specification chassis, Newgarden says the dominance of a small number of teams in F1 makes it an unappealing prospect.

“Formula 1 is very glitzy and glamorous, but if you’re not in a Ferrari or a Mercedes you might as well not show up,” he said. “There’s zero chance you’re going to win the race. That’s demoralising.”

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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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  • 60 comments on “F1 looks down on American drivers, says IndyCar champion Newgarden”

    1. Red Bull as well.

    2. If Formula 1 looks down on Indycar drivers, it’s because they haven’t competed in a long time.

      If you want to be recognized for your race craft, you need to put your reputation on the line by at least trying to get into F1, and then, if you manage to get a seat, show yourself to be competitive.

      That’s not achieved by enjoying your cushy job in the best car of the dominant team of the new owner of the series.

      1. Newgarden was winning races before he got to Penske.

      2. You couldn’t be more wrong. “enjoying your cushy job in the best car of the dominant team”, hmm, does Lewis Hamilton come to mind? F1 is so non-competitive it’s a joke. IndyCar is just as competitive as F1, if not more. F1 looks down on IndyCar simply because they think they are superior which they definitely are not.

        1. Brian,

          no, as a matter of fact, Lewis doesn’t come to mind simply because he’s done exactly what I described in the sentence preceding and directly referenced in the part you quoted:

          “If you want to be recognized for your race craft, you need to put your reputation on the line by at least trying to get into F1, and then, if you manage to get a seat, show yourself to be competitive.”

      3. Like he said, he ran out of money.

        F1 drivers should compete at Indy500.

        1. Love that idea! Bring on road courses too! Many ex F1 drivers have found out it’s pretty tough when you’re in similar cars.

          The biggest problem I think American drivers have is not enough experience on the European tracks going through F1 feeder and other open wheel series. Most American drivers stick to the IndyCar ladder series (Pro Mazda, Indy Lights…) and that certainly favors European drivers that know the tracks.

        2. @jureo

          Why? Is it part of the Formula 1 World Championship?

      4. Two podiums at one of the smaller teams (Sarah Fisher Hartman) in 2014. Two wins, 4 podiums at a team created from SFH merging with Ed Carpenter in 2015. SFH left for 2016, and he “only” scored 1 win and 4 podiums– but that win was with a broken shoulder and hand after a pretty bad accident at Texas. He finished as the highest scoring driver not driving for Penske.

        He’s driving for Penske because he’s very good.

        His closest competitor of the “young” drivers is Alexander Rossi, who was the last American to drive F1.

        1. grat,

          “If you want to be recognized for your race craft, you need to put your reputation on the line by at least trying to get into F1, and then, if you manage to get a seat, show yourself to be competitive.”

    3. Finishes 18th in GP3 and thinks he’s good enough for F1 😂😂😂

      1. Alex Albon – Formula Renault
        2012 – finished in 38th place
        2013 – finished 16th place

        Some people learn from their mistakes and get better. With 14 wins and 2 titles I think Newgarden has got some talent.

      2. @chrisr1718 Twice won the Indycar championship and thinks he’s good enough for F1 😁😁😁

        1. Why not? Villeneuve and Montoya won one title a piece and enjoyed success in F1

          1. Dane,

            the crucial difference is that Jacques and Juan-Pable made the move to Formula 1, competed, and were successful.

            If Josef desires to be recognized for his talent, that’s the way to prove it. The only way.

    4. Maybe its because old F1 hasbeens can compete reasonably well in indycar while transitioning US drivers have traditionally been poor…?

      1. Or a two time F1 Champ can also fail to even qualify for the Indy 500…..

      2. Barrichello went to IndyCar and didn’t do anything to write home about. Who has done well that came from F1? Mansell? Andretti?(both of them). That’s about it, unless you want to throw in Rossi who barely got a taste of F1.

        Making it to F1 doesn’t mean you’re going to crush the competition in IndyCar. I think Alonso showed that last year.

      3. Hasbeens? It probably helps those F1 hasbeens in IndyCar when you’re in a car that can compete with the rest of the field. In F1 you don’t have much of a chance unless you’re in a Merc or Ferrari (maybe RB now?). Hamilton might be a “hasbeen” if he’d been stuck in a Williams the majority of his career. All about the car in F1, the driver in IndyCar. I’d love to see Hamilton (has said he’s too scared) and Max at the Indy 500…

    5. GtisBetter (@)
      8th March 2020, 9:07

      Some probably do, but most teams are interested in the best driver or best driver/money combination. F1 is definitely europe centered making it harder for people of other continents to compete at an early age. I think fans are more likely to look down for some reason. When I talk to GT drivers who race many different types in a year (cause they are the only one fans can properly approach) they are always excited about the racing part, no matter what form or shape. I have never heard them talk down a racing series.

      Also I think it’s great we have both F1 and spec series like indycar. Different things are good.

      1. Just ask Lewis Hamilton, he doesn’t mince words then treats the entire Indycar series as second rate.

    6. I think it’s fair to say F1 generally looks down on Americans but it’s also fair to say that not many Americans are of high enough quality. Some are, but many are not – it’s quite a different beast to what most Americans are more used to in Indy car.

      That being said, I’m sure F1 will be desperate for American drivers once that market finally opens up. I wouldn’t be surprised to see half the grid coming from the US once the power of American money is unleashed in F1.

      1. There’s not much of karting culture it seems – at least in the part of the US I grew up in. As Newgarden says, he had to travel 300 miles to get to a good karting track. That being said, there are guys like Newgarden and Rossi who have demonstrated real talent behind the wheel.

      2. Stewart Lloyd
        8th March 2020, 17:17

        Fair to say most of the developed world looks down on Americans, no reason F1 would be excluded from this list. In saying that, not even Haas wants an American driver in his car.

      3. i sort of disagree a little bit. American race fans are more interested in the racing than the nationalities involved. I’ve raced and been to dozens of races across varied series and a couple things stand out. FIrst a good race is more important to most fans than just their favorite guy winning. one good example is the supercross series where the top euro guys are maybe the most popular judging from the crowd. Indycar (i hate oval personally) drivers come from all over but the partisan nationally nonsense seems really minor to negligible there. As for opportunities the us had hardly any karting scene and only slightly more openwheel racing options. lots of stock car/dirt track/cheap sedan and such but if you want to go F1 you need to move to europe and have a ton of money. Motorcycle racing is similar. American based roadracing is focused on 4 stroke street bikes (supersport) and that is generally not the high corner speed method the euro feeders into motogp use. the moto2 series is all about the chassis and corner speed with modest power so more like the old 250’s. its a different game. If a kid in europe wants to be a supercross champ he has to move to the US so the ecosystem thing can go both ways.

    7. “Nowadays, it’s kind of hard for any American,” said Newgarden. “There’s a Formula 1 bubble in Europe. I’ll be honest, they look down on Americans a bit over there.

      Lol it has always been more difficult for non Europeans to get into F1. Many young drivers make sacrifices and take huge financial risks often supported by the parents. Coming from Aus or NZ adds a considerable extra burden that’s why most drivers from those countries enter F1 at an older age.
      Australia has only had three WDCs so far, but they have also been the only Aussies on the grid. Nearly every time they have competed they have won a WDC, not a bad record. NZs McLaren has left us with a legacy of one of the best and most famous teams not just in F1 but indy and sports cars ,all made sacrifices.

      When American drivers start to make similar efforts those that are good enough will be rewarded with a seat.
      Newgarden needs to stop complaining and get on with his racing.

      1. @johnrkh there have actually been 17 Australian drivers who have competed in F1 over the years, albeit with a handful who only competed in one off events. Out of those 17 drivers, only two – Alan Jones and Jack Brabham – went on to win the World Drivers Championship.

        It should be noted, however, that the number of drivers from Australia who have participated in F1 does drop off quite rapidly as you approach the modern era – in the last 30 years, you have only had three Australian drivers in F1 (David Brabham, who raced in 1990 for Brabham and 1994 for Simtek, Webber, who started his career in 2002 at Minardi, and Ricciardo’s debut at HRT in 2011).

        1. @anon I don’t know where I got three from, wishful thinking I suppose.

          It should be noted, however, that the number of drivers from Australia who have participated in F1 does drop off quite rapidly as you approach the modern era

          That may be because in 71 the Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) changed our top formula from F1 to the American based formula 5000s, they lasted only a few yrs. Since then there have been a few attempts to revive open wheeler racing as the top motor sport but to this day sedan racing is no1.

      2. A few Brazilian World Champions may disagree with the “non European” comment…

        Fair enough, there used to be a “disproportionate” amount of Italian drivers in the 80’s due to Marlboro’s funding, but that was when there were more smaller teams (even single cars) like Coloni or Osella. Would you want to bother though?

    8. That’s unfortunately very true. I’d love to see Newgarden and other talented drivers from over the pond in F1, but there’s no point for them to race in Haas now, plus other teams have their own philosophies. Running out of money is a serious matter for driver of his qualities, it only shows you are totally dependent on money in lower series and sponsorship is above anything else. People in the comments get salty only because their icons get mentioned as hijackers of the sport.

    9. Andretti did alright? Senior anyway

      1. So did Phil Hill. But it was a very different era.

    10. It’s really silly. There’s American talent that if they got the right seat at the right time, they could win championships, no problem.”

      This is the essence of life Highgarden, you need to have the luck to be at the right position at the right time. But you had better make that luck yourself because nothing is given.

    11. With 2 drivers and 1 team owner from Canada, it strikes me that Newgarden doesn’t know that much about F1.

      1. I think the 2 drivers from Canada are as much to do with $$$ of their fathers as to the driver’s ability.

    12. RocketTankski
      8th March 2020, 11:04

      Europe and US has always had a divide when it comes to sports: F1 & NASCAR, Rugby & (American) Football, Baseball & Rounders, Basketball & Netball..
      Could the NBA’s finest compete against our best Netball teams eh? pfft :-)

      1. @RocketTankski Funny you should mention those sports, I know that Gridiron actually started out as Rugby, but was radically changed by a couch at Notre Dame called George Gipp.
        I can’t say for sure but I did hear once a story about the origins of Basketball. What I was told is someone involved in US Netball sent the rules to a couch in another state. The couch on receiving the rules misunderstood them and basically Basketball was born.

      2. The difficulty arises in acceptance amongst all stakeholders (fans included) and presence of alternatives.
        Also, a sport needs influencers.. Baseball was non existent in Japan until an American introduced it and its grown leaps and bounds. Who or what is influencing F1 in USA ?
        You can have races but it sort of contradicts the notion when an American F1 team hires drivers from Denmark and France. I dont really think F1 as a whole gives much importance to the nationality of a driver unless there is scope for a financial footprint in that country. Otherwise, Liberty would just make do with having a race in that country. If the crowds at COTA reduce, then there could be a ‘need’ to have American driver to pull in the crowds.
        Modern sport has seen multiple iterations, it has evolved and also spread around the world. Baseball and rounders pale in comparison to the popularity of cricket. Same goes for Football and its American namesake.

    13. Conor Daly had a couple of decent runs in GP2/F2 a few years ago too, but none of that matters if even the F2 champion can’t get a decent F1 seat the following year. It’s not just American drivers. The patronage of a billionaire seems to be the most important factor.

      Newgarden didn’t help himself a few years ago by saying he thought he could go over to F1, run a few seasons, then go back to IndyCar. Not exactly a ringing endorsement or commitment to F1 is it?

      He’s a good guy, did a good job for ECR, was fortunate that Sarah Fisher/Wink Hartman gave him a bit of time, but should honestly look at Scott Dixon or Dario, say, as an example of how you can have an amazing career and not become jaded thinking about F1.

      1. I presume you mean GP3 rather than GP2, because wasn’t Daly beaten by his team mate, Nathanaël Berthon, during his GP2 career, with only a single points scoring opportunity to his name? OK, he was substituted for some races, but Berthon does seem to have finished the end of the season with more competitive results.

        Equally, whilst Daly did finish 3rd in the 2013 GP3 season, he was beaten by his own team mate, Facu Regalia, despite having much more experience than Facu, whilst Kvyat managed to beat both of those drivers even though he was in his rookie season.

        Whilst perhaps some of the criticism of Newgarden here is perhaps a touch overly harsh, I do agree that Newgarden has previously kind of undercut his position with his previous comments about F1 being something “that I could dip my hand into” – something he seems to think he can do for pretty much any series he wants to drive in, including NASCAR and sportscar racing as well as F1. It isn’t the sort of attitude that is going to convince team bosses feel that he is fully committed to them or that any attempt to compete in F1 would be an endeavour he was seriously committed to.

    14. If Newgarden plunked down some cash for a Super License and a Friday practice run with a team like Williams and then actually did well, he might have a reason to complain about being over looked or even looked down upon. His sour grapes make a fine whine.

    15. Neil (@neilosjames)
      8th March 2020, 14:04

      I think it’s also a case that top American drivers look… not ‘down’ on F1, but negatively at the opportunities that would be available to them if they tried to switch. As I read the article, I was waiting for a quote like this to appear, because it always appears:

      “Formula 1 is very glitzy and glamorous, but if you’re not in a Ferrari or a Mercedes you might as well not show up. There’s zero chance you’re going to win the race. That’s demoralising.”

      It seems a fairly common theme that top Indy drivers would rather race for wins in Indy than points in F1. Given there’s more or less no possibility of them entering F1 with anything other than a midfield team, they shut themselves off to the possibility of a switch… probably just as effectively than any ‘looking down on them’ by F1 teams does.

      1. Newgarden is Penske’s top driver at the moment, he races for titles every year and is probably the 2nd highest earner on the IndyCar grid. That’s a lot to give up for a midfield drive in F1. I can’t say I’d make that switch either.

        His best case scenario would be a situation like Montoya in ‘01. Juan was CART champion when he got a race winning Williams drive.

    16. I guess Newgarden is counting out Red Bull this year!

      I don’t know why there’s this misconception that IndyCar drivers can’t do well in F1. I didn’t used that way.

    17. Why would any Indy driver want to go from the exciting, fun, balls out racing championship where anyone on the grid can win if they hook up a weekend, to the stale, dull processional, car performance orientated F1 parade?

      I’ll always be an F1 fan but can recognise that Indycar is head and shoulders above F1 in every way, other than ultimate car speed.

      1. I watched every Indy race for about three years in a row. Two years ago I stopped because I found that the races were too much like lotteries, with constant crashes and restarts dictating the action. F1 may be more predictable, but it is technically the most sophisticated sport on the planet, and features better drivers. I really love Barber, Road America, Laguna Seca, and Indianapolis, but the other street tracks and ovals are pretty tedious.

        1. Yea I hate racing that actually has overtaking, but then again we get watch the great Lance Stroll.

      2. Watched a couple of races last year and the racing was intense and tight, with many winners during the season, theres no lack of driver talent at all atm. I can definitely see why some drivers want to race there instead of starting out in a bottom end team in GP2/F1 for hilarious amount of money. Ferrari probably put more money in the F1 catering department than Penske does for the whole indy season..

        I like both sports, but for different reasons..

    18. LOL.
      It is not that they are looking down, but how else should F1 treat drivers of barely F2-F3 class?????

      There are too many of such drivers, and 95% of them are not F1 material. At all.

      1. Put Lewis Hamilton in a Indycar on team like Carlin or ECR and he will be a top 5 driver. Put him on team like Penske or Andretti and he’ll be a top 3 driver.

        Put Josef Newgarden in a F1 car on a team like Haas or Renault he’ll be a bottom 5 driver. Put him on team like Mercedes or Ferrari and he’ll be a top3 driver.

        So ask yourself which racing league is more competitive? Which league has a truer balance of performance? Lastly would you prefer to make more money and drive for bottom 5 team in F1 or would you willing to take dramatically less money if there was greater chance of winning in Indycar on smaller team.

        Josef Newgarden clearly made the right decision.

    19. I think it would be silly to think there are not Americans with the talent to compete. That said, they would need to go to Europe, compete in some lower classes and TRY to get the lucky break to get into F1. They can stay in the US where there are a number of race structures they can compete in and try to be successful. So, shame on us if not enough go over and try.

    20. With no financial backing. Give him a participant ribbon.

    21. And Google the other 17 drivers who finished in front of him.

    22. Honestly who cares? F1 has become a complete snooze fest. It is no longer remotely entertaining to watch. IndyCar is much more entertaining and competitive nowadays. F1 has lost its way.

    23. Any league that has Lance Stroll shouldnt be looking down on anyone!

    24. I think the problem is that they “don’t know what to do with their hands”!

    25. I really think that an anti-European bent that has always been there, has hurt American interests in international motorsports. That was clear with ŵhy Ford went after Ferrari, and in the. subsequent decision by Ford to leave international sports car racing after dominating it (at least LM) with the GT. Ford just wasn’t as committed to international motorsports as out might be to North American series.

      Frankly, the emergence of NASCAR from a regional and relatively unsophisticated series, and an effort to separate Indy from anything that might be dominated by foreigners, resulting in a requirement to develop cars just for this series, probably did as much to make American drivers outsiders as anything else.

      Remember, when Indy had a wide open formula that welcomed Lotus (and came close to attracting Ferrari) to send cars over for it, American drivers (and, even, American designed and built cars) had some success in Formula 1… Revson, Donohue, Gurney, Ginther, etc. all had success or attracted high level interest from major Formula 1 teams.

      I think that, as Indy closed to foreigners after some success, developed a formula that made it harder for cross-competition, Formula 1 likewise (subconsciously?) adopted regulations that made it harder for somebody without the knowledge of the tracks that might be gained from racing there (with no practice otherwise) to make it. You either race there in the complete ladders, essentially becoming a European driver, or you’re going to fail.

      I’d love to see F1 cars run the Indy 500, frankly, though the tire debacle at the U.S. G.P. makes that pretty unlikely… as well as the hybrid drivetrains, which probably wouldn’t do well in a full throttle race like the 500.

      When Porsche and Alfa both left IndyCar, that pretty much killed European OEMs at Indy, though Penske managed to later get Mercedes badging on engines that Penske-Ilmor developed…

    26. It makes perfect sense that F1 team bosses want to see drivers deliver good results in other series before they even think of trying them out in their own cars. The series where they will watch for that are mostly the official FIA open wheel feeder series. ie GP3/F3, GP2/F2.

      Drivers who have not show that they are good enough for F1 (anymore), but still are reasonably talented tend to end up in IndyCar or Formula E. So it also maks sense that winning in either of those series does not generally offer a path back into F1.

      It’s true that wins tend be spread out over more teams and drivers in IndyCar. For one, IndyCar results are somewhat more like a lottery. Besides that, agreed that in Indycar the chasm between top and midfield teams might not be that big as in F1, but it still exists.

      If you are not driving for either Penske, Chip Ganassi or Andretti, the chance of actually winning a race on merit in IndyCar is extremely slim too.

      You will not be champion in IndyCar either if you are not driving for Penske or Chip Ganassi.

    27. @chrisr1718 I don’t think F1 looks down on American drivers. I’m sure Haas would jump at hiring an Indycar driver if they had a good solid season of F2 in their background, to show that they wouldn’t have the same problems with crossing the Atlantic as Sebastian Bourdais did. Indycar drivers are very good, but like F1, Indycars invites a certain degree of specialism. There is no guarantee that a driver who does well in one will also do well in the other, no matter what their talent level is in the series they call home. The relatively low Superlicence point provision for Indycars reflects this.

    28. He’s basically saying, American drivers would be considered UPPITY.

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