Start, Road America, IndyCar, 2020

Grosjean’s arrival boosts IndyCar’s best grid for years


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Romain Grosjean’s move into IndyCar racing is the latest in a series of additions which bolster the driving strength in America’s foremost single-seater championship.

The former Renault, Lotus and Haas F1 driver, with 10 podiums to his name, will go up against a field which includes eight different title-winners at this level. He won’t race in the Indianapolis 500, or any of the four races on ovals, but the series nonetheless features nine drivers who have won its most famous race.

In addition to Grosjean, IndyCar has also attracted two major names from the tin-top racing worlds of NASCAR and Australian Supercars.

The 2021 contenders are led by reigning champion Scott Dixon, who won the championship for the sixth time last year, at the age of 40. His Ganassi team has expanded its squad this year to bring in NASCAR ace Jimmie Johnson, winner of seven Cup titles, who like Grosjean will race on all the road and street courses. His car will be taken over for the four oval rounds by the team’s third 40-something, Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar champion Tony Kanaan.

Scott Dixon, Jimmie Johnson, IndyCar, Sebring, 2021
Dixon is seeking a seventh title, Johnson already has that many
Former F1 driver Marcus Ericsson, who encouraged Grosjean to investigate the series, remains part of their line-up. The team has also made an astute hire in the form of Alex Palou, who showed potential in a range of junior categories and took third place in only his third IndyCar start for Coyne at Road America last year.

IndyCar’s other powerhouse teams are also fielding four full-season cars. Penske’s enviable line-up includes arguably the best driver in IndyCar today, two-times champion Josef Newgarden, plus a pair of drivers each with an IndyCar and Indy 500 title to their names: Will Power and Simon Pagenaud. Their roster is completed by Australian Supercars ace Scott McLaughlin, who won that championship for the last three years running and is starting his first full IndyCar season.

Josef Newgarden, Penske, IndyCar, Sebring, 2021
Newgarden narrowly missed a third IndyCar title last year
Meanwhile Andretti have slimmed down their roster from five to four following the exits of Zach Veach and Marco Andretti, the latter having failed to sustain the flashes of potential he demonstrated at the beginning of his career. He will return for the Indianapolis 500 only.

While Andretti have two Indianapolis 500 winners on their books – ex-Manor F1 driver Alexander Rossi and 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay – Colton Herta has distinguished himself as one of the series hottest young properties. He won his third start at Circuit of the Americas in 2019, and placed third in the championship last year. Another IndyCar race winner, James Hinchcliffe, is back in a full-time seat for 2021.

Colton Herta, Andretti, IndyCar, Sebring, 2021
Herta took third in his second season of IndyCar
Herta ended last season just five points ahead of another emerging IndyCar star, Pato O’Ward. The 21-year-old, in his first full season with the newly-formed alliance between McLaren and Schmidt Peterson, did everything but win a race, taking a pole position and a trio of second-place finishes.

Felix Rosenqvist, who passed O’Ward with two laps to go at Road America last year to seal his first IndyCar win, reinforces their driver line-up this year. With Fernando Alonso fully committed to F1 once again, McLaren SP will enlist the services of 1999 CART champion and two-times Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya for the big race in May.

Takuma Sato scored his second Indianapolis 500 win last year and carries on for another season alongside Graham Rahal at RLL. The pair finished sixth and seventh in the standings last year, Rahal ahead.

At Foyt, Grosjean’s fellow Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais, a serial title-winner in the final years of Champ Car before its merger with the Indy Racing League which formed the current series, is back for a full season.

With Helio Castroneves returning for another attempt to score a fourth Indianapolis 500 win with Meyer Shank, alongside the impressive Jack Harvey in a full-time seat at the team, the 2021 IndyCar grid is not short of elder statesmen or talented youngsters. In Grosjean, it now also has an F1-grade talent who is starved of success after 10 years without a win and five without a podium. It adds up to arguably the series’ strongest grid of its post-reunification era.

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2021 IndyCar drivers confirmed so far

Team Car Driver Notes
Ganassi 9 Scott Dixon Full season
Ganassi 10 Alex Palou Full season
Ganassi 8 Marcus Ericsson Full season
Penske 2 Josef Newgarden Full season
Penske 3 Scott McLaughlin Full season
Penske 12 Will Power Full season
Penske 22 Simon Pagenaud Full season
Andretti 26 Colton Herta Full season
Andretti 27 Alexander Rossi Full season
Andretti 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay Full season
Andretti 29 James Hinchcliffe Full season
McLaren SP 5 Patricio O’Ward Full season
McLaren SP 7 Felix Rosenqvist Full season
RLL 15 Graham Rahal Full season
RLL 30 Takuma Sato Full season
Coyne-Vasser 18 Ed Jones Full season
Carpenter 21 Rinus Veekay Full season
Meyer Shank 60 Jack Harvey Full season
Foyt 4 Dalton Kellett Full season
Foyt 14 Sebastien Bourdais Full season
Ganassi 48 Jimmie Johnson 13 races, all road and street tracks
Coyne-Ware 51 Romain Grosjean 13 races, all road and street tracks
Ganassi 48 Tony Kanaan Four races, all ovals
Andretti-Herta 6 Marco Andretti Indianapolis 500 only
McLaren SP TBC Juan Pablo Montoya Indianapolis 500 only
Carpenter 20 Conor Daly 14 races, all road and street tracks plus Indianapolis 500
Carpenter 20 Ed Carpenter Four races, all ovals
Meyer Shank 6 Helio Castroneves Six races
Paretta 16 Simona de Silvestro Indianapolis 500 only

NB. Final entry list to be confirmed

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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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41 comments on “Grosjean’s arrival boosts IndyCar’s best grid for years”

  1. Stephen Higgins
    3rd February 2021, 14:19

    It is a fantastic line up, and good to see Indycar with such a health grid, but …

    a) It’s a shame there’s no free-to air UK TV coverage, and …

    b) The dearth of ovals, especially with two of them being on the same standard 1.5m NASCAR quad-oval and one of the other two being Indy, when there are such a surprising variety of oval they could have added (I’d love to see IndyCars tackling Martinsville !!)

    At least they have a decent amount of race footage on YouTube.

  2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    3rd February 2021, 14:35

    Good to see F1 drivers continuing to Indy – I think it confirms what we’ve all known for a while. It’s a very competitive series.

    1. @freelittlebirds to a point, as the series is still being dominated by the same big three teams (Andretti, Ganassi and Penske) that have dominated the series for about 20 years now. After all, in 2020, out of the 14 races that took place, 7 were won by a Penske driver and 5 by a Ganassi driver – one of the remaining two events, meanwhile, was won by a team that has formed a partnership with Andretti.

      1. anon While true, there were also 8 different pole winners, and 7 different race winners amongst the 14 races.

      2. They also represent more than half the grid as they enter many cars each. It’s like pointing most F1 races have been won by 5 teams. Unfortunately, if we exclude the few exception as you did, the number of winning team quickly dwindle to 1 for F1.

        I wouldn’t want a serie where everyone win a race either, we had the incredible tyre lottery one year where the sweet spot won. It was more unpredictable but it was no more engineering or driver skill, I might as well go to the casino and watch the roulette. Nice to have a proper balance between rewarding driver and teams for their hard work but leaving the door open for the occasional exception when another combination nails it (or luck it) on a specific weekend.

  3. I’ve been enjoying Indycar over the last few years, namely thanks to a well stocked YouTube channel (30 min race highlights have been an enjoyable gateway into the sport, which I would recommend) and a pretty solid virtual series last year. It is great to see Grosjean continue in some form, along with his other F1 compatriots, but there is some stiff competition across the field. I can understand why he is skipping the ovals for a first season, but who knows for the future.

  4. I’m surprised Jimmie Johnson isn’t running the ovals given that he was such a NASCAR ace. At least I get it with Grosjean in that he has no experience on them and they’re very high speed. Of course NASCAR cars are full body and heavily protect the drivers too.

    As to coverage it turns out I already have the channel that half the races will be shown on, that being NBC, but the other half are on NBCSN and for me would therefore have to be streamed. I took a pass on doing that last year so I saw half the races only, but may consider it for this year…will see. It’s about 10 bucks a month, so nothing too dire. More of a principal thing for me as it bugs me that the race coverage is split but under the same umbrella network.

    1. I was thinking the same thing. If you want any shot at the IndyCar title you basically have to race the ovals.

    2. @robbie Jimmie’s reasons are the same as Romain’s He thinks they are just too dangerous and like Romain, Jimmie has a family to worry about.

      1. @dragon86 Fair enough. Thanks Corey.

    3. Just wait. I think both Grojean and JJ will feel the electricity of Indy as May approaches. There will be cars entered they’ll have the option to jump into.

  5. It’s just a shame that the series is a shadow of its former self having lost 99% of what made CART so amazing 20+ years ago.

    It may have a good grid of drivers but it’s a dull spec series now with nothing of interest for anyone interested in the technical or development side of the sport. It’s hardly any better than any of the other junior spec categories in that regard which is a real shame given how utterly amazing the Indycar’s once were before Tony George decided to ruin it & how many promises the post merger owners have broken over the past 10 years.

    We were meant to have some chassis competition, We were meant to have an interesting grid of cars that all looked different with teams able to make there own tweaks to them just as happened in CART when the series was actually great & way more popular than the current Indycar series is.

    Yes fine they have 2 engine suppliers (Although again we were promised more than that) but even there they no longer allow any development so it’s all very similar & very dull with nothing of interest going on which is again a real shame given what this series was when it was actually hugely popular.

    Now it’s just another spec series to fuel the Dallara monopoly of the samey looking spec junior categories the sport has very sadly become full of.

    I just miss watching the Indy 500 (Or any other Indycar race) & seeing a field of different looking cars where even those from the same supplier have differences developed by each team. Was so much more interesting (And more popular) back then.

    1. I mean look how much more interesting THIS diverse field of cars looks compared to the boring spec cars we have of today.

      1. @roger-ayles And speaking of which, there’s JV in his beautiful blue Player’s car in the pic you have just posted. Good stuff.

    2. @roger-ayles I don’t disagree with much of what you have said. Yeah Tony George really blew it and the series hasn’t been the same since. It lost tons of momentum after he split the series up, and the global economic crash of 2008 didn’t help their cause much either, and they have scrambled for sponsors, money, and audience ever since.

      That said, they are still around, and I do still find myself drawn to watching it. It is racing after all, and there are some big names there, running on some iconic tracks, and I just find myself interested nonetheless, albeit not passionate about it like I last was when JV won rookie of the year in 94 and the Indy 500 and the Championship in 95 when it was CART, in his blue Player’s cars, ahead of his F1 stint. That was another thing that hit them really hard too…the pulling out of tobacco and booze sponsorship money which funded not only main teams and drivers but things like young driver programs.

    3. @roger-ayles I largely agree with you & have found myself been far less interested in the series the past couple years.

      I somehow managed to stick with both series through the split although did start to lose interest in Champcar the last 2-3 years as it moved away from Ovals, Went to a single spec chassis & made some other tweaks with things like dropping the white flag & moving to standing starts which all made it stand out a bit less.

      After the merger I had hoped the series would start to get back to where it was & they made a lot of promises early on but ultimately played it safe by sticking with Dallara as a single chassis series. I hope the aero kit idea would work to create a bit of diversity & interest in terms of looks & development but I think they went the wrong direction with them & ended up abandoning the idea completely rather than finding a way to make it work which I still feel was a shame.

      I think maybe newer/younger fans who weren’t around to see CART & who have only known the Indycar of the past 10-15 years may be happier with what it is now while those who know what it used to be like may be more down on it because I definitely do think the current Indycar is a lot ‘Less Interesting’ than CART was. Something that the classic race uploads they put on the official Indycar Youtube channel every Thursday just constantly reminds me.

      1. The last paragraph here describes F1 too.

    4. 1994, 1000hp pushrod engine running alongside various high strung DFV-lineage-ish engines. THAT was cool.

      In 1993 the series champion was some whiny rookie, but in IndyCar, that kind of talent could jump right in. :)

    5. Each to their own, but technical development always should take a back seat to having a competitive racing series. Especially as you’ve conveniently forgotten that in the late 90s Lola cars were nowhere in terms of providing a championship car.

      Tony George is the reason popularity dropped off and hasn’t recovered – having 2 nearly identical series with separate champions guarantees splitting the audience to the point that the casual viewer will simply ignore it and move on to something else.

      Maybe it’s just me, but surely what the cars look like should be irrelevant, so long as we have a decent amount of competition with the opportunity for smaller teams to have a realistic shot at winning races. Isn’t that the common complaint about Formula 1 these days?

  6. Yep and its a better watch generally than f1 just now. The cars are getting a bit better looking but still are a bit Airfix kit. All power to it though, I love the cars looking a handful and f1 might be nervously glancing across the Atlantic. Id always watch f1 but your hearts hardly ever in your mouth with f1, on the Ovals its never out.

  7. I’m hurt by this decision to race Indycar. If your not gunna run the 500 then why even bother. My fellow race fans are very much agreeing with me this morning in this decision. Just get out. The fact you aren’t running at Indy certainly means you are a broken driver. I wonder how ineffective he will become for having fear of one race, the only important race of the season.
    We think his time has come and gone.
    If you can’t do Indy then do the right thing

    1. “Fellow race fans” equates to how many people exactly?

      And saying you’re “hurt”? That he’s broken? That he’s ineffective? Sheesh. Get a grip and stop acting like it’s a huge injustice. Are you similarly upset by someone pushing in front of you in a queue or someone taking your parking space at work?

      1. @jules-winfield And in fairness, he has zero experience at ovals. Meanwhile RG is doing what he wants and loves and managed to secure a drive in Indycar. More power to him. This is obviously the right thing for him (and I’m sure his family), and the team is fine with him not running the ovals. The only important race of the season? Nah, they get points in all the races, so they are all important, at least to the ones actually participating.

      2. “Hurt or broken” means he has lost his balls to race in one of the worlds most difficult challenges. Mistakes there incase you didn’t know can become fatal or life altering in the snap of a fingers.
        To hire into an Indycar team and have that driver say you won’t drive the 500 says so much about the driver that I have difficulty understand why you are such an expert.
        It’s just my opinion and I find your comments to intentionally shame me are nothing but a reflection of your own issues.

        1. Guy nearly died hitting a wall, I can understand his reticence. Easy to be a keyboard king. Lets see you turn left at 230mph with that in your mind. And to be fair to him, he said he was terrified of Ovals before his crash. Yeh you’re entitled to your opinion but please dont think you speak for ‘fellow racefans’. You dont.

        2. StevenHolmes You seem to be assuming they hired RG and then he told them he was ‘too broken’ for the ovals. Rather, RG made the right decision due to his family’s concerns for his safety, and RG knew he couldn’t put them through those kinds of fears, and he would have explained that to the team while they were agreeing the terms of his hiring. And indeed they hired him, eyes wide open. I think whatever you might want to criticize RG for in terms of what you think it says about him to not run the 500, can be countered with what it says of him as a man and particularly a family man, that he would look after them too, and not just be selfish.

          So you see it may not at all be that RG is ‘broken’, too afraid to drive the high speed ovals, but rather that he is a whole and loving family man, perhaps even moreso, after what he himself has described as a near death experience of 28 seconds, which felt much longer to him, during which his family was very much on his mind and an inspiration to keep trying to extricate himself even when initial attempts had him feeling his foot was too stuck.

    2. He’s not the first to drive on road and street courses only; Jordan King, Luca Fillippi, Mike Conway, among others. In the case of Conway, it came after a near fatal crash on an oval and he still won a race after that. It’s nothing new.

      1. In all of those cases though they drove for Ed Carpenter Racing, after Ed made the decision to only do the ovals. Considering how bad his road course record is, that was a great commercial decision to do what he’s good at and employ another driver for the other races who in some cases didn’t want to do the ovals. It was a win-win all round.

        You also missed Max Chilton who, apart from the 500, also only drove road courses. Conor Daly got the Carlin seat at the other ovals and ran Ed Carpenter’s no. 20 on the road courses (and an extra car for the 500, so Conor ran the full season in 3 different cars).

        It’s a viable strategy – yes the drivers championship is out, but having the right driver in the right seat for the right track can hardly be considered a bad move.

  8. Mark in Florida
    3rd February 2021, 17:48

    Indy Car is looking good for the coming season. Grosjean is getting back in the saddle again so soon really shows his spirit and mental toughness. I think that Jimmy Johnson is avoiding the ovals until he gets used to the car. Though AJ Foyt, Mario and other old timers would have laughed at him since they regularly ran NASCAR, dirt tracks and Indy and sometimes F1. Yeah Indy isn’t what it used to be like when Roger Penske built his famous engine in 94( The Beast )in collaboration with Ilmor just to win the 500. But that is the past when tobacco and alcohol money flowed into the racing community. So now it’s not about the aero or engineering it’s about the drivers in fairly equal machines with a chance to win. I think that is what makes it compelling to watch for me. F1 already has the winner chosen before the race has started which is a massive let down, when it’s all so predetermined. In Indy racing the guy at the back can sometimes come to the front. It makes for an exciting race.

  9. Such a shame that Aeroscreen ruins the series. At first I thought it’d be a better option than Halo but I was wrong. I’ve basically stopped watching IndyCar after the implementation of Aeroscreen, because it makes it impossible to distinguish drivers from each other.

    1. Surely anyone that has ever watched Indycar knows that almost every car has it’s own individual livery, and even those teams that do run the same overall livery (like Mclaren) have enough differences to easily tell who’s who.

      What an odd comment…

      1. @graham228221 Never distinguished drivers by the car livery. Okay well Dixon’s car livery is pretty unique. I learned driver helmets and used them as to distinguish drivers just like I do with F1. Can’t see helmets at all thanks to Aeroscreen so I have no idea who’s on screen and following races is just an impossible task.

        1. @huhhii But why does it have to be helmets?

          Personally, I’ve never took the time to memorize the drivers helmets, as car numbers have always been enough. Not only are they on the car, but series will also have them listed with he driver on results sheets. After a couple of rounds, the driver/number combos become ingrained in your head. In this age of changing liveries and even helmet designs on a weekly basis, car numbers become the one thing that stays consistent throughout the entire season.

        2. @huhhii but… why would you need to rely on spotting the helmets if the entire car is a different colour?

          Ganassi team colours last year:
          Dixon : Orange and Blue
          Ericsson : Red and White
          Rosenqvist : Blue and Black

          Why would I need to know what helmets they were wearing?!

          Criticise the aeroscreen for ruining the cars looks or making it too safe or whatever, but this is just a weird argument.

        3. …and Helmets in F1 don’t? I’ve lost count of the number of roundup articles on this site showcasing one-off helmet designs for a race.

          Also, good luck telling the difference between Dixon and Alonso’s Indy 500 cars, when both were slightly different combinations of orange and blue – I rewatched the race last week and telling the difference was far from easy.

          It’s unfortunate but the idea of using a helmet to work out which driver is which are long gone. I do wish Indycar went back to the light panels they had on the side of the airbox/rollover hoop which would help (by showing either car number or race position) but it’s not like car numbers are difficult to see in Indycar.

          As for the aeroscreen you’re criticism is unjustified. Because there were multiple incidents at the 1st Iowa race last year that could have had a very different outcome if the aeroscreen wasn’t in place. Being able to spot which driver is which by helmet design is completely irrelevant if the aeroscreen’s presence has likely saved multiple lives.

    2. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      4th February 2021, 12:22

      I think the aeroscreen looks miles better than the halo but its personal preference

      1. @dragon86 I watched majority of road and street course races between 2015-2019 and I can’t remember single driver-number combination number. I just don’t pay attention to them.

        @graham228221 The problem is liveries don’t stay the same for entire season. They differentiate by quite a lot race-by-race depending on sponsorship contracts. I can remember Dixon’s livery and Hunter-Reay often has yellowish car with DHL branding I believe but that’s about it. I do remember what their helmets look like (applies for entire grid), it’s just that Aeroscreen completely hides them.

        1. The problem seems to be not that the cars are indistinguishable from eachother, but that you don’t pay enough attention to the distinguishing features because they aren’t the specific features you demand. You know there is a pretty simple solution to that…..

  10. I am perplexed about the enthusiasm about Grosjean. He was showing eary promises, like make have, but has not lived up to them. I know he hasn’t had the car to win races or score points often. But when has he impressed? (Please enlighten me here of I am incorrect). He will be remembered more for surviving pretty much unscathed that horrific crash rather than his racing abilities. Let’s see what he does in IndyCar.

  11. Too bad he will be in a backmarker again

  12. Jose Lopes da Silva
    4th February 2021, 10:18

    “Former F1 driver Marcus Ericsson, who encouraged Grosjean to investigate the series…”

    So, this was Ericsson’s fault.

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