Colton Herta

F1 wants a US driver, but an IndyCar pipeline suits no one


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Formula 1 wants a driver from the United States, and it wants more races there too, and so it’s natural that people ask the question why the FIA and Formula One Management don’t look at IndyCar.

It’s got venues with the capability of hosting an F1 grand prix, and drivers more than capable of being on the pace were they to land in F1. No less a driver than Mario Andretti has praised the potential of Colton Herta, while two-times champion Josef Newgarden exudes quality.

But IndyCar, one of only a handful truly professional single-seater championships in the world, is being snubbed when it comes to FIA superlicence points. Third place in junior series Formula 2 automatically qualifies a driver to race in F1, while only becoming champion in IndyCar will do the same. In a series with multiple engine suppliers, double-points races of historic prestige and teams of varying competitiveness, that is an achievement significantly harder than starring in F2.

Winning the FIA Formula 3 Championship title is comparable to second place in IndyCar in superlicence points, and winning fourth-tier series Formula Regional European Championship earns more than third in IndyCar. That’s valuing race wins at a professional level lower than a junior championship which had a grid of 11 cars, teams that left the brakes fixed on their cars and driver coaches getting called up to race to raise the competitivity level in 2020. Is the FIA over-valuing its series at the expense of IndyCar?

Romain Grosjean has entered IndyCar this year from F1, and already has a pole position and a podium. But he’s 16th in the standings with six races to go; it’s that competitive. In fact, only six drivers have more top five finishes than Grosjean and he’s missed three races.

Romain Grosjean, Coyne/Rick Ware, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 2021
Grosjean is has starred in IndyCar since F1 switch
One of those drivers is McLaren Schmidt Peterson’s Patricio O’Ward, the star of the Texas and Detroit double-headers as he took a win and a third in both. He currently lies second in the points, and his maiden IndyCar triumph has earned him an F1 test with McLaren at the end of this year.

“I think there’s a lot of talent in IndyCar and some drivers there that are extremely capable of being competitive in Formula 1,” McLaren racing CEO Zak Brown said in response to a question from RaceFans. “I think the superlicence process can probably be reviewed as far as it relates to that.”

Of the 40 drivers to have raced in IndyCar this year, only the past three champions Dixon, Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, as well as 2018 runner-up Alexander Rossi can claim a 2021 superlicence based off their American racing accomplishments, and Pagenaud only does so with the loosening of the superlicence requirements during the pandemic.

Four more holders are ex-F1 drivers in the series, while rookie Scott McLaughlin’s three Australian Supercars titles are worthy enough to make him F1 eligible.

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Brown also talked about Kevin Magnussen’s IndyCar debut with his team, with no prior testing, at Road America a fortnight ago. Magnussen qualified 21st, led six laps in the middle of the race and according to McLaren was on for a top 10 finish before electrical issues struck.

“Pretty difficult situation, to get dropped into a race car where you’re making a seat and getting out in a race car shortly thereafter but the team really enjoyed working with him,” Brown said.

“He was a total professional, fast, but I think it shows how difficult the series is, that you can’t just drop in and expect to be competitive after an hour of driving the race car for the first time.”

It’s a complex car that puts an emphasis on drivers’ physical ability as much as fuel and tyre management. Surely it’s an obvious route to grand prix racing?

But while F1 CEO Stefano Domencali admitted in a recent exclusive interview with RaceFans he is eager to have an American driver in the series, he said he is content to leave the superlicence points question in the FIA’s hands.

Kevin Magnussen, McLaren SP, IndyCar, Road America, 2021
Magnussen led on his IndyCar debut, thanks to a caution period
“I would say that is something that it’s part of the FIA responsibility in the definition of the points for the superlicence,” was his response to IndyCar’s superlicence snub.

“I think that every year there is this kind of discussion that is related to the fact that every year, depending on the different technical challenge that the championship, there is quite a complex key to follow. And I think that is a point to address to the [FIA Single-Seater] Commission to respect the role.”

From that statement is can be read that F2 is posing a greater technical challenge than IndyCar, which has 500-mile races and no need for reversed girds to add strategic variability.

IndyCar, including its various pre-split forms, beat F1 to driver-controlled overtaking aids, high-degradation tyres, bioethanol fuels (since 2007), safety advancements such as SAFER barriers and full course yellows. Even F1’s new aerodynamic formula for 2022 can be compared to the aero kit IndyCar adopted three years ago.

There hasn’t been hybrid power yet from current engine suppliers Chevrolet and Honda, but that changes in 2013 with the existing 2.2-litre V6 twin-turbo units being succeeded by larger 2.4-litre engines coupled with a spec hybrid system consisting of a multi-phase motor, inverter and electric storage device for regenerative braking.

That move, combined with F1’s aerodynamic simplification, essentially brings the series the closest together they’ve ever been in the 21st century. And that means the FIA really can’t ignore the relevance of a series with roots far older than its own.

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However, it’s in no one’s interest to turn IndyCar into an F1 driver pipeline even if there may be more cross-pollination of other roles in the hybrid era.

Rossi pedalled uncompetitive Manor in 2015
Rossi was the last driver competing under the United States’ flag to make F1, and he set a cautionary tale on the return to his home country. He scraped his way onto the back of the grid with Manor mid-season in 2015, after previous false starts at debuting, and while he had a reserve driver role for 2016 he headed off to IndyCar to race. By his sixth race, the Indianapolis 500, he had won.

His father and manager Pieter, while involved throughout all of his junior single-seater career in Europe, had far better standing securing Rossi an IndyCar future at a top team than signing with any F1 team. Conversely, European managers whose own lives as well as their clients’ have been entirely based on that continent find it tricky to get deals in America no matter how good their driver is. It is hard to get a top IndyCar seat.

Rossi again is a good example here, with prolonged negotiations in 2019 ultimately resulting in a three-year contract with the Andretti team his IndyCar career had started with (initially in a car co-run by Bryan Herta). There had been several rounds of going back to the table seeing who could offer what financially, and also in resources to win a title with, as rival teams were interested in his signature.

His profile, income and development as a driver has been far higher than had he stuck around in F1, and in hindsight strengthened the message from 2016 even further that a American can reach F1 but only at the expense of the kind of successes they could have at home.

And while Grosjean has been welcomed with open arms this year, mostly because of the feel-good story behind his racing return, there is no demand in the IndyCar paddock for more F1 names to follow – although Magnussen, his former team mate at Haas, now appears to be aiming for a full-time 2022 drive.

The series is growing in stature year-on-year, with increasing television figures and public recognition of its top drivers, and its popularity has led to a new race on the streets of Nashville joining the calendar next month. Domestic demand for seats far exceeds supply, and there aren’t enough engine leases to cover the number of interested teams either, which will become even tighter in the hybrid era as costs are expected to increase.

Herta and Newgarden appear unlikely to get F1 seats
Ex-F1 drivers may have inflated negotiating power with their hybrid experience and budgets, and that could put current names on the grid under threat. It’s no surprise that IndyCar drivers are already working on 2023 contracts where possible.

Boosting IndyCar’s superlicence points becomes an ineffective move the moment more superlicence holders start moving there, and because of increased F1 relevance could then even make it a rival to F2 for young drivers with big budgets wanting to get those points to race in F1. IndyCar can’t afford to have drivers with only one-year programmes on their mind outbidding long-term prospects for seats. Influxes and exoduses of drivers would be as costly as each other.

This is in the FIA’s interest as much as IndyCar’s, particularly when it comes to the question of budgets. Since introducing its current Formula 2 car in 2018, the only driver who isn’t the son of a multi-millionaire to make it to F1 and remain beyond their rookie season is George Russell. It’s under pressure to do what it can to make F2 more successful as a generator of F1 talent, and increasing IndyCar’s attraction won’t be its answer. Especially when the series is doing a enough job of that itself.


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Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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73 comments on “F1 wants a US driver, but an IndyCar pipeline suits no one”

  1. The FIA likes a closed shop. IndyCar is not part of that. The FIA doesn’t want to accidentally promote IndyCar by acknowledging that it exists. Big points for the champion is only so that F1 can get the big press if their champion essentially deflects to F1.

    In my book it should be equal to F2. As a career path to young drivers, most have already progressed through the “road to Indy” (equivalent to F4->F3->F2), then eaten at the big dog’s table. 2nd or 3rd should be eligible for a super licence.

    Currently at the top end of the scale, the points drop off too quickly. Anything less than 10 points is essentially worthless to any kind of progression. In a class that is so competitive, the system is biased against someone with a good 3 year average, and weighted against someone who can have a stand out season:

    If someone came 5th in F2 for 3 years in a row, would you say they were the crème de la crème and good enough for F1? No they would be unremarkable with no progression. Probably showing inconsistency. But they’d qualify for a super licence. If you came 4th in IndyCar for 3 years in a row, you would not qualify. You could argue the same inconsistencies, but the window of opportunity is narrower. 4th from outside one of the big 3 teams is a great achievement, yet does not get acknowledged by such a simple system.

    1. @eurobrun doesn’t that argument also apply rather strongly to the racing scene in the USA and their sanctioning bodies? Is there any evidence that any US motorsport sanctioning body actually wants to have that sort of relationship with Formula 1, or that they have any interest in changing the status quo within their sanctioned series either?

      After all, IndyCar has also introduced its own equivalent licencing system that intentionally prioritises their own “road to Indy” over international series – and, just like the FIA superlicence, it has clauses that are intended to make exemptions for a high profile F1 driver to enter for the commercial benefits that it would bring to them. Why isn’t that system facing criticism?

      Isn’t a major assumption, if not the entire thrust of this article and most of the arguments in this thread, relying on the assumption that IndyCar wants that partnership in the first place? Shouldn’t the first question be whether they would actually want that sort of agreement in the first place, rather than automatically assuming that the answer is yes?

    2. Even though they are friendly towards each other (standard business etiquette), they rightfully look at each other as competitors at the top level of open wheel. Liberty Media bid on IndyCar at the same time Penske did and lost. I can’t help to wonder how different things would be progressing if they were under the same ownership. The bottom line is how many IndyCar drivers would want to drive around at the back of the grid with no hope of winning (Grosjean at Haas, etc…), or have a fair chance to win the oldest, biggest, most historic race on earth?

      1. Don, how exactly are you defining those claims of “oldest, biggest, most historic”?

        If you are talking about motorsport as a whole, then wouldn’t the French Grand Prix pre-date the Indianapolis 500? What about Milwaukee Mile, which also held automotive races prior to Indianapolis? On the broader theme of motorsport, I am sure that many motocycling fans would point out to you that the Isle of Mann also held races prior to Indianapolis.

        With regards to the comments of “biggest” and “most historic” – no offence, but those sound like rather bombastic and also highly subjective comments.

        1. I know most of the audience here is British or European or biased that way but come on Anon.
          Indy is the oldest continuously held major race. It’s the biggest by far in terms of race day attendance and globally is the most widely recognized and most famous. The Indy 500 is a big deal. Always has been, always will be. Look at how the fans reacted to Helio’s fourth win there this year. That was one of the greatest post race scenes and celebrations in the history of Motorsport. From the outside looking in or to someone or familiar with IndyCar it might be harder to grasp, but read about it, watch it, go to the race one day and you will understand.

          1. Tater, how is it “British or European bias” to point out that there is a US venue – Milwaukee Mile – that could point out that it held motorsport races before Indianapolis?

            With regards to race day attendance – with due respect, how do you know it is “the biggest by far in terms of race day attendance” when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway point refuses to publish attendance figures, and has refused to do so for decades?

            Yes, the Indy 500 is a big event – but the problem is that Don has made some claims about the event that are very exaggerated and rather emotionally driven (such as previously claiming minimum attendance figures that were wildly beyond what was thought to have been the maximum ever attendance at the Indy 500).

          2. anon: I loved the Milwaukee Mile, but nobody on earth is going to watch Indy, then watch the week AFTER Indy and pretend Milwaukee mattered as much as Indy, even when they were scheduled on consecutive weeks through the years.

            Same for the French Grand Prix. Nobody on the planet is going to look at Indy, then look at the FGP and say, yeah, the French Grand Prix holds more weight.

            Not even Monaco holds up to Indy, anymore, and even at its heyday, Monaco was merely one of the three big world races alongside Indy rather than above it.

            Indy is Indy. It IS the premiere individual motorsport race.

            Isle of Man and Pike’s Peak aren’t the same kind of race, either, nor are the Baja races.

            If auto racing were cycling, Indy IS the Tour de France, even if FIA is more like the UCI.

          3. @Anon Except that the Milwaukee Indycar race hasn’t run since 2015, and attendance was very poor. I went to the 2014 race and the race itself was fairly entertaining, but very few people turned up to watch it (around 10% at best).

            As for the French GP, the 10 year gap between 2008-2018 does lessen it’s status.

            Subjectively, the 500 ticks the boxes to qualify as the most historic race. It’s been around the longest, been held continuously since 1911 bar war years and the basic concept of the race hasn’t changed i.e. a 500 mile race around the same track (bar the pit lane changes made over the years).

            Also I don’t think Indy really needs to publish attendance figures for us to know it’s a big deal. 2016 was a sell-out. So was this year wit the capped attendance, but we therefore know that 140,000 tickets were sold. Part of the reason is that prices for the race start at $60 – so people turn up. Even the race on the road course in May had a decent attandance, the stands around turn 1 (where I sat) were at least 70% full.

            You really need to go to understand it. People in the immediate area around the track fullyt get involved, local houses have chequered flags painted everywhere (I’ve seen more than a few patios painted black and white in the streets next to the car park that’s next to the track). It’s really difficult to explain just how big the event is, but you only need to drive to the nearest supermarket to understand that IMS dominates the immediate area and that people in Indianapolis love having such a big race there. Apart from Le Mans, I can’t think of anywhere else where that could happen in any sport.

            @Don Milwauke is actually operational – they held a (local) race meet just a month ago on Father’s Day weekend in the US (19-20th June). Indycar won’t bother going back though unless they can get crowds back. Clearly it’s possible as the race at Gateway across the river from St Louis has had huge crowds since it came back to the schedule a few years ago, thanks to great promotion and marketing (i.e. running TV ads about the race with ticket prices during coverage of the 500 qualifying being a start). Milwaukee needs similar promotion for it to work, though it may be difficult with Elkhart Lake being just 65 minutes up the road.

          4. @skydiverian it is one thing to claim it is “a big deal”, which I naturally do not dispute, and another to be asserting that “it is a fact” that it is the biggest sporting event in the world and then proceeding to post figures that, at times, seem to have been chosen entirely at random.

            If there are those who make a claim that it is “a fact” that the attendance is that high, then you would expect to see some evidence that backs up those claims. Without having any figures for the attendance, why should I be expected to take it as an article of faith and unquestioningly believe those claims?

            If I said it was “a fact” that there was another motorsport event that had a higher attendance, then I’d expect you would ask for evidence of that – so, why shouldn’t I apply that same requirement for evidence to the Indy 500 as well?

        2. Oldest, yes, Milwaukee isn’t in operation anymore. Biggest, yes, it’s the largest single day sporting event in the world – which is a fact. What other event of any type has 300,000 people for a single day? None.

          1. Don, how can you claim that it is “a fact” that the attendance figures are in that range when you have never provided any evidence to support your claim?

            With due respect, why should I believe any of your claimed figures when you provide no evidence for any of your claims – especially since you seem to keep changing your claimed figures all the time?

            You’ve previously claimed attendance figures that have varied from 300,000 to 450,000 – where are you getting those figures from, and why do you keep changing them so much?

  2. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    9th July 2021, 9:02

    I love both Indycar and Formula One. There are plenty of transferable skills for drivers so it makes sense that we see drivers switch series, but it’s mostly the less successful F1 drivers moving to Indycar and that tells you something about the standard of the drivers in general.
    I’ve no doubt Herta and Newgarden could do well in F1, but in all honesty if US drivers want to be in F1 the best route is F2 for all kinds of reasons not least that it allows F1 teams to compare them to other up and coming drivers from around the world.

    1. “but it’s mostly the less successful F1 drivers moving to Indycar and that tells you something about the standard of the drivers in general.”

      I will name you some unsuccessful F1 drivers:
      Fernando Alonso – currently 11th in the standings, in his last 4 F1 seasons he finished the championship at the: 17th, 10th, 15th, 11th place. Not even a single podium in the last 5 years, let alone a win. – clearly a mediocre F1 talent, isn’t he?

      Sebastian Vettel – 13th in the championship last year, he’s currently 10th in the standings – Another mediocre F1 talent.

      George Russell – In his 3rd F1 season, perennial backmarker who can’t even finish a race in top 10. He is currently 17th in the standings, which is his best, LOL. Crearly even below a mediocre talent – a bum driver pretty much. Should move to IndyCar, shouldn’t he?

      Wait, wait! He actually finished one race in top-10, one he almost got a pole position for!! How could that be!? WUT?? Oh, he drove a different car? A Mercedes? Did that make a difference?

      Now name me an F1 driver who moved to IndyCar because he was unsuccessful driving a top F1 car. Please do.

      Food for thought.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        9th July 2021, 11:36

        Food for thought… indeed… for about 5 seconds.

        We all know the top teams in F1 employ the best drivers. There are a few exceptions I grant you, but by and large less successful F1 drivers don’t get to drive a top F1 car.

        I would say Alonso and Vettel have been successful in F1 and I believe Russell will be so If one of those moved to Indycar that would be a shock. I don’t count one off Indy 500s, they are a different case.

        Nigel Mansell springs to mind as an outlier.

        Oh and off the top of my head I’d say Romain Grosjean failed to deliver in a top F1 car when at Lotus. His team mate Raikonnen won races. I’m sure I could find more if I could be bothered.

        I cant quite work out your argument. Are you saying the driver standard in Indycar is as good as F1?

        1. I think that’s what they are implying indirectly. For instance, if Hamilton was to race in IndyCar, there is no guarantee that he would be any better than Newgarden.

          1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
            10th July 2021, 12:08

            No not guaranteed, just a 90% chance…

    2. pastaman (@)
      9th July 2021, 13:17

      The less successful F1 drivers that move to Indycar are less successful there as well.

    3. It would tell you something if they had gone to Indycar and been among the best, but this isn’t what’s happened. Grosjean was middle of the road in F1 (at points pretty good) and has been solidly better than average in Indy. Ericsson was bad but not the worst in F1, and he’s been very middle of the road in Indy, only getting a race win after two and a half seasons. The best f1 drivers are the best in the world, but at any given moment I would say the best ~4 Indy guys (with comparative training etc) could do well in the middle field and probably half of Indy’s grid is better than the worst few in F1.

  3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    9th July 2021, 9:07

    You could argue a super license should be about safety rather than performance. Let the teams decide who they run.

    1. @sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk, as far as I remember that was the exact justification for introducing super license points in the first place.

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        9th July 2021, 11:18

        Agreed. There has to be a mechanism to stop the proliferation of F1 pay drivers.

        1. I thought to prevent young drivers driving in F1? There is no other reason then that.

  4. “I think that every year there is this kind of discussion that is related to the fact that every year, depending on the different technical challenge that the championship, there is quite a complex key to follow. And I think that is a point to address to the [FIA Single-Seater] Commission to respect the role.”
    I know English is not is native language, but what kind of words soup is that?

  5. I agree that f1 should work on it to bring the talent from Indy closer, seems a very low hanging fruit, idk what the counter-argument is about, honestly, they seem just over-protective of their own ladder for no apparent reason. Not like it will suddenly make IndyLights the cheapest and best way to f1.

    Re the article though… Seems to me that Magnussen leading briefly and then being on course for a top-10 doesnt “show how difficult the series is, that you can’t just drop in”, but indeed the opposite.

    Also if there’s “no demand” for f1 drivers, then why is everybody supposedly bothered sorting out their future Indy contracts, worried about f1 drivers’ inflated negotiating power?

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      9th July 2021, 9:26

      K Mag wasn’t on course for a top 10. Wishful thinking bt McLaren there, he was essentially last, and chose to stay out under safety car when the entire field pitted. He would have needed a lot of friendly dice rolls to not cycle towards the back again.

    2. @minilemm
      Like Pat already said – Magnusse. was dead last Mazepin style, I suspect they didn’t pit him when everybody did during a safety car period purposely for TV exposure.

      @Keith Collantine
      Mentioning that Magnussem lead laps in the IndyCar race – which isn’t obviously what really happend – misinforms people and creates a false depiction very much not in favour of IndyCar.

      1. Ah okay that makes more sense then, cheers guys

    3. It should be pointed out that Magnussen led only because every other car had pitted and was on a completely different strategy because of doing poorly. It wasn’t on merit.

      1. I am sure the guy who was the 9th best driver in F1 last year, according to well-respected and entirely neutral sources, did just fine in his IndyCar debut, and your appeal to “facts” and “what actually happened” is just hot air.

  6. I think the average driver in Indycar is better than the average driver in F1, because Indycar has more focus on raw talent than money. Aka Latifi, Mazepin, etc….

    The top drivers in F1 are still better than Indy.

    1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      9th July 2021, 11:46

      Latifi, Mazepin, I’ll give you those. Thats 2. Anymore.

      How about.
      Johnson, Kellet, De Silvestro, Karam, Kimball, Chilton and possibly a few more, but I’ll be kind.

      I’m pretty sure the average F1 driver is better than the average Indycar driver. That’s not a criticism. Its just the difference between a national and international series.

      In defence of Indycar, its a more level playing field and usually more entertaining to watch. The circuits are amazing and very challenging.

      1. Andrew Murray
        10th July 2021, 22:08

        While I agree with your point here, it’s a bit unfair to lump Jimmie Johnson into your comparison. It’s the man’s rookie season in an open-wheel car after driving nothing but a NASCAR Cup car for 20 years. To expect him to do anything more than be a backmarker in his first outing is a bit silly and overly optimistic. You couldn’t find two vehicles that are more at odds with each other than an IndyCar and a Cup car – apple and oranges. But given Jimmie’s success in NASCAR, I would argue he’s just as good as any F1 or IndyCar champion on a pound-for-pound talent basis. It’s just simply a different discipline – just as F1 is to indyCar. I would also argue this why the concept of series such as IROC or SRX have such keen interest from fans – the most talented drivers from all forms of racing squaring off against each other on a level playing field catches eyes.

        It also speaks to a larger point about the current superlicense points structure. What is the purpose of the system? To filter for performance and raw-talent potential or for safety standards and discipline familiarity? If it’s the former, then a seven-time champion of the top-level professional motorsport series in the US such as Jimmie should have a legitimate claim to a superlicense, regardless of the fact that it’s vastly different discipline. If it’s the latter, then results in anything outside of the FIA open-wheel “universe” shouldn’t hold that much weight.

        The FIA is currently trying to have their cake and eat it too by having a licensing system which seems completely unfocused in its structure or reason for existence. Either its for raw talent and drivers from championships of all disciplines are weighed equally or its for safety and discipline familiarity.

      2. Let’s break this down:

        Johnson – a good starting point, but you are talking about a 7 time champion who make Kimi Raikonnen look like he’s got 20 years left rather than being the oldest driver in the sport for some time.
        Dalton Kellet – too soon to say, this is his 2nd season total and 1st full season
        De Silvestro – scored a podium in Houston a few years back. Left Indycar for a test role in Sauber and only came back to Indycar this year.
        Karam – left to dry after his partial season with Ganassi at age 20, really needed more time. Currently Indy-only with a very small team so of course he struggled to 31st on the grid. Still finished in 7th at this year’s race.
        Kimball – has won a race and scored other podiums.
        Chilton – led the most laps in the 500 in 2017 and finished 4th. Has been with Carlin since 2018, who basically make up the numbers.

        So none of them are in the Taki Inoue range of ability, so I’d say are in the average or better territory. In a straight fight I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of them in the conversation.

    2. Alex Palou is leading the IndyCar standings.
      That essentially renders your entire argument null and void.

      Focus in F1 is squarely on talent. Seats cost a lot of money but in almost all cases drivers get money because they’ve been best among peers for years, thus attracting sponsors to pay for those seats.

      1. @mattds Palou was a mechanical DNF away from winning the Super Formula championship as a rookie (on pole at the finale and would have clinched with a win). That puts him on par with Pierre Gasly’s season there.

        With Ganassi as dominant as it is this season, I don’t see any reason why a driver in a Ganassi car with Gasly-level talent (and a double points paying P2 at Indy) shouldn’t be leading the standings.

        1. @markzastrow apologies, only read this just now as I didn’t log in for a while and thus got no notifications.
          I don’t agree Palou’s system was on par with Gasly’s. Gasly was unlucky in the first two rounds and still ended up half a point away from the title, and picked up more podiums. Either way, competition is not static from year to year. And on top of that, one result isn’t the be all and end all of a comparison and does not decide whether they’re at the same level.
          Palou isn’t bad, but was really only ever good in national series and failed to convince at European level while Gaslydid remain highly competitive at European level and subsequently won the accolades for that.
          Palou is not as good as Gasly. And to be honest, Gasly is a great driver but not among the very best in F1 either. There’s a step up.

          Actually my reply even works with Palou on the same level as Gasly (which I don’t agree with evidently). Because that means the level that, in F1, is “sub-top” (does that work in English?) is top in Indycar and it still validates my objection to the idea of the OP that the field in Indycar is of higher level.

          1. @mattds No worries. I wasn’t taking a side on F1 vs. IndyCar (except that I agree with OP that the top F1 drivers are a cut above the top IndyCar drivers). I just think Palou is underrated and that his results in Super Formula compare favorably to other highly-rated (though not top-rated) drivers, like Gasly, O’Ward and Rosenqvist. Palou, too, had mechanical problems on his SF debut, where he qualified P2. It’s true he didn’t impress in Europe, but as you say, competition is not static, and sometimes drivers excel in one series with a particular car or one tyre and not with others.

            I also don’t think Palou being at the top of the IndyCar standings this says much about the strength of the IndyCar field one way or the other because 1) as I said, I think he’s underrated, 2) Ganassi is very strong this year, and 3) he got double points for finishing P2 at the Indy 500, which is a highly idiosyncratic race where car setup, preparation, and body fit counts for a lot.

            Actually, to address OP’s original point about ride buyers, I don’t agree with OP — I think IndyCar has more drivers bringing with them a significant fraction of their car’s budget than in F1. But I don’t think Palou leading the standings this season has much to do with that topic. And I also don’t think that ride buyers in IndyCar are always as detrimental to the series as in F1 because there is no limit on cars per team; someone like Jimmie Johnson coming in means Ganassi adds another car and hires more mechanics, not that he’s taking the place of a talented up-and-comer.

    3. I think you’re way off base there. at least 1/4 of the indy field is guys that lost their ride in F1 or didn’t make it while trying to get to F1.

      The last Indy driver to go to F1 that i remember was Sebastian Bourdais and he got dropped by STR after 2 years after winning multiple championships in the US

      1. @lancer033 We don’t talk about Champ Car. That was a pathetic (but fun) series where the drivers couldn’t even reach the green flag at Michigan.

        1. @neiana Oh dear. Referencing a race 25 years ago at the start of The Split isn’t a great argument if you ignore the intervening years. It took the current Indycar series 7-8 years before it became dominant.

          There’s no question that CART made some big mistakes (Texas 2001 being the big turning point for the series) but the racing was far better than Indycar could offer until around 2005-6. Notice how the current Indycar bodywork was designed to look like the cars of the mid-1990s? Or that they’ve added or kept plenty of CART road & street races over the last decade (Elkhart Lake, Portland, Long Beach, Toronto). Or that the racing has consisitently been better and more unpredictable than F1 for most of the last decade?

  7. Superlicence points in Indycar are largely useless anyway.
    Even those who can earn enough don’t want to go across to F1. F1 is not about the driver – if they don’t get into one of the best cars, they just end up looking unskilled and unprepared.
    It’s better to fight for wins in Indycar than trundle around at the back – or midfield at best – in F1.

    1. S, this would be the same IndyCar series where the same three teams have now dominated that series for 19 years in a row?

      1. I really hope you’re not trying to imply that F1’s competition is healthier than Indycar’s. Are you?!
        Perhaps ironically, that’s the same number of teams that have dominated F1 over the same period.
        Certain teams may have more success in Indy, but the drivers certainly don’t dominate. If we are comparing dominance, F1 wins hands down – no competition.

        1. You seem to be the one who wants to insert that comparison – it was more to underline the point that whilst it is often claimed that IndyCar is driver dominated and that the team is unimportant, in practice the team does play a more important role in IndyCar than some here would seem to suggest.

          That said, if you really want to force that comparison, you are technically incorrect – the number of drivers from different teams that have won the World Drivers Championship is actually greater in Formula 1 than in IndyCar over that period.

          1. @anon Your three-team-dominance statistic is not relevant to the point S made, which was about whether or not IndyCar drivers have equipment capable of fighting for wins. Whilst it’s true that only three teams have won championships since IndyCar reunified, many more teams have fought for or won race victories in each of those seasons.

            In addition, each of those three teams have at times run 4 or 5 full-time cars over the past 19 years (and some shared between multiple drivers). This year, those three teams make up 50 percent of the full-time grid. Whether or not that is healthy for the series is another matter. But it means that this season, 13 IndyCar drivers can claim to drive full-time cars for teams that have won championships in the last decade, compared to 4 drivers who can make that claim this season in F1. So S’ point that in IndyCar, more drivers have access to cars that can win races — and even championships — holds true.

          2. EB (@ebchicago)
            10th July 2021, 0:41

            I would argue the top teams in IndyCar are the top teams in a large part because they can employ the best drivers. Gannasi’s second car has done nothing, they are top team because Dixon’s a top driver. Penske routinely snaps up the best drivers, Newgarden coming from Carpenter racing as an example, Pagenaud as well raced for a smaller team and show promise, both series champions. Sure they have the best engineers, and equipment, but don’t underestimate in a driver series the ability to pay the best driver keeps you at the top.

          3. @markzastrow I am being somewhat flippant with the intention of wanting to draw attention that, every time that there is an IndyCar article here, nobody ever seems to want to ask if there is anything that they aren’t doing right or if there are any issues in that series.

            To that end, why isn’t there any mention of the fact that IndyCar introduced an equivalent licencing system that largely mimics what the FIA has done with superlicences?

            Why isn’t there any discussion on that point when, surely, an obvious question would be about whether the equivalent licencing system in the USA is any better and whether there should be any attempts at co-ordinating that? Are they any less biased in the way that they award points to potential licence applicants, particularly from those who have gained experience in non-American series?

  8. In my opinion, Indycar should be awarded more super license points but it should not be equal or above the F2. While Indycar is an entertaining series and is more reliant on driver skills to get results compared to F1 (Indycar is a spec series). The series is not structured as a feeder series for F1 or to prepare drivers to F1. Indycar is largely its own series that races in very different tracks and requires very different disciplines in order to be successful. Comparing that to F2, where the series races on the same tracks that are in F1 and the skillsets the drivers need to learn are present in the series (on track rules, tire management).

    I view the issue of F1 wanting an American driver as largely unwarranted. This series has gotten more popular in the US over the years due to the emergence of Drive to Survive and the lights to flag no commercial broadcast of the races (a big deal in the US, most sports have commercialized broadcasting). If the growth continues and the popularity increases then eventually we will have more American drivers in the future.

  9. You have a typo there Elliot, hybrid engines are to be introduced in 2023 not 2013.

    I personally love IndyCar, am a big fan. The year to year growth the series is experiencing is remarkable, it will not be long before it retakes its former past glory again. Im happy with their talented drivers staying right there and not using IndyCar as a platform to jump somewhere else but rather as a career aspiration, so Im not really worried about them not getting enough SL points.

  10. There’s isn’t really a large pool of American drivers in Indycar anymore, Newgarden or Herta are performing well though.

  11. Clearly just competing in IndyCar should be more than enough qualification to be able to earn a super license. Take drivers like Ed Jones or Connor Daly for instance. There is no safety or performance related reason why they wouldn’t be able to take part in a F1 race. Or does any one expect them to pose a greater safety risk than Mazepin or Latifi?

    That doesn’t happen because the FIA doesn’t want to give proper value to the competition and instead wants to force driver into their own series.

    1. Well in terms of safety related, I agree with you. Daly and Jones have shown to be more then competent enough in terms of doing the safety aspect of racing like following the rules. But in terms of performance related then I disagree. Jones and Daly aren’t even considered top talents in Indycar. They are mid pack, if they get put into F1, they will struggle badly.

      1. That’s exactly why I picked these two names. They are far from “top talent” but if they were to race in F1 they would not pose any greater safety risk (causing heavy crashes, spinning in the pit lane, not following flag rules etc.) compared to other drivers that do race in F1. If they would struggle badly or not is a matter for their teams to figure out.

  12. This entire points system is complete and utter nonsense. It was introduced as a response to Max Verstappen getting a seat when some people thought he was too young and it should’ve been tossed when in his first season he proved every bit as capable of driving F1 as the other rookies with more experience were, and if not then, than the following year when he won his first Grand Prix before he was even legally allowed to drive a road car.

    Nobody is putting a terrible unexperienced driver in their F1 team, the stakes are entirely too high for that so there’s absolutely no reason to prevent teams from getting whichever driver they deem capable enough for the job. What’s worse, had this system been around earlier, it would’ve also robbed us from having Max Verstappen in F1 for several years, and it might have robbed us from this 2021 season because he’d not be half as experienced as he is right now. And even the biggest Max haters must admit that F1 with Max Verstappen has been more fun than F1 without Max Verstappen.

    This system was introduced for bad reasons and it has no real use to anyone. They should get rid of it entirely.

    1. This entire points system is complete and utter nonsense. This system was introduced for bad reasons and it has no real use to anyone. They should get rid of it entirely.

      I don’t remember if this one in particular actually had to do with Max, but this is how I feel entirely.

      Even worse imo some now seem to feel that F2’s disproportionately high points is fair as a reflection of how drivers are more prepared for F1 than for anything else or something like that, which is completely backwards in my view since if that were true why wasn’t GP2/F2 as dominant (and literally Formula Renault-killing) as they are today in being the route to F1 before the points system was introduced to completely arbitrarily tip the system in it favour?

  13. One of those drivers is McLaren Schmidt Peterson’s Patricio O’Ward, the star of the Texas and Detroit double-headers as he took a win and a third in both. He currently lies second in the points, and his maiden IndyCar triumph has earned him an F1 test with McLaren at the end of this year.

    Honestly, I like Pato and am happy for his success in IndyCar but I don’t think this test will go anywhere. After a quick start in IndyCar in 2018, Red Bull signed him to the Red Bull Junior Team for 2019. He raced for them in Super Formula and F2 but even he described it as a “proper ass-whipping” and Red Bull dropped him after a season and he returned to IndyCar. If Red Bull had seen signs of something that would lead to F1 success they would have kept him in the system. They are not shy about having a ton of junior drivers to choose from.

    1. @g-funk

      Red Bull released O’Ward because he didn’t have enough points to get a super license. The FIA reduced the super license points awarded for Indy Lights the year O’Ward won the championship, because it didn’t have enough fulltime competitors. Once Red Bull and O’Ward realized he wouldn’t be able to get a super license, they decided to go their separate ways, not because Red Bull found out he was an untalented hack. It took Zac Brown all of about 5 minutes to sign O’Ward for the McLaren Indycar team, which was very smart. He’ll be an Indycar champion within 5 years.

  14. The biggest hurdle is less super licence points & more the more recent track record of top Indycar drivers struggling to adapt to F1 as well as the feeling on both sides that adapting to F1 is going to be even more difficult now given how limited F1 testing opportunities are now.

    There is also the issue that American born drivers going to F1/Europe from Indycar don’t know the circuits or some of the cultural differences which can at times also hinder there ability to get upto speed as quickly as drivers are expected to now.

  15. Why no mention of Pietro Fittipaldi who is a de facto American and raced in both series is the past year?

  16. Nigel Tufnel
    9th July 2021, 17:02

    F1 needs to reevaluate its opinion of IndyCar drivers; indeed, F1 points could be earned in IndyCar (last seen in the days of Bobby Rahal), and I would argue there are more low-quality pay drivers in F1 than IndyCar by a substantial margin…the likes of Mazepin would never survive a season in IndyCar.

  17. IIRC, it is because of superlicence that we were deprived of seeing the great Sebastien Loeb racing in F1.

    Under superlicence we saw the Maniac of the 1st lap, we saw Maldonado, among others. Why can’t a professional driver from a top series board ship if he wants?

    It feels wrong.

  18. Plenty of current IndyCar drivers could do well in F1 if they were in a good team. Plenty of current F1 drivers could do well in IndyCar if they were in a good team.

    It takes some time to transfer, but a good open wheel driver is a good open wheel driver.

    Look at past examples like Andretti, Fittipaldi, Clark, Hill, Villenueve, Mansell, Montoya, Rossi, etc. If anything, Indy cars are harder to drive with the more even field and lack of power steering. One of the current young guns like O’ward, Herta or Palou could move to F1 and do well there.

  19. While IndyCar is a pro series Grosjean’s success puts it in the bad light. Grosjean was never great ín F1 but he has been very good in IndyCar right away. Even Ericsson has won a race and scored some podiums even though he is arguably one of the slowest drivers in F1 during the last decade.

    I would love to see Colton Herta or Pato O’Ward in F1 but still the IndyCar field lacks depth.

    1. Lacks depth?

      Are you kidding?
      Scott Dixon – 6 time champ
      Josef Newgarden – 2 time champ
      Sebastien Bourdais – 4 time champ
      Will Power – champion
      Simon Pagenaud – champion
      Ryan Hunter-Reay – champion
      Tony Kanaan – champion
      Alexander Rossi – Indy winner
      Takuma Sato – multiple Indy winner
      Graham Rahal – multiple race winner

      Too many other race winners to even list. IndyCar has a stacked field this year and it is far more competitive and has much greater depth than the current F1 field does.

      1. Lacks depth? Are you kidding? Sebastien Bourdais – 4 time champ

        That’s kinda @huhhii‘s point. If someone who VET trounced that badly got 4 championships in Indycar (which strictly speaking he didn’t), than that wouldn’t speak very well for the series at all.

        I don’t think GRO is actually bad though. Given a decent car in F1 he performed fairly decently (especially after that Spa fiasco) and while he’s hit the ground running in Indycar he hasn’t exactly dominated either, looking at the standings. GRO coming in and winning everything would be a bad look on Indycar, but so far I don’t think any F1 driver (e.g. BAR, Rossi, and Sato) has done that recently which in turn is actually a pretty good look for the series.

    2. If Indycar lacks depth, how shallow is F1?

  20. Yes, Indy success, champinoship should count as much, if not more than F2.

  21. Completely unfair. Jean Girard can come and race NASCAR but Ricky Bobby isn’t allowed in F1. Total sham.

  22. The FIA, like every other “global” organization is run by old dinosaurs who forget they are extinct. Probably somehting to do with dementia.

  23. Come on guys, when are youu going to implment an edit function. Typos are emnbarasing.

  24. Lets do a hypothetical Grid Swap:
    Dixon, (despite his shared nickname with the other “Iceman”) in for the other multi champion #44LH
    Newgarden in for Max (young ,fast but already successful)
    Herta in for Lando ( the Real Deal and years to go)
    Rahal, Bottas (Always there, but…)
    Power, Kimi (clingin on)
    Bourdais, Vettel ( good vintage)
    Kellet, Stroll (bought a team for it)
    Pagenaud, Ricciardo (something’s missing, ain’t it)
    Kanaan, Alonso (old guard)
    Rossi, Perez ( should be doing better)
    Palou, Russell ( the next generation multichampions)

    Sato, whoever is a late charging danger on track, this generations Maldonado
    Chilton,Ericsson,Johnson, Daly,Rosenqvist, Ocon,Mazepin,Latifi, Schumacher, Giovinazzi et al mostly exchangeable.

  25. Emilio Estevez
    10th July 2021, 14:50

    The only way to be successful in F1 and consistently on the podium is to race for one of 2 or 3 teams. If not you might as well chalk up 5th as the best you could possibly hope to finish and go from there. In F1 the team you drive for is far more important than in Indy Car. While I hate the stock chassis format and would love to see multiple chassis and engine combinations, it has made it so small teams can compete and be successful (Ed Carpenter Racing). Also the talent pool in Indy is much deeper, the cars are more difficult to drive, and there is more strategy in the races. Your typical F1 race is decided within the first 5 laps unless the leaders suffer a mechanical issue.

  26. What’s an IndyCart?

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