Pato O'Ward, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2021

FIA’s IndyCar superlicence weighting “ridiculous” – O’Ward

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In the round-up: Pato O’Ward believes the FIA superlicence points system undervalues IndyCar to a “ridiculous” degree.

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In brief

FIA superlicence weighting for IndyCar “ridiculous” – O’Ward

McLaren SP IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward says that the FIA’s superlicence programme undervalues the IndyCar Series.

The FIA’s international sporting code outlines that only drivers who have achieved 40 eligibility points over their last three complete seasons of competition, with different championships across the world of motorsport offering various levels of points.

Currently, the FIA awards 40 points only to drivers who win the IndyCar Series title, with 30 awarded to the runner-up and 20 to the third-placed driver. O’Ward, who tested for McLaren’s F1 team in Abu Dhabi in December, believes drivers who finish around the top of the standings in IndyCar deserve more points.

“I mean, to me, it’s ridiculous that someone that’s been fourth and third in the IndyCar championship doesn’t have or can’t get 40 points in the superlicence,” said O’Ward.

“I think many drivers agree with me. But, from what I understand, fourth would give you 10 points, third gives you 20. So I’m assuming I’m at thirty points on the superlicense? Yeah, I haven’t really stressed on that side, because as much as I say, ‘oh, maybe you can get a few points here’, at the end of the day, you have to leave it to the people that want to give it to you. If they don’t want to give it to you, then, ‘sorry, bud’. You got to have another year and get ten more points, I guess.”

Formula E signs letter of intent for future Hyderabad race

The FIA Formula E championship will likely expand to feature a race in India in future seasons, after the series signed a letter of intent with the Telangana State government to hold a race in the city of Hyderabad.

Formula E chief championship officer, Alberto Longo, said that the series was keen to explore the opportunity to race in India.

“We welcome Hyderabad and the State of Telangana’s interest in hosting a round of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship,” said Longo. “With this letter of intent we can further explore the exciting potential of returning elite motorsport to India.”

Formula E team Mahindra Racing, which competes under an Indian racing licence, have been a part of the championship since the inaugural season back in 2014-15. The 2022 season of Formula E begins in Saudi Arabia on Friday 28 January.

Bahrain confirms F1 testing dates

Formula 1’s second and final pre-season testing will take place over three days at the Bahrain International Circuit from March 10th to 12th, the track owners confirmed.

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Comment of the day

Looking back at the car development battle between Mercedes and Red Bull over the 2021 season, RandomMallard is in awe of just how close the two rivals were…

As others have pointed out, I think the key takeaway is the cars were, over the course of the season, very equal. The Red Bull was definitely stronger earlier in the season, but I highlight Silverstone as the turning point of the championship. Not because of the crash, but because of the Mercedes upgrade. From then onwards, they were much more competitive, for example I think many people expected Red Bull to do well in Hungary, and Mercedes took one of the most emphatic front row lockouts of the season in my opinion.

One of the things I loved about the final rounds of the season in particular was going into a weekend with absolutely no idea who would be faster, and then how it would change throughout the weekend. Prime examples being the USA (Red Bull successful at what was expected by many to be a Mercedes track), Mexico (Mercedes got the qualifying pace/Red Bull failed to maximise qualifying, but Red Bull seemed faster in the race), and Brazil (Red Bull expected to do quite well, but Lewis and Merc got what seemed to be a perfect car to fight back and take the win), and to a lesser extent Jeddah and Qatar.

Over the course of the season, I would argue neither car was better or worse than the other. Both cars were absolutely incredible and masterpieces of engineering. Kudos to all the engineers, designers and factory staff at both Mercedes and Red Bull.

Happy birthday!

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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40 comments on “FIA’s IndyCar superlicence weighting “ridiculous” – O’Ward”

  1. Indeed it seems a little silly. If Zhou and Mazepin can secure an F1 drive, surely the pick of the Indycar series should be eligible at the very least.

    1. Yeah, I think the top 3 of Indycar should be able to file for a Superlicence. And a year or 2-3 of say top 5 finishes should probably qualify you too.

      1. And a year or 2-3 of say top 5 finishes should probably qualify you too.

        But they do?

        2 years in the top 3 and you’ve got your 40 points (or more), even if you somehow came into Indycar without earning any.

        3 years and all you have to do is one 3rd and two 4ths.

        I think Pato’s argument is largely self-serving and that there is no rationale for handing super licenses to drivers finishing 4th in Indycar once.

      2. @bascb
        You’re being silly with the top 3 demand. Top-3 IndyCar drivers are among the very best racing drivers in the world.
        A top-10 finish in a single IndyCar race should be enough to be eligible to be hired by an F1 team. This whole thing is just ridiculous.

  2. Fully agree with Pato. It’s a more competitive and respected series than F2 and their Superlicense points should reflect that. I can’t think of a top tier IndyCar driver that would “dent” F1’s reputation if they earned a ride. Herta, O’Ward, Palou, Dixon….all would be great additions.

    At least have the top 2 or 3 each season earn the 40 points and not just the champ.

    1. At least have the top 2 or 3 each season earn the 40 points and not just the champ.

      I disagree. The depth of the Indycar field is extremely shallow and the overweighing of the Indy 500, which is not applicable to Formula 1 racing in the least, means that the FIA is right to be more restrictive with the rewards for doing well in Indycar.

      1. I agree with @nerrticust here and disagree with @proesterchen
        The depth of talent in the Indycar field is vast – drivers who have come to Indycar from a number of other series; the top drivers have incredible resumes and many of the other drivers have shown credentials to at least earn a spot in the field. I don’t believe that saying the Indycar field is ‘extremely shallow’ can be reasonably justified.

        I would like to see a superlicence automatically granted to a driver who finishes in the top 3 of the Indycar season standings (similar to how the Formula E winner is automatically granted a superlicence) and points handed down to drivers further down in the standings.

        1. Let me try to explain what I mean by shallow:

          In Indycar, any of 8, 10, maybe 12 drivers could’ve won a race last season. That is a wide talent pool. But it is also shallow in that none of these drivers stood out from the field, or even won more than 3 rounds.

          And it probably doesn’t help my opinion of the general level of these drivers that Marcus Ericsson was among the multiple-race-winners in 2021.

          1. @proesterchen Thanks for your reply, I see what you mean!

            I guess I see it the opposite way, it shows how competitive the series is rather than being a negative. If it’s compared to F1, there’s a massive desire to see a greater number of race winners amongst a larger number of teams with the new rules package – if that is achieved then I doubt that people would conclude that F1 was shallow – but that’s just my opinion and I might be proven wrong.

          2. @georgeod

            There are obvious differences between spec series like Indycar and Formula 1, which do preclude in most cases wins being distributed among such a large group of drivers. That might change with Formula 1’s move to more spec parts and design limitations as you note.

            However, I will contest that there is a difference between a wide, shallow field that includes Marcus Ericsson as one of the more winning drivers and one that would include Charles Leclerc, who IIRC dispatched with Marcus rather unceremoniously when they were teammates.

            Basically, it appears to me that competitiveness among drivers and quality of drivers are orthogonal, i.e. you could have an ultra-competitive field of 24 Mazepins in a spec series each with a win to their name, and not a one measuring up to the other 19 drivers in F1 at this moment.

        2. @georgeod @proesterchen The IndyCar talent pool is rather shallow at the back of the grid, but it’s also consistently good at the front. As I said in another thread, I don’t think there’s a single top-3 finisher in IndyCar since reunification that would be worth denying a superlicence to on grounds of talent or road racing experience. I’d have to go back to Sam Hornish Jr and the IRL to think of one.

    2. @nerrticus To (sort of) prove how much lower the standard required for IndyCar is compared with F1, I point you to Marcus Ericsson, Max Chilton and Romain Grosjean

      1. @nvherman …all of whom the FIA deemed worthy of superlicences…

      2. Put them in a Mercedes and they’d all be regular podium finishers in F1. You seem to forget that the cars are much closer in Indy than they are in F1. So of course noone stands out like the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers do in F1, and drivers who were languishing in slow F1 cars get a chance to score good results.

  3. This makes me wonder if both Indycar and Super Formula should have the same points allocation as F2, and if this will make more regions develop their own top-level open-wheel series.

    1. @major-dev That’s exactly what the FIA don’t want. They want a single route to F1 that they control. Witness also their clampdown on other series using the F3 name.

      1. Yup, that is exactly why the points were tuned the way they are. That was part of the “streamlining of the ladder” to F1 as @red-andy mentions @major-dev.

        They are not going to change that back, since it would go against their plan (not to mention it would go against the price Liberty can extract from the support categories F2/F3 and probably what they pay the FIA for those too)

        1. @major-dev @red-andy @bascb Yeah, exactly.

          I agree that IndyCar is undervalued, but there are inconsistencies all throughout the superlicence points table. And to be fair, with the current covid 3-out-of-the-last-4 seasons rule in effect, the only reason O’Ward and Herta have been ineligible for superlicences is that their Indy Lights campaigns didn’t count because of the low car count. Indy Lights went through some lean years with high costs and only 7 or 8 full-time cars. With the Lights series coming under full control of IndyCar and Penske from this season, the prospects for fully-superlicence-eligible car counts are much better.

          If those Lights season had counted, Herta would have had 42 points at the end of 2020 and 40 points at the end of this season; and O’Ward would already be an F1 driver (or knowing Red Bull, perhaps already an ex-F1 driver).

          1. Even without the field size issues, they also used circuits that are not FIA affiliated – note that the FIA also specifies that the circuits used for that championship have to conform to their safety standards.

            That means it is a bit misleading to blame just the small fields – the non-homologated circuits would also be a problem.

          2. I don’t think so. Indy Lights doesn’t race anywhere that IndyCar doesn’t. If Lights were ineligible to award superlicence points because ovals aren’t FIA-homologated, IndyCar couldn’t award any points either.

            FWIW, the ISC says championships needs to meet the criterion: “Be held on FIA-homologated tracks.” It doesn’t say “Be held on exclusively FIA-homologated tracks.”

    2. You have to remember that 5 races on Indycar’s 17-race-calendar simply don’t apply to racing in Formula 1, one of them counting for double points.

      The FIA have no interest in granting super licenses to drivers having a great year on ovals while chipmunking enough points on other tracks to get into the top 3 at the end of the season.

      If you choose to go to Indycar as a driver, it’s OK for you to be expected to win that thing or do well enough for several years to collect the necessary points.

      1. The FIA have no interest in granting super licenses to drivers having a great year on ovals while chipmunking enough points on other tracks to get into the top 3 at the end of the season.

        Reasonable in principle, but in practice, that doesn’t really happen. In the last 14 years of unified IndyCar, I can’t recall a single top-3 driver who would have been an embarrassment to F1, or would reasonably be considered the type of driver the superlicence system was designed to protect F1 from.

        Plus, don’t forget, most of the years that the Indy 500 has been double points, the season finale road course race was also double points. The most prominent example of a driver finishing in the top 3 benefitting from winning the Indy 500 and losing out at the double-points road course was…Juan Pablo Montoya.

        Still, if the FIA is so worried about keeping oval specialists away, they might want to rethink giving the Nascar Cup champion 15 points. Jimmie Johnson would have been eligible for a superlicence for a good chunk of his career, and we know what kind of an IndyCar driver he is…

      2. Also IndyCar isn’t a feeder serie but like F1 a end serie. It’s simple if drivers do a whole season in indycar they should get a licence.

        1. I’m sure Roger Penske would love that. Every journeyman and pay driver son of an overambitious parent would take a one-and-done lap through Indycar just to get a Super License.

          Not sure what the FIA would gain from that, though, especially as it is the expressed intention of the super license points system to raise the quality level of those eligible to drive F1.

          1. How many Indy drivers are worse than Mazepin, do you reckon?
            The license system should be about making sure F1 drivers have enough experience and are of a decent level. Anyone who finishes an Indy season in, say, the top 10 should get a license immediately. The current system is not about protecting F1 from bad racers, it’s just about forcing drivers into the FIA-approved feeder series.

          2. @krommenaas

            If anything we can thank the FIA for putting him through a couple of seasons of F2 just to get his racecraft polished to the level it is currently at.

            Without that, you’d come to one of the late 2018 fly-aways (1st chance being Japan) and wondered who the new guy at Williams or Force India or maybe even Haas was.

  4. Does anyone know where Jamie Chadwick will end up for 2022? I’d love to see how she does in F3 or something like that

    1. @napierrailton

      AFAIK, it’s only clear that she’ll drive in Extreme E. She seems to be looking for a sportscar drive and is hoping for a FP1 drive with Williams.

  5. Mclaren – “Four racing teams. One epic team launch.”
    Shadow (their esports team)
    MX (is this extreme E team?)
    Arrows Mclaren SP (Indy Car)

  6. Pato’s Argument isn’t exactly helped by Tatiana getting announced for an Indycar race seat at almost the same time.

    1. Indycar doesn’t have a problem with not enough seats for drivers.

  7. He would have been 72 today..

    1. RIP Gilles

  8. I couldn’t agree more with COTD.

    1. @jerejj Thanks. I also wanted to make a distinction between “Red Bull and Mercedes”, and the real Red Bull and Mercedes. That is, the difference between the management teams and the rest of the staff. I live not very far from both teams, so I know/know of a few people at both teams, all of whom are lovely and great people. I think it’s unfair to antagonise a whole team of thousands of people when in reality the decisions are being made higher up. They’re just a bunch of people working their socks off to build the best car they can, and I fully applaud that.

    2. I forgot to add in my original post:
      Bahrain’s 3-day test became known a little while ago, so nothing new on this front.

  9. Maybe if some of these indycar drivers want into f1 they should follow the path. If they are that good as they think they are they can then propose changes from the inside. For example the push for change by Lewis Hamilton would not have been possible if he was not a driving force (pun not intended) in F1.

  10. Most of the comments above are about whether or not Indycar drivers are good enough for F1. I’d argue this has absolutely nothing to do with it.

    Really it’s just naked protectionism. The FIA brought in the system just to protect their powerbase and promote their series above non-FIA ones.

    1. @fletchuk
      Of course fletch. FIA doesn’t actually undervalue IndyCar drivers – FIA holds them in high esteem and is afraid of them, and so is making it hard for them to get in F1.

      Now, I don’t know whether this is as well reasoned as they think or at all. Every great IndyCar driver coming to F1 makes F1 better, not IndyCar – even if it may give some positive short-term rep to IndyCar.
      When drivers like Villeneuve or Montoya came to F1, it was a loss for IndyCar, and it made F1 so much more interesting.

      1. When drivers like Villeneuve or Montoya came to F1, it was a loss for IndyCar, and it made F1 so much more interesting.

        Funnily enough, both would have easily qualified for a super license under the current system.

        Which goes to show: This discussion simply doesn’t arise with real talents.

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