Indy 500: The ex-F1 drivers to watch out for at The Brickyard
There will be plenty of familiar faces for F1 fans in this year’s Indy 500 with a total of nine former and current F1 drivers taking part.
The iconic Indianapolis 500 takes place on May 28 as the IndyCar season gets set for its most famous race hosted at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Alongside the Monaco GP and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Indy 500 is one of the most prestigious races in the world of motorsport and forms a part of the Triple Crown, an unofficial achievement that only Graham Hill has achieved.
But plenty have tried since Hill’s achievement in 1972 including Fernando Alonso who, with a win at Le Mans and Monaco in the bag, came 24th in 2017 and 21st in 2020.
Alonso is busy with his F1 duties this year so will not feature but there are plenty of former Formula 1 drivers set to take part in the sixth event of the 2023 IndyCar season.
Marcus Ericsson – Chip Ganassi
First up is the former Caterham and Sauber man Marcus Ericsson who returns to Speedway as the reigning Indy champion. In his fourth attempt, the Swede crossed the line first in 2022 with Chip Ganassi in the 106th running of the race.
It was a close battle between Ericcsoon and another man with an F1 connection as Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward fought until a late yellow flag crowned Ericsson the winner.,
The 32-year-old returns with Chip Ganassi in 2023 and is currently third in the standings having won the season opener in St Petersburg.
Romain Grosjean – Andretti Autosport
Trailing Ericsson by one spot in the standings is a familiar face to F1 fans and it is that of Romain Grosjean. The former Haas man joined IndyCar in 2021 after his departure from F1 the previous year and his return to any form of racing was remarkable given his fiery crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.
Initially Grosjean competed in only the road and street races but took part in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 in 2021 ahead of a full schedule run in 2022. For that season, he moved to Andretti and finished 13th in the standings.
But he got off to a much better start in 2023 and has twice stood on the podium as he splits his time between IndyCar and the IMSA SportsCar Championship.
This year’s event will be Grosjean’s second Indy 500 having finished 31st last year.
Takuma Sato – Chip Ganassi Racing
46-year-old Takuma Sato is a seasoned pro in IndyCar having competed in 216 races over the last 14 years but before that he enjoyed a six-year career in F1.
Sato, with backing from Honda, joined the Honda-supplied Jordan in 2002, finishing 15th in the standings including a P5 in his home race but was demoted to test driver as the team switched to British American Racing. His sole race in 2003 would come in the final race of the season where Sako secured P6 in Japan.
For 2004 he was back in a full-time seat and earned his sole podium at the United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. When his F1 career came to an end midway through the 2008 season, he moved to IndyCar in 2010 and has remained there even since.
While never finishing higher than P7 in the championship standings, Sato has proven himself somewhat of an Indy 500 expert. He first won the event in 2017 with Andretti, the team’s most recent success, before following that up with another victory in 2020 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
Sato finished 25th in last year’s running with Dale Coyne Racing and will compete in this year’s race for Chip Ganassi.
Alexander Rossi – Arrow McLaren
Alexander Rossi made the move to McLaren at the start of 2023 to bolster an already strong line-up. Still just 31 years of age, Rossi has a great deal of experience behind him having raced in five grands prix for Marussia before moving to IndyCar in 2016.
He certainly made a name for himself, winning the Indy 500 on his first attempt and earning himself a nomination in the 2016 ESPY Awards Best Driver category alongside Lewis Hamilton. He has since added seven more wins to his name.
Having spent the entirety of his IndyCar career with Andretti, he made the move to McLaren where he joined Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. Arrow McLaren have released a special livery for the race celebrating the team’s Triple Crown triumph and Rossi will drive the car dedicated to the 1974 Indy 500 win, the first done to be done so in a McLaren car.
F1 hopefuls to watch out for at Indianapolis
Pato O’Ward – Arrow McLaren
Pato O’Ward has yet to take part in an F1 race but has completed an F1 session having undertaken FP1 for McLaren at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Mexican is one of a number of young drivers on the precipice of breaking into Formula 1 with the Woking team and his performances so far in 2023 will have done nothing to hurt that quest.
While he has yet to win a race this season, he has come second in three of the opening five events and only Alex Palou has gained more points than Pato. His record at the Indy 500 has improved year on year with his first event in 2019 ending with a DNQ before a P6 in 2020, a P4 in 2021 and a close-fought P2 last year.
O’Ward enters the 2023 as one of the favourites and will be looking to go one step further this time round. He will take part in an all-black livery in homage to the McLaren F1 GTR and their 1995 Le Mans win.
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Colton Herta – Andretti Autosport
Another man who has sat in an F1 seat without actually driving in a race is Colton Herta who very nearly had Nyck de Vries’ AlphaTauri seat had Red Bull managed to twist the arm of the FIA in regards to superlicence points.
They were unsuccessful in that, meaning Herta is into his fifth full season in IndyCar. For the majority of those, he has driven for Andretti with Herta reportedly first choice should Andretti seal their F1 spot.
Herta has had an up and down start to 2023, finishing as high as fourth and as low as 20th and his record at the Indy 500 is not too great either. In his four attempts, he has finished a high of P8 and came 30th in last year’s running. A win this time round is not out of the question but there are plenty of others who are more fancied.
Álex Palou – Chip Ganassi Racing
The championship leader heads to Indianapolis looking to improve his P2 finish of 2021, the year he won his IndyCar title. The Spaniard, like O’Ward and Herta, has links to McLaren and was almost a McLaren driver for 2023 until a lawsuit by his current outfit, Chip Ganassi, prevented that.
McLaren retained his services as a reserve driver though with Palou featuring on the pit wall at the Miami Grand Prix, even if the subtitle operator thought it was O’Ward, and it is easy to see why Zak Brown and co. are so eager to get him in papaya.
His win last time out pushed him ahead of O’Ward in the standings and a strong result in Speedway would solidify his advantage.
Callum Ilott – Juncos Hollinger Racing
The 24-year-old from Cambridge, England is a former Ferrari academy member having joined in 2017 before leaving in 2021. During that time, he featured as a test driver for Haas in one race in 2020 and twice for Alfa in 2021.
Having moved from F2 to IndyCar in the latter half of 2021, Ilott has competed in the Indy 500 just once, finishing P32 in the 2022 edition.
Christian Lundgaard – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
Another former F1 academy member is Christian Lundgaard who was part of the Renault/Alpine academy from 2017 to 2022. Lundgaard began his IndyCar career in 2021 with a single appearance for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing but remained with the team for 2022.
He finished 14th in the standings including P18 at the Indy 500 and his most recent result was P4 at the GMR Grand Prix.
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