Former F1 drivers recognize the growing European interest in IndyCar.

Indianapolis — Marcus Ericsson was thinking of racing in the United States even before his F1 contract expired.

Indianapolis 500 debut Fernando Alonso Four years ago, this young Swedish driver was intrigued. When he started watching, he saw a tight and entertaining open-wheel series that everyone could win.

So when Ericsson became a free agent, he moved to IndyCar in the 2019 season with Sam Schmidt’s team. He wasn’t held after that. McLaren I became a partner, but I landed on the powerful Chip Ganassi Racing.

Today, Ericsson recognizes that he has never been so happy and that there is growing interest from other Europeans. Romain Grosjean moved to IndyCar this year, winning a pole on his third start and finishing second.

“I think Europe is more interested in this series with me, Alonso and Grosjean coming here,” Ericsson said. It’s definitely growing over there. “

It has also appeared in the race.

Eight of the 33 Indianapolis 500 starters last weekend had F1 experience, and Ericsson recorded 97 starts abroad. Ericsson is a former test driver Simona de Silvestro. This list includes two Indy 500 winners Juan Pablo Montoya and Takuma Sato, 2016 race champion Alexander Rossi, and two Indy 500 winners and two world champions Emerson Fittipaldi. Also included is his grandson Pietro Fittipaldi.

The young Fittipaldi entered IndyCar for the first time in 2018 when he made six starts with the Dale Coyne team. Fittipaldi worked with Grosjean in Haas F1 for the next two seasons, eventually replacing his injured teammates in the last two races of last season. So when Coin reunited with Fittipaldi and offered a chance to drive an IndyCar oval race on Car 51 this season, Fittipaldi applied immediately.

“It’s a very pure form of lace, a very raw race,” he said. “In IndyCar testing during the pre-season, we need to find something to improve the suspension and there are so many different strategies. Just race.”

Grosjean seems to be relaxing in America too. After claiming Indy Grand Prix In early May, the French driver, who won pole position on the major circuit for the first time in 10 years, told reporters he was thinking of moving his family to the United States.

After the split of CART and IRL in 1995, interest in American open-wheel racing diminished, and despite the appeal that many people won indie, the two competing series were already inferior in racing. I thought it was an inflated version of the product.

For most of the next quarter century, F1 drivers came to the United States because they had no choice.

not anymore.

“In my opinion, I wouldn’t get a clear and satisfying answer, but F1, IndyCar, or NASCAR — The top talent is the same, “said two-time IndyCar Champion Josef Newgarden. “Yes, we are in different fields, but I think the level of talent is the same.”

Alonso’s results also helped to change the image.

International race fans weren’t surprised when the two-time World Champion Spaniards passed the qualifying in fifth place in 2017, but knocked him out with 21 laps remaining due to an engine failure. I was fighting for the victory of the race until I did. Alonso then missed the 2019 race and finished 21st in last year’s race.

“I’m a racer and the Indy 500 is the best race in the world,” he later said.

Still, his participation was a reminder of the long and rich tradition of drivers going back and forth between the two series.

From 1950 to 1960, international governing bodies awarded points for the World Championships based on Indy’s performance. Many declined to participate, but in 1952 Alberto Ascari and his Ferrari entry, and in 1958 Juan Manuel Fangio, the five-time Indy World Champion, were in Indy. We were at the forefront of the new trend of racing.

Over the next decade, F1 stars got a lot of attention every May.

Two-time F1 champion Sir Jack Brabham finished in 9th place in 1961. The march was attended by Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Sir Jackie Stewart and Jochen Rindt (all world champions). Clark won in 1965, and Hill won following 1966. Hill is the only driver to win the Triple Crown of Car Racing, 500, Le Mans And the Monaco Grand Prix.

After Elder Fittipaldi won the Indy in 1989, a new generation of attempts began in earnest. Nelson Piquet and Nigel Mansell started twice each between 1992 and 1994, with Fittipaldi taking the lead. Mansell was the 1992 F1 champion when he won his second indie victory in 1993. Finished in 3rd place and was named the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.

In some cases, the migration is going in the opposite direction.

Mario Andretti, the winner of Indy in 1969, made 131 appearances in F1 and won the 1978 world title. His son Michael made a 13-time start with McLaren’s F1 team in 1993 before returning to IndyCar full-time next season.

Other Americans in F1 include Dan Gurney, who is said to have begun the champagne celebration after spraying AJ Foyt after his 1967 victory at Le Mans. Two-time indie winner Roger Ward and 1972 indie winner Mark Donohue, Roger Penske’s first indie winner. And Danny Sullivan of Indy Champ in 1985.

Alonso’s attempt to counter Hill’s triple-crown feat made IndyCar look cool again in Europe.

“I think Fernando came in when they started watching,” said IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti. “If you’re a racer, you know what a good race is, so I think they’re enjoying what they’re seeing. In F1, it’s mostly about cars, catching up when you’re behind. It’s hard to do. But here I’m in 25th place in a week and I can win the next week. They’re watching it. “

Grosjean and Fittipaldi admitted to knowing other F1 drivers who could jump.

Ericsson said, “I wouldn’t be surprised if more F1 drivers are coming here. I prefer racing with IndyCars, but I prefer F1 cars if there are tracks available on the test day.” Told. The corner is crazy. “

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Former F1 drivers recognize the growing European interest in IndyCar.

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