Formula 1 | Before Grosjean, these drivers who moved from F1 to IndyCar…

Romain Grosjean will discover, after F1, the IndyCar this year – even if he will not run on ovals to spare, emotionally, his family and loved ones. An F1 driver switching to IndyCar? History is full of them.

Before Romain Grosjean, which F1 drivers have started across the Atlantic?

Mark Blundell for example, when Sauber preferred Johnny Herbert in 1996, opted for the CART Indycar World Series championship. After a difficult season, marked by a mad crash for his second start in Rio, Blundell (who teamed up with former F1 too, Mauricio Gugelmin) had a much more convincing 1997 season. He finished 6th in the standings (his teammate 4th), with a few victories for the occasion, without threatening the champion Alex Zanardi (who had made the same path before and was going to do the opposite, from CART to F1).

Before him, Nigel mansell had gone to play a season in the Indy Car World Series, just crowned his title of world champion in F1 with Williams, when the British team attracted Alain Prost for the season 1993. The Briton won the title of Rookie of the year … because he won the title! With ten podiums including five victories, Mansell beat Emerson Fittipaldi, as well as specialists in the discipline such as Paul Tracy, or the 1992 champion, Bobby Rahal.

Like Mansell, Rubens barrichello, the record holder for Grand Prix starts after Kimi Räikkönen, was 40 years old when he tried the IndyCar adventure at KV Racing Technology, and on the occasion of the 2012 regulatory change. The Brazilian obtained a podium in Milwaukee and two top 5 at the end of the year. His consistency allowed him to obtain a respectable final ranking. 11th of his first Indianapolis 500, Rubens was even elected Rookie of the year. But Barrichello didn’t get a second chance. This is why Rubinho turned to his country and the Stock Car V8 series, where he finished champion in 2014.

Takuma Sato has had a particularly brilliant American destiny. The Japanese have even become a safe bet in the championship. He has certainly never finished better than 8th in 2017, with Andretti Autosport (with more than ten seasons spent in the discipline). But above all, he won the Indianapolis 500 twice, in 2017 precisely, and last year, and thus became a legend in the United States.

Justin wilson, the former Minardi rider, can also shed some light on his Romain Grosjean career: mainly because he raced in the same team, that of Dale Coyne. With this small structure, at the time, Wilson achieved very strong performances. He won once, in 2012, and finished 6th in the championship the following year. In 8 participations in the Indianapolis 500 Miles, his best result was a 5th place, in 2013. But of course, Wilson’s story ended so abruptly, so abruptly, at Pocono, in 2015, where he received an injury. fatal (debris from Sage Karam’s car) to the head. It is also for safety reasons that Romain Grosjean will not run on the oval and at the Indianapolis 500… The death of Wilson, which occurred a few years after that of Dan Wheldon, and after the accident of Felipe Massa in Hungary, urged the FIA ​​to step up development of the Halo, and the IndyCar that of the Aeroscreen.

The course of Johnny herbert could serve as a counter-example to Romain Grosjean. Arriving in Champ Car with great ambitions, the ex-teammate of Michael Schumacher even failed to qualify in 2002 for the Indianapolis 500 with Duesenberg Brothers Racing.

A course which resembles, at least for this conclusion, that of Fernando Alonso ! Because of course, everyone remembers the unsuccessful attempts (especially the second), of Fernando Alonso to try to grab the triple crown (the 500 Miles of Indianapolis are the only title missing, after the world title in F1 and the 24 hours of Le Mans).

Engaged with McLaren Racing in 2019, Fernando Alonso did not even manage to qualify, like Herbert in his time. However, he had come much closer to victory two years earlier. Candidate for victory with McLaren-Andretti in 2017 (photo), he had seen his hopes go up in smoke, caused by the breakdown of the Honda engine

In 2020, with Arrow McLaren SP, he was able to qualify, without ever being threatening for victory (26th in qualifying, 21st in race). There is no doubt that the Spaniard will try again in the next few years, after the Alpine adventure… to find Romain Grosjean there, who knows?

The journeys of Marcus Ericsson, Max Chilton and Alexander Rossi, and their subsequent criticisms of F1, will be covered in a second article …

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