The season opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is a mere 30 days out give or take. The first time that we will see the DW12 in action and new drivers in new places. Oriol Servia and James Hinchcliffe are two big names that have wound up in new cars, but there are a large crop of up and coming drivers that are still searching for rides. Names like Plowman and Mann are big fan favorites. The big news at the moment is the fate of Formula 1 names like Barrichello and potentially even Trulli joining the American open-wheel ranks. The objective, extend their career as long as possible. This is causing issues with young talent as IndyCar racing looks for quick fixes to draw interest to their sport.
The newly redesigned Mazda Road to Indy has provided the series with some great talent. The ladder series still has a number of great names coming through the ranks. People like Zach Veach and Sage Karam have proven their talent on track. Teams like Juncos racing have opened a number of avenues for young talent to prove themselves and succeed. The problem is there are only so many cars on the grid and with the financial climate, it is tough for young drivers to secure the necessary money the teams are looking for. So we have hit a barricade where young talent is available and proven international talent is also out there and not enough cars are available.
I previously have been of the opinion that the quick fix is a bad idea. I still don’t like the idea of all the seats being taken by ex-F1 drivers or sports car drivers. That being said, I think this is something the series needs. Rubens has already shown exceptional pace during his initial test. He is set to test even more this week and hopefully get announced with KV Racing shortly after. While Jarno Trulli has made no plans at the moment, the option for him to join the IndyCar grid is there as well if he can get sponsorship. While Jarno admits there is nothing in the works, Rubens speed should be a positive sign that those cast off in the Formula 1 grid can be competitive given the proper machine in IndyCar.
Having this level of talent would certainly make the championship very competitive at the top. Can Rubens win the title if he signs? Hard telling, but I will lean against it and say no. That does not mean he would not be a factor though. You don’t get number two status for as long as he did if you are terrible. Let’s just say that Trulli decides to give IndyCar a shot (hypothetical here), that gives you Barrichello, Trulli, and Sato. Sato has proven that past F1 pilots can have success in the series with pole positions and solid finishes in 2011. That was in a car that hated road and street courses. Now with the introduction of the much better road course performing DW12, we could see Sato or Rubens show the grid a thing or two.
Yet even with all of this excitement with names we know and love from the Formula 1 world, I can’t help but feel those working there way up through the MRTI. Drivers that are working hard to prove they deserve to race based on skill and not pocket book. The very reason was to bring talent into the series, but that talent is having a hard time reaching the final step. Look back to last year when J.K. Vergne was the reigning Firestone Indy Lights champion. The reigning champ could not even get a ride due to financial constraints. He is the last person at the end of the day that should be sponsor hunting. Josef Newgarden took the title in dominant fashion last season and thankfully was rewarded with a ride at SFHR.
I guess the positive thing that we can take from all of this is the pure amount of talent the series can pull from. If this is a problem for the IndyCar series, I imagine it is a problem they don’t mind having. Your young guns battling some of the best that have hit the F1 grid. It finally looks as though we are getting a little credibility in the “best drivers in the world” statement.
What do you think? Would you want F1 vets taking some of these seats? Are you against it given the development talent on the market still? What is to happen to IndyCar’s grid when the F1 drivers retire? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think about IndyCar’s “talent problem”.