James Hinchcliffe is the latest Verizon IndyCar Series driver to confirm his plans for the 2015 season. The Canadian confirmed his plans on Tuesday he’ll be moving from Andretti Autosport to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, where he replaces the departed Simon Pagenaud.
Hinchcliffe shifts from being part of a four-car operation to the de facto lead driver on another Honda squad.
For Hinchcliffe, it’s a fresh opportunity and a shot at being the defined number one on a team after growing and developing with more experienced teammates his first four years.
“Despite being around in Indy Lights for years, SPM is a relatively young team in the IndyCar paddock,” Hinchcliffe said of his new home in a statement. “To see what they have accomplished in the last few seasons has been incredible. Winning races, being competitive at all tracks and finishing in the Top-5 in the championship against more experienced teams at this level is impressive.
“Because they are young, there is still room for them to grow and improve, and that’s an exciting thought for me.”
Hinchcliffe is likely to team with Russian Mikhail Aleshin, provided he recovers from his injuries sustained in a frightening practice accident at the season finale of Auto Club Speedway. Schmidt has also tested others – Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves, Rodolfo Gonzalez and Rocky Moran Jr. – this offseason.
This will mark his third different team in five seasons. He won rookie-of-the-year honors and finished 12th in 2011 driving for Newman/Haas Racing, then switched to Andretti beginning in 2012 as a replacement for Danica Patrick and the late Dan Wheldon.
Despite enjoying a breakout season with Andretti in 2013, winning three races and finishing eighth in points, Hinchcliffe came back to earth a bit in 2014. Consistency was hard to find and more often than not, the Canadian had some seriously bad luck. He had just one podium finish and was back to 12th in the points.
As for Andretti, a fourth full-time car is still expected and a fifth possible, but both are budget-dependent.
The team will test German GP2 ace Daniel Abt later this month and if budget is no factor, Justin Wilson is a potential replacement as well as he looks for the next opportunity in his IndyCar career.