We got an early run on driver announcements in the Verizon IndyCar Series offseason with Simon Pagenaud going to Team Penske, James Hinchcliffe replacing him at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Jack Hawksworth switching to A.J. Foyt Enterprises.
But come the holidays, things have slowed, and as always the glut of available talent will be larger than the number of available seats.
With news Davide Valsecchi will be testing for SPM next month, it got me thinking a bit about all the potential drivers in play that could fill the remainder of the grid.
While this isn’t a silly season breakdown per se, here’s the list of seats we expect to be announced before the season opener in Brazil in March 8:
- Chip Ganassi Racing, fourth car (along with a formal confirmation of the full lineup)
- Andretti Autosport, fourth car (plus a possible fifth)
- Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, second car
- KV Racing Technology, second car
- CFH Racing, No. 20 road and street course driver alongside Ed Carpenter (ovals)
- Dale Coyne Racing, both cars
- Bryan Herta Autosport, first car
So that leaves eight seats, as many as seven of them full-time, remaining to be filled. And here’s who is currently on the outside looking in:
2014 DRIVERS WITHOUT CONFIRMED PLANS
- Ryan Briscoe, Justin Wilson, Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Huertas, Sebastian Saavedra, Mike Conway, Oriol Servia, JR Hildebrand, Sage Karam, Luca Filippi, plus additional month of May drivers.
As we’ve already chronicled this offseason on MST, either Briscoe or Karam is potentially in a no-win situation when it comes to how CGR puts its fourth car together, Wilson is unsure of his plans even though many want him to move up, Conway is weighing a move to Toyota full-time in the WEC and Hildebrand or Filippi would be good to see in full-time efforts. It’s hard to see more than three or four from this batch making their way into full-time rides, and Aleshin’s seat should be one to watch if he either chooses not to return or his funding falls through.
2013 DRIVERS WHO FELL THROUGH THE CRACKS
- Simona de Silvestro, E.J. Viso, James Jakes, Tristan Vautier, plus additional month of May drivers.
Out of sight, out of mind, right? De Silvestro is starting to make the media rounds wanting to make a comeback after her F1 dreams have ended; Viso at least kept his face present with good fill-in work for an injured James Hinchcliffe during Indianapolis 500 practice; Vautier, the 2013 rookie-of-the-year, drove several sports car races for Mazda’s LMP2 program and became a TV star for Road to Indy TV; and Jakes may have reverted to actually being The Stig. While it would be nice for any of these drivers to return, they’re mostly lacking for full-time seat time in the last 12 months and would need to shake off the cobwebs upon a return.
YOUNG GUNS IN WAITING WHO HAVEN’T HAD A FULL-TIME CRACK
- Conor Daly, James Davison, Stefan Wilson, Sam Bird, Davide Valsecchi, Daniel Abt, Gabby Chaves, Peter Dempsey, Jack Harvey, Zach Veach, Matthew Brabham, Ryan Phinny, Rodolfo Gonzalez, etc.
You could also add Karam and Filippi from the 2014 group to this list. This group is essentially a paella of drivers from around the world, some who’ve had an IndyCar test and/or some starts, some who are Indy Lights drivers waiting in the wings, and some who would be coming over from Europe. And this likely leaves out several drivers who would be interested but their names haven’t come up yet.
The problem, as always, is that there’s at least 20-30 drivers listed above in either of these three segments, and nowhere near enough seats to provide for the opportunity. In most cases, the drivers listed above will need to provide for themselves in the form of budget to make that chance happen.