Vergne joins Ferrari as a test driver

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So last week, ex-Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne was all signed up with Andretti Autosport’s FIA Formula E program, which, coupled with his public declaration that he was seeking an IndyCar ride led me (and I’m sure others) to think he could be considered for Andretti’s currently vacant fourth IndyCar seat.

Then comes today’s news, “out of the bleu” as my MotorSportsTalk colleague Luke Smith called it, that “JEV” is turning red instead.

The Frenchman has signed with Scuderia Ferrari as a test and development driver, and will replace Pedro de la Rosa as part of Ferrari’s reserve arsenal. He’ll primarily do simulator work.

Vergne is the second driver from the 2014 grid to have landed with Ferrari even in spite of not having a race seat. Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez – and sponsor Telmex – both signed with Ferrari earlier this week.

“The objective is a unanimous one and that is to help the Scuderia get back to the top step of the podium,” Vergne said in a team release. “Having had two years working in the simulator for a top F1 team and three years racing with Toro Rosso, my experience will add to the great efforts that are currently being made in order to get the team back to its winning ways. I look forward to fulfilling my dream in becoming a member of Scuderia Ferrari and having the tifosi behind me every step of the way.”

Potentially, either driver could be in the frame for a Ferrari-powered race seat with the new Haas F1 Team in 2016, if either is looking longer-term.

On the whole, though, Ferrari now suddenly has a glut of drivers in its stable.

Sebastian Vettel takes up residence alongside Kimi Raikkonen as one of the two race drivers. Gutierrez and Vergne are on the bench as reserve and test/development drivers, respectively.

Then, as our NBC Sports Group F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton notes, Ferrari Academy drivers Raffaele Marciello and Antonio Fuoco, longer-term but talented young prospects, fall even further down the depth chart.

Lastly I can’t help but think of Jules Bianchi at this moment. Bianchi was Ferrari’s star prospect in waiting but as he’s recovering in France from his severe injuries occurred at Suzuka; now, he’s in a fight for his life, rather than a race seat.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.