Today has been arguably the busiest day of Verizon IndyCar Series driver news this year, with three major updates coming out heading into both this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and the upcoming month of May in Indianapolis.
We’ll start in chronological order, starting with this morning’s confirmation of Oriol Servia in a second Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the Indianapolis 500.
RLL has made a wise choice bringing back Servia – one of this generation’s more underrated drivers – alongside Graham Rahal. The two have past history both last year and in 2009, and Servia is also now reunited with some of the ex-Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing personnel they both worked with in ’09.
Servia’s a development ace, a consistent driver and someone who’s renowned for outperforming the machinery at his disposal. Considering RLL has been off to a strong start in 2015, the Servia addition makes sense on nearly every level.
Next up was the mid-morning shocker that Sebastian Saavedra would be joining Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, sharing the No. 8 Chevrolet with CGR development driver and 2013 Indy Lights champion Sage Karam for the balance of the season.
Purely on merit, it’s a questionable move. Saavedra has a less than distinguished career record in IndyCar, as in 56 career starts from 2010 to 2014 he has not scored a single top-five, only three top-10s while failing to finish 20 starts.
Arguably his two most notable moments in IndyCar have been because of accidents – he made it into his first Indianapolis 500 as a teenager in 2010 from a hospital bed following an accident and other cars withdrawing their times. Meanwhile following a surprise pole at last year’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, his car was struck after failing to engage from the standing start, as part of a big crash.
The knock on Saavedra is his inconsistency. He has flashes of brilliance, but they’re rarely sustained.
On the whole, he’s a nice enough individual and he’s enjoyed the longtime personal and financial support of AFS’ Gary Peterson – the paddock is better for having both of them engaged in some capacity – but in a Ganassi-prepared car, he has his best chance to perform and zero excuses if he doesn’t.
On a positive note, this keeps CGR at a four-car lineup through the remainder of the season, after it had been in doubt for much of the offseason. It keeps the crewmembers busy and at the track, and it keeps another car on the grid. As a Leaders Circle entrant, the No. 8 car would need to run the full schedule to ensure full payments.
This also ensures Karam will have a chance to improve after two ragged races to open his 2015 campaign. Knowing you have more races is a built-in confidence booster, and even if this means Karam won’t have a full 16-race slate to go for rookie-of-the-year honors, he still has a better shot than he did 24 hours ago. Just look at the improvement Luca Filippi has made in two races knowing he has a full complement of road and street races, compared to his roller coaster starts in 2013 and 2014.
On the subject of four-car lineups though, it’s with a bit of sadness to write that Simona de Silvestro won’t be racing at Long Beach this weekend, a team spokesperson confirmed, after running the opening two rounds for Andretti Autosport in the team’s No. 25 Honda.
It’s not for a lack of effort on either the driver or team’s part.
Per multiple Andretti personnel, the team was working up until the moment the trucks were leaving for California to assemble a fourth car for de Silvestro, who is still part of the team’s long-term plans.
There’s a “near certainty” that de Silvestro will be in further races this year beyond the Indianapolis 500, her next scheduled race in the team’s No. 29 TE Connectivity-backed Honda.
Following a fourth place at NOLA Motorsports Park, de Silvestro currently sits sixth in points, best of Andretti Autosport’s four drivers. But the car is not a Leaders Circle entry, and unless it’s fully funded for that particular race, it won’t run.
Is it unfortunate? Yes. But, business is business, and ultimately, that’s what all of today’s three bits of IndyCar driver news have in common.