Fernley: Formula 1 can learn from IndyCar’s fan approach

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Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley believes that Formula 1 can learn some lessons from IndyCar in its approach to accessibility and fan engagement, but stressed the importance of retaining the sport’s identity.

Comparisons have been drawn between F1 and IndyCar in recent weeks following Fernando Alonso’s shock decision to enter the Indianapolis 500 in May, skipping the Monaco Grand Prix in order to do so.

F1 is in the process of assessing its approach to fan access and engagement on race weekends following Liberty Media’s acquisition of the series back in January, with changes being put in place for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

For Fernley, F1 can take inspiration from IndyCar’s more open approach to fans, but feels that the sport needs to retain some element of its exclusive nature.

“Having done both IndyCar and Formula 1, I can speak from a reasonable amount of experience on that,” Fernley said.

“IndyCar is a fantastic show, especially the Indy 500, there’s no question of that. Can we get more access? I think we can.

“I think we can learn a little bit from IndyCars but overall we are Formula 1 and we’ve got to keep that identity as well. I think that Liberty understand that.

“I think they’re working to getting it more inclusive but, on the other hand, keeping it where it needs to be, which is slightly exclusive as well.

“So it’s a balancing act and I’m sure they’ll do a great job. They have all the expertise to be able to look at that.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”