Outgoing Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean says he is in talks with IndyCar teams over a 2021 deal, although he acknowledged he won’t secure a top seat and will need to bring budget.
While drivers losing their F1 seats are often linked to IndyCar moves, in practice by the time their F1 futures are clear the top IndyCar seats have been filled and sponsorship is required for others.
This can discourage outgoing F1 drivers who are used to receiving a salary. If they want to bring budget, it also has to be relevant to North America as IndyCar doesn’t currently race outside of the continent, which can also be tricky for drivers that have long been European-domiciled.
“If you look at Penske or Chip Ganassi, they’re fully booked. But you would not necessarily expect to land on one of those seats for the first year” :: Romain Grosjean
Grosjean initially confirmed an interest in IndyCar when it was announced he and Kevin Magnussen would not be retained by Haas last month.
But ahead of this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix, Grosjean made clear the situation has escalated with talks ongoing with multiple teams.
He said that he is hoping for news “in the next few days” and “then we can look at details”.
“I’m talking to different teams,” said Grosjean.
“We’re late, some of the teams are fully booked but there are opportunities left, and we’re looking at what we can do, how we can do it.
“I think there is some wish from both sides to make it happen, which is nice. And some good challenges.
“So, if you look at Penske or Chip Ganassi, which I guess are the two top teams in IndyCar, they’re fully booked.
“But you would not necessarily expect to land on one of those seats for the first year before going to IndyCar, you need to prove that you can race in that series.”
Grosjean said he has consulted fellow Frenchman and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud (pictured above) – who currently races for Penske – and recent F1 convert Marcus Ericsson.
After leaving Alfa Romeo at the conclusion of the 2018 season, Ericsson moved to Schmidt Peterson Motorsport in IndyCar and then scored a Chip Ganassi Racing seat for the 2019 season which he has retained through next year.
Ericsson is the most recent driver to swap F1 for IndyCar but brings a certain level of personal backing that helped him secure that US move.
Grosjean cited the case of Jimmie Johnson in the budget situation. The seven-time NASCAR champion still had to chase funding for his 2021 campaign alongside Ericsson and champion Scott Dixon at Ganassi.
“I think motorsport is changing generally, and I wouldn’t be surprised that drivers around the world need to have a sponsor that wants to follow them,” added Grosjean.
“Jimmie Johnson is a good example in IndyCar. But also some of us where you represent an image, and the companies behind that image are happy that you represent it.”
Grosjean added that he needs to have a deal in place before he would make a final call on moving to America.
“It can be a good opportunity and a fun experience and hopefully a successful experience” :: Romain Grosjean
The 2021 IndyCar calendar is particularly attractive to drivers from outside as it only features three oval races as things stand.
Grosjean confirmed that had peaked his interest, having previously called oval racing “something that I’m not necessarily a huge fan of”.
After acknowledging the series’ safety improvements had taken away most of his concerns about it, he added: “It’s just all moving in the right direction and I think it’s gone in a way that I accept now, that it can be a good opportunity and a fun experience and hopefully a successful experience.”
While Grosjean talked up the chances of his IndyCar move, Magnussen all but ruled out a switch in the same direction for next season.
Magnussen’s father Jan appeared in CART IndyCar briefly both before and after his full-time F1 stint, but settled on sportscars – primarily in America – for his main career.
Zak Brown said he would have been interested in Magnussen for McLaren-backed IndyCar team Arrow McLaren SP had he known Magnussen was available sooner.
Magnussen acknowledged the funding difficulties with IndyCar, saying: “Yeah, I mean that’s the challenge really.
“And I’m not really able to do that. So, we’ll see how the future pans out.”
The Danish driver is understood to be discussing multiple sportscar options for 2021.
What IndyCar seats are available for 2021?
The top seats at Andretti Autosports, Chip Ganassi, and Penske are all filled, although a few of the contract extensions are still to be publicly announced.
Charlie Kimball and Dalton Kellett are likely to keep their seats at AJ Foyt Enterprises.
Dale Coyne may emerge as the most likely destination for Grosjean. It is yet to confirm an extension with Santino Ferrucci, while the second car is free after Alex Palou’s Chip Ganassi move.
Ed Carpenter will contest the oval rounds for his eponymous team, but is believed to be working on a full-time seat for Conor Daly – who did the ovals with Carlin last year and the ovals with ECR.
Carlin is known to want to keep Daly, so if a full-time ride at ECR falls through then the ride-share could continue for Daly with Carpenter and Max Chilton at Carlin.
Carlin’s second car is likely to be part-time if at all, with ex-F1 driver Felipe Nasr still hopeful of an IndyCar switch after his impressive test outings pre-season.