A forged checklist of drivers largely staying the identical, and largely in the identical locations, would possibly lead you to anticipate the 2023 IndyCar season to be a rerun of 2022. This perception may very well be compounded by the truth that the marketing campaign forward would be the 12th for the two.2-litre twin-turbo V6s from Chevrolet and Honda, the sixth for the common aerokit, and the fourth for the aeroscreen. Even the schedule is essentially the identical, apart from Detroit’s race switching from Belle Isle to a brand new 1.7-mile course in downtown Motown.
Nevertheless it’s the very tightness of the formulation that from yr to yr can nudge the narrative in a special course, in response to mini breakthroughs with engine, aerodynamics, shocks and dampers. For instance, who would have anticipated within the twilight of the present engine period that Chevrolet may acquire such a noticeable edge for 2022 in order that it may take 11 wins and 13 poles from 17 races after 4 straight years of defeat within the producers’ championship? Did anybody foresee Andretti Autosport immediately changing into robust on the Indy highway course – previously its bete noire – but lose its earlier superiority on avenue programs as Penske caught up?
After all, IndyCar isn’t all the time about burning the formbook. Some current themes have been prolonged in 2022, together with Chip Ganassi Racing’s superiority at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which really elevated. However who could be shocked if Ganassi’s forte in 2023 turned short-term tracks, and Penske immediately returned to its 2018-19 kind on the Speedway? These are, in spite of everything, two of the best open-wheel groups on the earth.
The purpose is, in IndyCar the formbook must be regarded solely as a information, not an almanac, whilst these automobiles and this formulation approaches the tip of its life cycle. The largest brains within the paddock try to squeeze out the final fractions of potential from their automobiles and have been poring over information amassed from their race weekend notes, the simulator, the wind tunnel and the shaker rig. Chances are high, they’ve discovered loads of objects to analyze in opening follow classes in the course of the season’s first quarter.
Nonetheless, the spec nature of the automobiles does throw the emphasis very a lot onto the drivers, and for some this needs to be an enormous yr.
Felix Rosenqvist has the spectre of Alex Palou hanging over him as he enters his third season at Arrow McLaren. The workforce has expanded to 3 full-time automobiles this yr, however Rosenqvist solely retained his seat after Palou did not extract himself from Ganassi, and the 31-year-old Swede is aware of that incumbent team-mate Pato O’Ward and newly arrived stablemate Alexander Rossi each have AM contracts that may see them by subsequent yr, too. So assuming Palou is McLaren-bound but can’t discover a race seat within the System 1 workforce for 2024, then Rosenqvist is preventing for a spot in IndyCar for 2024.
Rosenqvist faces a problem from Palou to maintain his place at Arrow McLaren, assuming the Spaniard’s days at Ganassi are numbered
Photograph by: IndyCar Collection
Rosenqvist brushes off the subject, says the precise issues – “I really feel like I’ve a great help from the workforce to go and carry out,” and so on – however he’s not naive. He is aware of he should elevate his probabilities of a worthy journey subsequent yr by shining when in direct comparability with O’Ward and Rosenqvist. Can he do it?
Nicely, shedding his former race engineer Craig Hampson to Rossi is a blow, however Rosenqvist and others communicate extremely of alternative Chris Lawrence, who has served as assistant race engineer on the #7 automobile that Rosenqvist beforehand drove. And with out query, he has potential that has not but borne fruit and possesses exceptional resilience.
He outqualified O’Ward solely 4 instances in 2022, however twice that resulted in pole place, and he was not often a great distance off the Mexican. Extra relevantly, there have been sufficient instances when Rosenqvist outraced him, too, which suggests he can do sufficient to show himself to potential new employers.
“We overachieved some locations and we underachieved by making an attempt to overachieve at another locations! It’s unlucky, however I realized a lot and I can’t wait to take what I realized into this season” Kyle Kirkwood
Ex-F1 ace Romain Grosjean is one other driver with a lot to show in 2023, regardless of having a safe choice with Andretti Autosport for 2024. With solely a single podium to his title from his first season with AA – albeit in a really up-and-down yr for Michael Andretti’s squad – he was frankly a disappointment for a lot of 2022. The Frenchman may look extraordinarily quick after which make an error, or he may fade into mediocrity, as the road between tempo and prudence typically eluded him.
And issues gained’t get any simpler, for the reason that ultra-fast Colton Herta stays on the workforce, and the departing Rossi has been changed by America’s subsequent Boy Surprise, Kyle Kirkwood. Or at the least we expect Kirkwood is the following huge factor. His document in junior formulation is impeccable, however the jury is out as a result of his rookie season at AJ Foyt Racing contained too many incidents – to which he readily admits.
“That’s fully truthful to say,” he agrees. “If you’re 20th and you are feeling caught, naturally you’re not going to simply quit, you’re going to push to absolutely the limits. In a way that’s what we did [at Foyt]. We overachieved some locations and we underachieved by making an attempt to overachieve at another locations! It’s unlucky, however I realized a lot and I can’t wait to take what I realized into this season.”
If pre-season testing is consultant, Kirkwood has instantly tailored again to the Andretti Autosport set-ups that he first examined as reward for profitable the Indy Lights title in 2021. The intra-team battle between him, Herta and Grosjean will likely be fascinating.
Grosjean has better inner competitors this yr as Kirkwood arrives wanting to show some extent following a blended rookie yr at Foyt
Photograph by: IndyCar Collection
Their semi-team-mates at Meyer Shank Racing, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud, will want huge helpings of factors this season, after ending 18th and 15th respectively in 2022. Positive, the alliance with AA is a double-edged sword, but it surely was a shock that so incessantly this skilled pair – 46 wins and greater than 500 begins between them – couldn’t discover a set-up that suited them or Firestone’s tyre compounds. One other yr just like the final, and Michael Shank and Jim Meyer might conclude that wholesale change is required in its line-up, particularly with IMSA champion Tom Blomqvist in-house and more than willing to switch disciplines…
The IndyCar driver with probably the most to show this yr is Jack Harvey, who endured a wretched first season with Rahal Letterman Lanigan. Whereas the workforce additionally struggled within the first half of 2022, its mid-season turnaround appeared solely to profit Harvey’s team-mates Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard. Sponsor Hy-Vee has been switched to Lundgaard’s automobile this yr, which isn’t precisely a vote of confidence for Harvey, however he’s gritty sufficient to journey that out.
The important thing to bettering his kind, the Briton says, is to “develop into extra versatile” when chasing set-ups, settle for when his automobile’s dealing with isn’t best, and as an alternative adapt his driving to swimsuit what he’s received. In any other case he’s going to search out himself buried in a area that now contains 27 full-time entries.
Of the drivers who raced in each spherical of 2022, Dalton Kellett and Jimmie Johnson have gone, whereas the rookie consumption contains Marcus Armstrong (highway and avenue programs for Chip Ganassi Racing, in a ride-share with oval-only veteran Takuma Sato), Indy Lights graduates Sting Ray Robb and Benjamin Pedersen becoming a member of Foyt and Dale Coyne Racing respectively, and Argentine touring automobile legend Agustin Canapino swelling Juncos Hollinger Racing’s presence from one automobile to 2.
Harvey wants a giant season for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing after a making an attempt 2022 marketing campaign wherein he was crushed by his team-mates
Photograph by: IndyCar Collection