Simple question for the group: do you remember A1 Grand Prix? It was this sort of World Cup of open-wheel motorsport featuring teams from up to 30 different nations, wherein all of the teams drove the same Ferrari-based entry. It was glorious fun for all of its four or so seasons from 2006-09, although your humble host may be biased since I adore any nation-based competition, from the Olympics to the World Baseball Classic.
Well, I should say, any nation-based competition other than war. I’m not a huge fan of that.
Anyhow, since the end of the 2017 Indycar season we have seen teams begin to veer amusingly close to the A1GP model of being distinctly nation-based. Consider the following:
Andretti Autosport did not resign Takuma Sato, retained Alexander Rossi, and signed a new deal with Zach Veach. Rossi and Veach, combined with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, suddenly became the first all-American lineup since. . .nearly every year of Ed Carpenter Racing. But more so, because they have four drivers.
Next came word last week that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was not only retaining James Hinchcliffe, but was signing his childhood friend Robert Wickens to drive along side him in 2018. Or in front, or behind, as racing necessitates. Wickens has quite the resume of success in development-level Formula racing, so he’s actually expected to perform at something near Hinchcliffe. Did I mention they group up racing against each other in Canada?
As we now know, AJ Foyt’s team has signed Tony Kanaan and not resigned Calos Munoz or Conor Daly. All rumor-mongering, err, unconfirmed reports indicate that the 2nd Foyt seat will be filled by recent Indy Lights hotshoe Matheus Leist, who like Kanaan hails originally from Brazil.
Brazil, check…but unconfirmed.
Meanwhile Chip Ganassi Racing had cleaned house. Keeping the living legend that is Scott Dixon, but letting go of Kanaan (obvi), Max Chilton, and Charlie Kimball. The unconfirmed report for weeks has been that Dixon would be paired with Formula 3 and GP2 driver Brendon Hartley, who hails from New Zealand. (New Zealand, check?!?) But last week Hartley was signed to race in Formula One, so Ganassi turned to Dubai’s Ed Jones to fill the vacancy. Jones is a solid driver with a bright future, but oh, what could have been?
And now, for experimental purposes, let’s answer the rhetorical question. Because it’s the offseason. Really, the only thing we need here is some creativity, and a little help from Roger Penske. And that Red Bull team that signed Hartley. Just for giggles, imagine these moves. (Hey, It’s the offseason – what else are we going to do?)
- Max Chilton is suspected of racing for a new Indycar entry for Carlin Racing, co-owned by his father. Let’s pair Chilton with Jones, who as a citizen of Dubai is still a British citizen. Team England, check! God Save the Queen!
- Roger Penske, understanding that he must make the move for, uh, the betterment of competition in the Indycar series, releases Simon Pagenaud from his contract. Simon is no doubt saddened, but he comes to contractual terms with the newly rejuvenated Dale Coyne team, where he will be paired with Sebastien Bourdais. Team France, check! Viva la France!
- In an even more magnanimous act of generosity, Penske also release newly minted champ Josef Newgarden to sign back with Ed Carpenter Racing. Newgarden and Pigot will form the second all-American team, with Carpenter racing ovals here and there. America – twice as awesome as your country! Or something like that. America #2, check!
- From here Penske forms a powerful Team Australia, with Will Power and. . .I don’t know, Ryan Briscoe? He’s probably not coming back, but he’s only 36, which is way younger than some of these Brazilians. Feel free to let me know – is there some other Australian that would work here? I mean, besides Daniel Riccardo? We’re having a fantasy exercise, but there have to be reasonable limits here, right? Team Australia, check?
So that’s, kind of where this all runs off the rails. I don’t know what to do with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan pairing of Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato. Move Graham and add another Japanese driver? Drop the reigning Indy 500 champ?
Oh well, it seems it was never meant to be. Sadness. We were so close.
Final thoughts: Back to reality, Dale Coyne tells Marshall Pruett that he’s been caught off guard by the Jones departure, saying “We left Sonoma with a handshake deal.” No disrespect meant to Coyne, but a handshake is not a contract. In the immortal words of Beyonce, if you like it then you should put a ring on it.
And no, just because I quoted the song doesn’t mean I’m linking the video.