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In part two, IRR examines the current crop of f-ing F1 drivers invading IndyCar, their shocking inexperience and lackluster records as well as the disturbing dearth of overseas oval tracks.
The latest IndyCar invaders from F1 are different from those of the past. Billionaire Bernie‘s boys not only bring zero oval racing experience, but also little knowledge of the IndyCar series or the U.S., its history or its fans. Crucially, these recent raiders have enjoyed much less success and stardom than their forerunners, with no champions and few grand prix winners among them. For lack of a better term, they’re F1 feh.
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Troublingly, today IndyCar represents merely a fallback position for these F1 washouts. Twenty four year old American Alexander Rossi recently called IndyCar “foreign,” and Michael Andretti frankly referred to him as “clueless.” No argument here. Rossi didn’t win a grand prix or score a podium in his five starts last year and served primarily as a test driver in previous years. That’s exactly the sort of high end talent the IndyCar series needs, Michael – way to go. Ditto for CGR’s Englishman Max Chilton, who was winless and podium-less in thirty five F1 starts over two years. Gee, thanks a lot, Chip.
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This crossover is in one sense natural, as both open wheel series share much in common. However, it’s the differences that seem to matter most. Although unfortunately dwindling, oval tracks still feature (somewhat) on the IndyCar schedule, while they really never have in F1. This puts F1 interlopers at a distinct disadvantage.
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The famous track at Monza in Italy has an oval portion, but it was only ever partially used by F1 in combination with the road course sections of the raceway. Other European ovals like England’s Brooklands unfortunately have gone the way of sexy British princesses. Rockingham Motor Speedway, also in the UK, was last used by CART in 2002 and never visited by F1. Likewise, Germany’s Lausitz – a tri-oval and Europe’s only other oval speedway – hasn’t hosted an F1 race nor is it expected to.
So, for F1 pilots oval racing truly is foreign. Hopefully the influx of formula types doesn’t provide the series with a further excuse to eliminate these exhilarating tracks from the schedule. The extinction of oval track racing simply isn’t an option. Above all, IndyCar doesn’t need to become f-ing F1 light or a rest home for f-ing failed F1 drivers.
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Perhaps IndyCar fans should welcome the newcomers, as they generally always have (Nigel Mansell and Emo’s orange juice chug notwithstanding). We’ll leave that to others. Around the world there’s no doubt F1 is more popular – not to mention more profitable – than IndyCar. As the old adage goes, there’s no accounting for taste. IndyCar has remained a truly American sport with an overwhelming U.S. focus, that is until lately.
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The fact that all this appears “foreign” to new IndyCar drivers with an F1 background is telling though, and very unlikely to change. Former IndyCar pilot and current Scotsman Dario Franchitti – who tested an F1 car in 2000 but failed to make the transition – recently called the influx of “European” F1 drivers to IndyCar “exciting.” Is it?
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The overriding question to consider is, what’s best for the IndyCar series? While the future of open wheel racing remains to be seen, there’s little doubt IndyCar is taking on an increasingly F1 feel. Better get f-ing used to it.