Some people predicted that the silly IndyCar driver market season of 2022 wouldn’t be exciting, but it wasn’t.
An influx of young European juniors, two respective Indy 500 winners and IndyCar champions, seats at Andretti, Penske and Rahal were all in the market and of course Romain Grosjean’s future was a long saga.
Looking back – and trying to be realistic about the options available – The Race went back and rephrased the silly 2022 season.
Let us know your queues in the comments and where our writer went right or wrong.
Penske’s fourth car
Our driver: Rinus VeeKay
In this alternate reality, Penske is the first domino to fall because they’re a team any driver would be foolish for not wanting to drive for and their track record speaks for itself.
Scott McLaughlin was a revelation in 2021 given his lack of single-seater experience, but preseason predictions that he would win a race were wrong. McLaughlin will get there, but in the second season – 2022 – Penske lost an Indy 500 champion and winner to Simon Pagenaud and didn’t replace him as he shrank to three cars.
McLaughlin may be a long term gain, but Pagenaud is a short term loss.
It could refocus a team that never really wants to expand to four cars, but it could also be a huge mistake in terms of IndyCar results.
The Penske / Pagenaud relationship had run its course, so arguing for his re-signing is unrealistic.
Given the options in the market, it’s tempting to go part-time and get Takuma Sato into the squad, as Penske’s Indianapolis 500 form has been dismal since the aeroscreen was introduced in 2020, a year ago. during which Sato won the race.
However, a part-time car isn’t ideal for Penske, and Sato is married to Honda, so the next best option for Chevrolet-powered Penske is to sign the best young driver around and it could well have been the winner of the 2021 race. Rinus VeeKay.
OK he was extremely inconsistent, but he unlocked an Ed Carpenter car that was difficult to drive like no one else and would surely be a regular threat in Penske’s battle against Ganassi.
The last time Penske made the bet by signing a young driver from Ed Carpenter, it worked out pretty well with Josef Newgarden. VeeKay isn’t the same package he was at this point in his career, but he’s young and full of potential.
Arrow McLaren SP’s third car
Our driver: Simon Pagenaud
That’s a tricky question because for the basis of this feature we are giving Arrow McLaren SP its third car for 2022, which it has failed to do in the real world.
However, he could have done it if he had found the right pilot.
And who better to drive than Pagenaud? He has known some of the team’s staff since he was on the team before, and with a new car coming in 2023, who better to help develop things than Pagenaud? He has an engineering mind and has so much experience.
He might not be the long term option that AMSP is looking for, but he has it in Pato O’Ward. Felix Rosenqvist still has time to make it a sustainable home, too.
Take Pagenaud while it’s in the market and you add someone who won a championship and a 500. That’s what this team is currently lacking with two light drivers on the IndyCar experience. Signing someone like Stoffel Vandoorne would only add to that.
Andretti Autosport’s third and fourth cars
Our drivers: Romain Grosjean, Kyle Kirkwood
No need to change Grosjean’s signature, it’s an excellent signing. If he increases his performance with the modest resources of Dale Coyne, then he is a championship-caliber prospect. If he’s struggling to adjust for whatever reason, he still brings a wealth of experience that would at the very least help this Andretti squad become a respected contender again. Not just with Colton Herta.
The deal to sign Devlin DeFrancesco has been in the works for some time and, having covered DeFrancesco for a long time, I know there is potential there.
However, in this alternate universe, Andretti made the right decision that Kirkwood is a once in a lifetime chance for a future American hero. The Floridian is well presented and has the best junior open wheel CV America has ever seen.
If he’s not an IndyCar-ready prospect, I don’t know what it is, and no team should have ignored him.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan second and third cars
Our drivers: Christian Lundgaard, Santino Ferrucci
Christian Lundgaard’s performance at Indianapolis this year made him an obvious choice for Rahal and his potential means there is no need to change that decision. It is good.
In this scenario, Rahal went in a slightly different direction and signed Santino Ferrucci for his new third car.
His record in the team car this year speaks for itself with the fifth-best series average for drivers who have completed more than one race.
Granted, one of the team’s flaws has been their qualifying performance and that’s probably Ferrucci’s weakest attribute, but Rahal isn’t suddenly going to qualify the miles better after signing Jack Harvey in real life. .
That doesn’t take anything away from Harvey, but it’s clear that qualifying is an area the whole team needs to focus on.
With Sato gone, the team has no Indy 500 winners, one driver who has yet to do so and another with a better ninth finish.
Ferrucci is an upgrade there. Give it a year to deliver on the promise posted in 2021, and if that doesn’t work, go for one of the big names in a silly season in the pilots market stacked in 2023 instead. It’s the perfect stopgap.
Meyer Shank Racing two cars
Our drivers: Helio Castroneves, Jack Harvey
No change from 2021 in our alternate universe, although obviously in real life, Harvey’s departure paved the way for Pagenaud’s membership.
The team loved Harvey, they had an adjacent sports car program with big ambitions to return to Le Mans, and he had just started working with this generation’s top Indy 500 driver in Helio Castroneves.
Rahal may be moving forward, building a new factory, and leading BMW’s sports car effort in the United States, but he didn’t win a race in 2021. , and neither does Harvey. There are definitely some bright spots in staying with MSR.
Ed Carpenter Racing two cars
Our drivers: Ryan Hunter-Reay, Oscar Piastri / Jack Aitken / Ed Carpenter
Okay admittedly readers if you want to get angry in the comments this might be the place to start. It’s kinda bonkers, but with her VeeKay talisman heading to Penske at the top of this post, we had to get creative.
Hunter-Reay may have had a dismal year at Andretti, but it’s not entirely his fault. Obviously the team has a very irregular car on the road / street courses. Someone with more experience than VeeKay and Conor Daly may be able to help the team get over this and Hunter-Reay is a champion and an Indy 500 winner to boot.
There is a lot of frustration that Oscar Piastri is not on the Formula 1 grid in 2022 despite his prodigious talent. So who better to bring to IndyCar?
With what VeeKay may have done with the car on occasion, you might persuade Piastri to participate in a partial program, although of course he will be busy with his F1 reserve duties.
Piastri could do five races without missing any in F1, and given that Alpine was happy to let Lundgaard pass – but not as a reserve driver – there could be more potential.
In this scenario, it would be great for Sébastien Bourdais to replace and do the other races – I still can’t believe a top-level team didn’t choose him – but he makes full-time sports cars with it. Ganassi. So let’s move on to the real-world option of Jack Aitken who is currently discussing a part-time or full-time deal with the team.
If Piastri is not available, entrust the work to Aitken. He’s known for his developing skills and would surely help the team’s performance on the road, although he doesn’t necessarily meet the team’s criteria to be a threat of victory for the Indy 500.
Either way, he pulls out a third car for Indy – so Aitken can get up and learn – and is still a contender there, so he could persuade a heavy hitter to come in and do a job. Bourdais is the guy for that too.
The two cars of Dale Coyne
Our drivers: David Malukas, Takuma Sato
No need to change either decision here. Coyne just isn’t going to compete for an IndyCar title with such a stacked field, so why not try the next best thing and go for the 500?
Sato was the best driver in the market for this, strengthening the team’s bond with Honda and giving him a fighting chance in a car that had the potential to be very good in the 500.
Along with Malukas he has strong support and brings some really exciting American talent with a lot of potential. This is another opportunity for Coyne to continue his record of training young talent.
AJ Foyt Enterprises two cars
Our drivers: Devlin DeFrancesco, Linus Lundqvist
We already have Kirkwood at Andretti and feel Dalton Kellett is not the quality to help push this Foyt team onto the grid, as nice as Dalton is.
With DeFrancesco tapping into some potential and good support, we’ve squeezed him into this more low-key debut at Foyt than he’ll get in real life at Andretti.
In the real world, if he finds it difficult to adapt immediately, he will be criticized, as will Andretti for not signing Kirkwood. Here DeFrancesco gets an IndyCar start under the radar and may win this stage in the future.
Lundqvist could be a season too early for promotion after finishing third in the Indy Lights Championship. However, the underlying potential is there.
If Foyt is really interested in having young drivers instead of his recent form of going for most of the veterans, then this training would be high risk – which is necessary due to the poor results of the team – but potentially very rewarding.
Juncos Hollinger Racing a car
Our driver: Callum Ilott
The IndyCar grid teams clearly weren’t aware that Ilott was available for 2022 and hadn’t considered it, which is why he fell to a team making their IndyCar comeback and their first full season.
However, it’s a good game for both sides. Ilott is fortunate enough to use the skills he learned from developing Ferrari F1 cars to take Juncos forward and give himself two options. Be part of the Juncos by becoming a competitor or impress one of the great teams for a practice.
Juncos knows what he’s got at Ilott and even though he’s only had it for a year or two, it’s only positive. The only question is whether he can put the right people around him to make him a quick hit.