While Marcus Armstrong looks likely to land Dale Coyne Racing’s second seat with HMD, three Formula 2 ace drivers will have moved to IndyCar in the last three consecutive years.
Armstrong’s former roommate and ex-Ferrari Driver Academy teammate Callum Ilott contested three races in 2021 and then joined Alpine F1 junior Christian Lundgaard in the 2022 Rookie of the Year battle.
Lundgaard – Armstrong’s teammate at ART in their first seasons in F2 in 2020 – emerged victorious in that battle as Rookie of the Year and recently joined The Race IndyCar podcast to discuss his experiences moving to the States United and IndyCar.
It’s clear that IndyCar provides a fun home for F2 drivers snubbed by Formula 1, a place where they can enjoy some of the racing closest to elite motorsport and have the opportunity (eventually, in some cases) to get paid for it too.
But a startling admission from Lundgaard – who has already spent days and weeks in the Alpine F1 factory on the simulator – was the level at which he thinks his IndyCar team Rahal Letterman Lanigan is in comparison, as they prepare to move into their new factory. .
“I don’t think anyone in Europe really knows how professional IndyCar teams really are,” Lundgaard told The Race.
“I can’t speak for some of the other teams in IndyCar, but we’re definitely missing people right now as the size of the team is growing, you know, with our new facility coming in hopefully ready to go. my return, I hope to put a new address in the navigation when I return.
“But just looking at the size of the factory and comparing it to the Alpine factory I spent so many days in, we’re talking about this level, if not better.
“Low-talking IndyCar isn’t really a possibility anymore.
“I think the way the sport over the years develops, I think it’s only going to be a matter of years when we have a lot of European drivers here because they’re looking for him because he’s also becoming so popular and a better known series and I think that’s important.
“I think IndyCar needs to promote it more because it’s a real racing series, it’s what a racing driver wants to race in, that’s why I love it so much.”
Praising IndyCar facilities is nothing new, it’s something Romain Grosjean did when he joined Andretti Autosport ahead of the 2022 IndyCar season. It’s becoming an increasingly common sight, and not only with the drivers, as a steady stream of F1 personnel move from there to IndyCar every year as well.
This is a blow to those who are disparaging towards drivers moving from the F1 feeder series to IndyCar, and that IndyCar is inferior.
There is no doubt that IndyCar teams are smaller than F1 teams, but what they are doing with less than 10% of the budget is amazing, and they are finding more and more ways to improve in areas where F1 dominates the motorsport landscape such as simulation, AI and general engineering areas.
The level Lundgaard found when he came to America without having followed the show for years – like supporting Scott Dixon Armstrong, for example – makes his Rookie of the Year success all the more impressive.
The fact that he came in an almighty struggle only reinforces that notion.
After a strong 2021 where he had the series-best finishing average across all his cars, Rahal has had a nightmarish start to the season.
“Honestly, I don’t think you could have put anybody in the car the way it was, at the start, who could have performed much better than, I’ll say one of the three of us l really did,” says Lundgaard. , referring to himself and his two teammates, Jack Harvey and Graham Rahal.
“We were putting everything into it and just no rewards and I think it was mentally tough for the whole team.
“That’s why that GP podium meant so much because I knew it was a turning point for everyone, for us to continue on this path and we were in the right direction.”
The Indy GP is where Lundgaard qualified fourth on his IndyCar debut in 2021, but that podium came in the second Indy GP race of the 2022 season, which was race 13 on the 17-year schedule. races.
It took until the 10th race in Toronto for the team to make a real breakthrough, during which a test at Sebring helped resolve some of the issues the team was having, particularly with the shocks. He was also thorough trying out the 2008 shocks to try and figure out his problem.
After that, the podium came soon after in the second Indianapolis road race, and Lundgaard was actually the highest-placed legal car in that race because Alexander Rossi’s car violated the weight regulations of the car, although it was not disqualified.
The rollercoaster year helped Lundgaard become a team leader. He’s constantly been to things like barbecues with team members, met one of his mechanics while vacationing in Denmark last month, and generally helped the team stay focused on solving their problems. .
He even found what he describes as an “American dad” in the team’s trucky Jason, who helped Lundgaard not feel alone in his time in America.
The hard work he has put in may well pay off next season. He played a key role in the team’s breakthrough at Sebring and was arguably its best driver after that – despite Rahal’s strong ability to sustain consistent top 10s – and that leaves the team in a strong position to continue. 2023.
“Honestly, I think if we get out of the truck with the exact same car we finished Laguna Seca with, I think we’ll already start better than we finished last year,” Lundgaard said.
“And I think there are a lot of teams that will try things over the winter. Of course, we will try to find more rhythm.
“But I think as a good backup for us, the car, the window it’s in, it’s in a good window. So it works.
“We obviously want to try to find others. But I think there is also a possibility that the teams will step back from what they were this year.
“We saw Penske take a big step up this year compared to last year, but I think Andretti has faded a bit compared to 2021.
“I mean, it can happen to any team, we just have to come out better.
“But we also know that where the car is now, it’s running, we probably won’t win every race, but we will definitely be in a better position than at the start of the season.
“And if we can continue to make the progress that we have made, I think we will have a very good year. If we’re going to win, I’m not sure, but we’ll try.
With its new, larger factory almost ready and a much-needed off-season to add staff – it’s clear the team is understaffed for its size now – and development work, there’s plenty to be excited about. 2023.
The same was said last year, so there is still work to be done.
With a new multi-year deal under his belt and congratulatory messages from his fellow competitors, it’s clear that Lundgaard in 2022 was rated higher than the 14th he finished in the standings would suggest.
Lundgaard showed what drivers coming from other series can do in IndyCar.
While in F1 a season like this could have worked against Lundgaard because sometimes it’s hard to shine in midfield, it actually boosted his stock in IndyCar because his rivals respect the difficulty he has. had to go through and the results he got with it.
There’s just a bit more willingness to dig deep and really consider the context in IndyCar than what feels like the more dogged, results-oriented inspection of F1 drivers.
It’s a bright sign for drivers who need to start on a team further back in the order in IndyCar, much like Ilott and Armstrong.
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