It seems like every time a talented, young IndyCar driver achieves success, a conversation immediately starts linking him to Formula One. This year is no exception.
Fresh off his first season with the legendary Team Penske, a season that netted him four victories and a series title, Josef Newgarden has indicated that he wouldn't be opposed to a jump across the pond to join Formula One.
During a recent interview with ESPN the Tennessee native said, "The IndyCar series to me is a really great one now it's on the up, it's got great competition, but absolutely, Formula One, I'd love to try it."
He went on further by saying about the prospect of F1, "If the right opportunity came about and we could make it happen, I'd want to try it."
Newgarden takes his car through the paces during practice for the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Photo Credit: IndyCar.com
Now, if that all sounds like a bunch of non-commital driver-speak, you're right. It does. But there is a gem to be gleaned from Newgarden's comments. He is open to Formula One, but only if the opportunity arises.
No doubt, Newgarden is wary of jumping into the sport the was Sebastian Bourdais did back in the mid 2000s after his immense success in Champ Car. For those that don't remember, Bourdais joined Toro Rosso in 2008. Because of the backmarker status of the team, he only managed to score four points in his rookie season and then another two in the following season. Thanks to those abysmal results, he was dropped midway through the 2009 season, making way for Red Bull youngster Jamie Alguersuari.
Similar cross over attempts have been conducted throughout the years, most of them ending poorly for the IndyCar driver. Michael Andretti had the misfortune of partnering Aryton Senna at McLaren and was summarily dropped with three races still left in the year, McLaren opting to run a young Finn named Mika Hakkinen. Alex Zanardi, who did actually get his start in F1 before coming over to IndyCar, had a miserable run with the Williams team in 1999 and found himself out of a job after only one season in sport.
Michael Andretti, at Donnington in 1993, struggles in the same rain that allowed for his teammate, Ayrton Senna, to complete one of the greatest one lap drives in history. Photo Credit: Unattributed
In fact, the only recent IndyCar/Champ Car driver that to find success in Formula One was Columbian ace Juan Pablo Montoya, who made the jump shortly after dominating the Champ Car circuit as well as the 2000 Indianapolis 500. Montoya achieved multiple race wins with Williams before seeing his career pushed aside to make way for future world champion Lewis Hamilton
With all that in mind, it makes sense Newgarden would be leery of jumping over to Formula One prematurely. He certainly doesn't want to suffer the same fate as many who have gone before him.
That said, his ESPN interview gives hope to those who want to see him racing around the world. His deliberately vague words give us an idea of just what his thinking entails in regards to making the jump. He doesn't want to half heartedly jump over to a team that will constantly run as a backmarker. Landing at Sauber, for example, would no doubt frustrate the young American and add fuel to the fire of those who claim that no one from IndyCar can possibly compete at the level of Formula One.
Newgarden, were he to actually make the jump, would no doubt most likely make the jump to a semi-competitive team that can provide real results. A team like Force India or Renault seem like real possibilities that could entice Newgarden away from IndyCar.
But perhaps the most alluring team for the young American driver would be his home team, Haas F1.
The American team has already proved that they are a competitive midfield team, never contending for race wins, but adding their name to the electrifying scrap that exists for points positions farther down the grid. For Newgarden, he would be able to race under his home country's banner and be in contention for points every race, a win-win. For Haas, they would no doubt love to have an American driver in their American car and as of this minute, Newgarden seems like the best candidate.
So will they do it? They very well could. It is unknown if present Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean have contracts that extend past 2018 and while Haas will most likely attempt to hold onto Grosjean, the numerous incidents involving Magnussen leave his long term position with the team up in the air. That spot could very easily be taken by Newgarden.
And, in closing, to all those detractors who say that Newgarden races in America and only knows how to turn left, I point you to his record this year. Of his four wins, two came on purpose built road courses (Mid Ohio and Barber), one came a street course (Toronto), and only one came on an oval (Gateway). Newgarden can drive. He's a throughly qualified driver and, if you've been lucky enough to watch his ascension through the ranks of IndyCar, his talent is palpable. If he is able to build on his first championship and continue to win, we may be lucky enough to see an American driver in Formula One after all.