Marcus Ericsson joining Andretti Autosport leaves Romain Grosjean’s future in the balance. Will he stay at the team? Will he join another squad? Or is his American IndyCar dream set to end as quickly as it began?
The most likely option at the moment appears to be that Andretti will move on without Grosjean.
It’s been a tough year for the combination – which began with a pole and two second places in the first four races, a stretch that also included being taken out at St Petersburg by Scott McLaughlin in their victory duel.
It was the kind of form where Grosjean and Andretti were already discussing a contract renewal in May and both seemed positive about that happening.
But that initial four-race run was followed by eight races without a top-10, and regardless of the share of fault, Michael Andretti called into question Grosjean’s teamwork and attitude in a recent interview with IndyStar.
The Race says
It feels so long ago that Grosjean’s Phoenix story of cheating death, finding a home in IndyCar and becoming the fans’ most popular driver in 2021 kicked off.
Even by the end of that year Grosjean’s aggressive style had began to irk the competition and a blow-up with Graham Rahal at Barber was the first of multiple incidents on-track in 2022.
This year began much stronger as it was clear that development work by Andretti and tireless efforts by Grosjean’s engineer Olivier Boisson had made the Andretti car more to his liking, but after some initial consistency, the wheels started to fall off the campaign.
It’s a shame because had Grosjean gone to a team where the car suited his style better from the word go in 2022, or even joined a team known for consistency as opposed to Andretti’s peakiness, perhaps he could have found a home as a really good-quality IndyCar driver capable of race wins on his good days.
Sadly his bad days have been crashes and mistakes, which just don’t cut it in IndyCar, as having the best worst finish is almost always the crucial stat in any championship bid.
It’s clear he has the pace and deserves a race win under his belt before he leaves, given the bad luck that has befallen him.
He might be a character that some struggle to get along with, but if all drivers were the same, racing would be an extremely boring place and Grosjean is someone who has never failed to entertain regardless of the reasons.
If he does leave IndyCar, the series will be all the poorer for it.
It’s clear there has been friction within the Andretti team, and while anything is possible in IndyCar – as Alex Palou has proven, late U-turns can happen – Grosjean appears to be set for the exit short of a Christmas miracle.
It’s a shame, unless, of course, Grosjean doesn’t want to stay anyway. In which case, lovely for everyone.
In any case, it’s how Grosjean is replaced – rather than if he is ousted – that appears the question that needs answering here.
As first reported by IndyStar, Andretti sponsor DHL could move to Ganassi next year, which has led some in the paddock to speculate that Andretti will drop to three cars next year.
It doesn’t seem to tally with Andretti’s bullishness about what it’s capable of in the future.
It says it won’t have a pay driver in the car next year and while DHL would be a loss, Andretti does a great job of supporting and working with its commercial partners. Dropping to three cars would seem a drastic move and something it doesn’t need to do. I think it’s unlikely at this stage.
The more likely option is that it takes David Malukas, who fully put himself on the market in Mid-Ohio by confirming his exit from Dale Coyne.
Not long after, rumours of an Andretti deal began to surface and multiple sources have confirmed to The Race that they expect Malukas to be announced soon as Andretti’s fourth driver.
Around Toronto it became clear that Ed Carpenter was extremely interested in Malukas too, but there’s no doubt Andretti would be the top option and Malukas would only be available to ECR if something went wrong on the Andretti front.
So what does all this mean for Grosjean?
There are still likely to be multiple paid seats open for him in IndyCar if he doesn’t want to make his Lamborghini sportscar drive full-time just yet.
In the hypothetical scenario that Ganassi commits to Palou, Marcus Armstrong and Linus Lundqvist, and Andretti signs Malukas, that’s Andretti, Ganassi and Penske off the table.
The other team to win a race this year, Rahal Letterman Lanigan, doesn’t appear to be a good fit for the characters involved and Graham Rahal had that public berating of Grosjean in Barber last year. A lot of water under the bridge would be needed for him to take RLL’s open third seat.
Arrow McLaren needs a driver, and The Race’s sources indicate that Felix Rosenqvist was told to look for other teams in recent weeks before it became clear Palou would not drive for McLaren next season.
While it could still re-sign Rosenqvist, there may be a seat at McLaren and it would be a fun reunion for Grosjean and Alexander Rossi after they fell out at Andretti but bonded and became close friends while learning to fly last off-season. Yes, that actually happened.
Still, Grosjean doesn’t fit the McLaren mould of champion/500 winner or young talent with upside, so this doesn’t feel like a credible option unless things change in the coming weeks.
So that leaves Meyer Shank, Juncos Hollinger, AJ Foyt, and Dale Coyne.
A Coyne reunion feels unlikely after Grosjean left the team in 2021.
Shank is in the market for a second full-time driver, with Rosenqvist being a major option, but if he stays at McLaren, Shank could take a look at Grosjean.
But it already has an experienced Frenchman in Simon Pagenaud, who is hell-bent on galvanising the Meyer Shank team together towards improvement. Grosjean would feel like a sidestep for Shank if Pagenaud can return from his concussion for next year. Shank has other options it’s considering, too.
Foyt could be an option, and it has had a boost recently as Racer reports it will have a tie-in with Team Penske.
But a lot of that appears to have to do with finding a home for not just personnel but specifically young drivers for Penske, and Foyt often requires a contribution from its drivers.
And what of Juncos Hollinger? It’s been rumoured it could link up with another team – it would have to be Chevy-powered, and with Penske linked to Foyt, McLaren would be the obvious choice – but whether it would go for Grosjean depends on if Callum Ilott leaves as Agustin Canapino is safe.
Ilott is under contract but is believed to be free to move to a bigger team for 2024. McLaren seems the only possibility of that happening now with the other ‘big three’ teams full.
All in all, there is no obvious seat on the table for Grosjean outside of Andretti for 2024, but that doesn’t mean one of those teams with a seat won’t gamble on him.
Even if he has to bring a budget, that could be done via a sponsor and Grosjean has enough pull and reach that surely potential sponsors would see the benefit of him over many others.