When it comes to drivers moving teams or getting a big debut in 2024, the IndyCar grid is truly spoiled for intriguing storylines.
It’s been a busy and frantic 2023/24 IndyCar silly season that isn’t even over yet, with AJ Foyt and Dale Coyne still to confirm driver line-ups, but the rest appear set, short of anything like, say, some sort of shock lawsuit. IndyCar has become good at those…
The 2024 moves include an Indianapolis 500 winner switching to a title rival, a ‘Phoenix’ taking a step down to an interesting team for what some would call a reality check, and what about the rookie who spent most of 2023 on the sidelines but then after three stand-in races went from the bench to IndyCar’s top team in the space of a month?
The Race breaks down the grid to take a look at the eight driver moves you need to watch in 2024, and give some insight into how these moves might go for team and driver. Let us know what you think in the comments if you're part of The Race Members' Club.
ROMAIN GROSJEAN: ANDRETTI TO JUNCOS
The big thing here is going to be managing expectations, and trying not let judgements of Grosjean be clouded because he replaces a driver in Callum Ilott who didn’t deserve to lose his seat. That’s not Grosjean’s fault.
Grosjean’s not at an enormous team like Andretti Global anymore and while Juncos Hollinger Racing has achieved a lot in two full seasons of IndyCar, Grosjean isn’t necessarily going to be fighting for top 10s and more every week.
It’s a bit of a worry that the team has struggled with understeer, something Grosjean isn’t adept at handling.
Grosjean perhaps doesn’t have the consistency to fight for a championship over a season anyway but has proven he can score top results sporadically.
At Juncos he may well excel when the car is in the window to do so, and his mistakes in other races won’t be as costly when the car isn’t on form.
That’s how his time at Dale Coyne went in his first season of IndyCar, basically. Juncos just have to hope the two scenarios marry up and he doesn’t make any errors while the car is in the window.
This is potentially a good place to be for Grosjean. Whether he’s better than the driver ousted from that seat, only time will tell. He’ll certainly be motivated to prove a point.
MARCUS ERICSSON: GANASSI TO ANDRETTI
I think this one is pretty clear: Ericsson is a perfect match for Andretti Global.
Perhaps it can’t be treated as such a perfect move for Ericsson as it is for Andretti given Ericsson left the Chip Ganassi Racing team that won the championship.
But to Ericsson being valued as a driver with a paid contract rather than having to bring sponsorship was as important as the car he is in.
He’s got that at Andretti, where he no longer has to bring budget and can shape the team around him, whereas it was clear at Ganassi that Alex Palou and Scott Dixon are the lead drivers.
If there’s any criticism of Andretti recent years, it’s that its race performances have been lacking. That’s where Ericsson thrives, and he’ll look to help improve the team’s consistency and execution.
He may well benefit from the Andretti car’s inherent pace to boost his sometimes below-par qualifying - admittedly a trait Ganassi has had in general at times in recent years - and take another step forward that way.
That plus streamlining to three cars should help fire up this sleeping giant.
Andretti also gets an Indy 500 winner, something it hasn’t had in its line-up since 2021.
Felix Rosenqvist: McLaren to Meyer Shank
Tom Blomqvist: IMSA to Meyer Shank
Let’s start with Rosenqvist. He’s been recovering from his decision to leave Ganassi ever since he made it in 2020, given the three tough seasons at Arrow McLaren that followed.
The move to Meyer Shank Racing is the chance to be a team leader again, and he knows there’s nowhere to hide, even if this team isn’t yet at McLaren’s level.
Rosenqvist can excel - look at his Formula E stint with Mahindra - but he’s running out of excuses to prove he’s among the best in IndyCar.
A crucial year is coming up. Plus, if Simon Pagenaud couldn’t fire this team into action over two seasons, it’s hard to think of many drivers that could. Being adaptable with the car might be Rosenqvist’s biggest weapon.
IMSA SportsCar Championship convert Blomqvist is a tricky one to analyse. His Toronto debut was very impressive but he struggled to kick on in the final few races of 2023.
It’s too soon to judge but I was hoping for a bit more from him in his additional appearances.
After so long in sportscars, this will undoubtedly be a tough move, and Shank has taken a big leap of faith.
LINUS LUNDQVIST: JOBLESS TO GANASSI
As you might have heard in The Race IndyCar Podcast recently, Lundqvist isn’t short of confidence about his ambition to fight for a championship and wins with his new team - Ganassi - right away.
With a second-year racer in Marcus Armstrong among his team-mates, Lundqvist has the perfect benchmark.
If he can get close to or beat him (and Armstrong is having to learn ovals this year) that will be a great marker for how good Lundqvist can be.
After a year on the sidelines this will be a tough move, but his stand-in runs at Meyer Shank last year were really impressive.
Lundqvist's junior titles didn’t always come against the strongest of opposition, but he’ll relish putting himself up against IndyCar’s best and it’s hard not to see him becoming a very solid midfield driver with the capability to go much further.
DAVID MALUKAS: COYNE TO MCLAREN
It’s hard to know how good David Malukas really is, but we’re about to find out.
Still one of the youngest drivers in the series despite two full seasons of IndyCar, he was really strong on ovals last season and coped relatively well with a Dale Coyne Racing team which had lost so many top personnel to bigger teams over the preceding seasons.
Now he has to join an Arrow McLaren team geared towards Pato O’Ward and its car hasn’t been the easiest to get on top of or extract the most out of, so Malukas' adaptability is really going to be tested.
If he can hit the ground running, being a McLaren driver can do big things for you. If it doesn’t work out, there will be plenty of drivers snapping at his heels.
Rosenqvist is a good driver and he struggled to deliver at McLaren (the team had a role in that too) so there’s plenty to worry about here.
But Malukas is so happy-go-lucky that it’s hard to think of him being weighed down by any adversity. If anyone can come in here and do well, he has the perfect personality.
Now we’ll find out if he has the talent to go with it. After all, Palou proved he did when he left Coyne for Ganassi after one up and down season that had proved little more than Malukas' Coyne stint.
PIETRO FITTIPALDI: FREE AGENT TO RAHAL
When Fittipaldi returned to IndyCar to race for Coyne on the ovals in 2021 it was very much with the declaration of ‘unfinished business’ and deserving another chance after a 2019 year curtailed by a huge leg-breaking Spa sportscar crash mid-season.
In those few 2021 races, he had little chance to prove his pace.
The sometime Haas Formula 1 starter will have no excuse this year with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and has the chance to prove what he believes he is capable of.
He has two very strong team-mates to fight with in Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard, and a rapid driver in Juri Vips under contract with Rahal (likely for sportscars) waiting in the wings, so there’s pressure.
But this is the chance Fittipaldi has asked for.
The team has been up and down in the past two seasons especially, and had some real woes on ovals. But Lundgaard has won a race and scored podiums. If Fittipaldi is capable, there will be opportunities.
CHRISTIAN RASMUSSEN: INDY NXT TO CARPENTER
There’s going to be little to show for this season for the reigning INDY NXT champion, as he’s only doing a partial schedule for Ed Carpenter Racing.
As Lundqvist is doing the full year in a Ganassi car, there will be no chance of Rookie of the Year honours for Rasmussen.
However, there are still the road and street circuits and the Indy 500 for him to impress everyone.
He has a race-winning team-mate in Rinus VeeKay so getting anywhere near him - as past champion and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay struggled to do last year, albeit after a long sabbatical - would be a very good benchmark for a rookie driver.
If Rasmussen can do that, expect to see him on the grid full-time in 2025.