The latest blockbuster move in IndyCar’s wild 2024 silly season could involve Marcus Ericsson replacing fellow ex-Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean at Andretti Autosport.
While Ericsson told reporters including The Race last weekend that talks were still ongoing with Ganassi and that he doesn’t know if his future will be decided quickly after his period of exclusivity ends with that team on August 1, Andretti has been Ericsson’s most talked about alternative destination.
Ericsson has made no secret of his frustration that a suitable Ganassi offer is yet to come.
The disagreement is over the fact that Ericsson no longer wants to bring a budget to the team after winning the Indianapolis 500 and becoming a championship contender. With at least 15 paid drives on the grid, and knowing what other Indy 500 winners have received in contract renewal years, it’s not an unreasonable request.
It’s not like he’s demanding to be the highest-paid driver in the field, or even in his own team, if sources are to be believed!
Ericsson expected an offer to arrive and the situation to be sorted by the end of May, but we’re now just days away from August 1 when Ericsson can hit the market and talk to other teams freely. At that point, the market will dictate his true value.
Arrow McLaren made its interest in Ericsson very clear around the Indy 500 with team boss Zak Brown sharing his disbelief that Ganassi hadn’t re-signed him, but that team looks set to stay at three cars until it can expand to a bigger factory in 2025.
That leaves Andretti as Ericsson’s main option and he’s the perfect driver for it. For years it has needed a quick and consistent driver capable of stringing together runs of top 10s.
The lack of those results has not always been the drivers’ fault there, as execution has been a constant Andretti issue, but Ericsson has shown how consistent he can be when a team is functioning correctly.
As well as being on a run of not winning a title since 2012, Andretti hasn’t won an Indy 500 since 2017 and doesn’t have a winner of that event on its current roster, so Ericsson ticks all of its boxes.
The one weakness that may be levelled at Ericsson is he’s not the fastest driver in the series on raw speed alone, but Andretti has Colton Herta and Kyle Kirkwood for that. Drivers with raw speed are in abundance in IndyCar but wily competitors capable of consistency are much harder to find. What a coup Ericsson would be, taken from the series’ best team in a year it will also lose its likely double champion.
Andretti has at least one seat open with Devlin DeFrancesco set to leave the team, but Grosjean could also depart.
It feels a lifetime away from May when Andretti and Grosjean appeared close to a contract renewal, and since then a barren run is believed to have made Andretti question if Grosjean is the right driver for another multi-year deal.
Grosjean was the series’ most popular driver in 2021 in his maiden season and has been a brilliant ambassador for IndyCar, embracing his post-Bahrain F1 crash life and the Phoenix moniker born from it to bring new eyes to the series.
His move to the States – first in an RV driving across the country to races and now from a Miami home where he has passed his flying licence and pilots himself to races – has captivated his fans.
Commercially he’d be a big loss for Andretti, but his inconsistency and emotional episodes may be something the team wants to move away from. He is already confirmed to race for Lamborghini with its new endurance programme next year so that could be his sole new home if Andretti goes another way.
With the big cork in the bottle for silly season being Ericsson’s destination and a final wait to see if a Formula 1 team swoops in for Alex Palou before his own August 1 deadline, we’ve gone through the IndyCar teams to outline what we know about each team, who it has signed, who it is linked with and any other relevant notes to try to paint a picture of how the 2024 line-up could look.
Note that Penske isn’t on this list because Scott McLaughlin, Josef Newgarden and Will Power are signed beyond 2023.
Staying: Marcus Armstrong, Scott Dixon
Added: Kyffin Simpson
Linked: Callum Ilott, Robert Shwartzman, David Malukas, Takuma Sato
Out: Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson
Ericsson’s exclusivity ends on August 1 and he could still choose to stay. But a lot of water has passed under the bridge and an Andretti switch seems the most likely scenario.
The big move here in recent weeks is that it is believed Marcus Armstrong will not only stay on at the team but go full-time. While he’s lacking a big headline result, he’s been extremely consistent scoring a season-best seventh on his last outing in Toronto.
He has the 11th-best average finish in the series and can bring some budget to the role, helping to fill a gap after an exodus of big sponsors at Ganassi with Carvana, NTT and possibly Ericsson’s backer Huski.
On a similar note Kyffin Simpson could help in that department. His family is already reported to be backing the team through Ridgeline Lubricants, and while Simpson isn’t ready as a driver for IndyCar, he certainly has the backing.
Simpson has a huge amount of potential but a haphazard first Indy NXT season needs to be followed with a consistent second for learning purposes. But his backers could choose to promote him and have him do his learning in IndyCar instead.
That would leave a three-car line-up and it’s possible Ganassi could look for a fourth driver. It’s had Ferrari F1 reserve driver Robert Shwartzman and Formula E title contender Nick Cassidy in its cars testing this year and is known to be an admirer of Callum Ilott and David Malukas. But the other option would be to run three cars and remain flexible for adding a new driver in 2025.
Armstrong shared a car with Takuma Sato this year but Ganassi is believed to be keen to have all-full-time drivers in 2024, so the rest of its line-up needs to fall into place before it can make a call on whether it even has room for him. If he can generate the budget, it’s not out of the question that he could still be factored in part-time after all.
Staying: Colton Herta, Kyle Kirkwood
Added: Marcus Ericsson, David Malukas
Linked: Callum Ilott, Felix Rosenqivst
Out: Romain Grosjean, Devlin DeFrancesco
As we’ve explained earlier in the piece, paddock sources believe Ericsson will join Andretti. There’s also a growing belief that Dale Coyne’s David Malukas has had a signed deal or agreement with the team for some time.
The second youngest driver in the series has been shackled by being at at Dale Coyne team which, in 2023, is feeling the full effects of losing some of the series’ best mechanics and engineers in recent years.
There’s a feeling Malukas brings significant oval potential and can emerge as a complement to Ericsson, Herta and Kirkwood given time. You’d have to argue he’s shown more upside than DeFrancesco, and he is younger than Grosjean.
If there’s a U-turn and Ericsson ends up at Ganassi or McLaren, Ilott is an option here, too. He’s known to be admired by Andretti.
Felix Rosenqvist is another option if he’s still on the market after all the above has played out. He’s certainly in demand further down the field.
And it’s not impossible that Grosjean stays after all. He had an encouraging Iowa weekend, and a run of good performances would make a lot of difference.
Staying: Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi
Added: Alex Palou
Out: Felix Rosenqvist
As mentioned above, if Palou is taken by an F1 team – which is extremely unlikely as we stand – then McLaren could go for Ericsson.
Things might get more complicated for it if Palou is bought out of a McLaren deal in the winter, as many of the big players will be off the market by then, so in that scenario it would have to get creative.
For now, an O’Ward, Palou and Rossi line-up seems likely and deadly for the competition.
With Palou joining and no additional full-time car, there’s no room for Rosenqvist.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan
Staying: Christian Lundgaard, Graham Rahal
Linked: Jack Harvey, Linus Lundqvist, Toby Sowery, Felix Rosenqvist, Juri Vips
It’s clear Christian Lundgaard and Graham Rahal are staying so the third seat is the question here.
Jack Harvey has clearly underperformed, but he’s loved by this team. It’s not out of the question that he could stay although he needs a strong end to the year.
Rahal has spoken of his admiration for Rosenqvist in the past but links to him appeared to have cooled and Meyer Shank appears the most likely destination for him.
RLL’s tested a number of drivers, and while Harvey is loved, intense rumours in the paddock have Lundqvist making IndyCar appearances later this year, and that would require a fourth car or Harvey’s term coming to an end early.
Like the teams you’ll read about further down, there are still decisions to be made here and fewer answers as these teams have to react to the biggest in the paddock making their choices first.
Juncos Hollinger Racing
Staying: Agustin Canapino, Callum Ilott
Canapino will almost definitely stay, with finding the funding to field him being the only thing to solve for Ricardo Juncos. He told The Race that three years is what a driver needs as a fair bedding-in period and that Canapino had nothing to prove after his strong maiden year.
Ilott would only leave this long-term project for a top, top team, so if Ganassi or Andretti don’t come calling he’ll likely be staying.
If Ilott left it could take an Indy NXT or junior driver from abroad, as it plans to stay at two cars in the future. Juncos isn’t shy about grabbing a driver from say, touring cars, for example! All bets are off on who it would choose.
Meyer Shank Racing
Staying: Helio Castroneves
Added: Tom Blomqvist
Linked: Simon Pagenaud, Felix Rosenqvist, Jack Harvey
The Race understands Mike Shank and Jim Meyer are still deciding who to have in their cars next year.
It’s been clear since May that Tom Blomqvist would have some role in the team next year and his recent one-off in Toronto should have convinced the team he’s a big coup.
Whether he shares a car with Helio Castroneves doing the ovals or goes full-time is still a decision for the team, although giving Castroneves a third car for the Indy 500 could be an option. Its lacklustre form with two cars might steer it away from expanding however.
The second car is a tough choice. Especially as Simon Pagenaud is having to worry about returning to full fitness after a recent practice crash at Mid-Ohio has ruled him out of four races.
Pagenaud is great with sponsors and is an Indy 500 winner and IndyCar champion. He has the experience and the technical expertise to build a team around.
However, he’s a big salary to pay if your car isn’t performing at that elite level, and he requires a very specific set-up to get the most out of the car. He could well be a casualty of a stacked driver market, as sad as it would be to see a driver with plenty to offer being passed on.
Rosenqvist has emerged as a big option for Shank. He’d certainly be the favourite if it moves on from Pagenaud, with its former driver Harvey believed to be an outsider option.
Ed Carpenter Racing
Staying: Rinus VeeKay
Linked: Ryan Hunter-Reay, David Malukas
Rinus VeeKay is under contract so he’s the simple option. Ryan Hunter-Reay has replaced Conor Daly at the team mid-season and is a strong option for trying to help this team move forward as a champion and Indy 500 winner.
Malukas has been linked with ECR as well as Ganassi and Andretti. Malukas said he wanted to leave for a bigger team, so ECR wouldn’t necessarily tally with that given it is not much better than Dale Coyne.
ECR is good at the 500 and is a Chevy team unlike Ganassi or Andretti, so ECR could be seen as a chance to have a good 500 and align with a Chevy team to expose more of his ability to Penske or McLaren for the future.
But with Andretti and Ganassi on the lookout and Makukas able to bring a budget if required, it doesn’t feel like ECR will get the chance.
Dale Coyne Racing
Added: Devlin DeFrancesco
Out: David Malukas, Sting Ray Robb
Linked: Christian Rasmussen, Nolan Siegel, Danial Frost
DeFrancesco has been linked to the team since May and those rumours persist.
Alongside him it’ll likely be another new driver after Sting Ray Robb’s poor maiden season.
If HMD – linked to Malukas – stays with the team, and with the Indy NXT champion looking likely to come from HMD and Coyne’s joint team, perhaps the eventual Indy NXT champion could end up here. Danial Frost looks unlikely to win the title but impressed Coyne in a test last year, too.
Staying: Benjamin Pedersen
Linked: Santino Ferrucci
Foyt will likely be one of the last teams to finalise its line-up. Pedersen is believed to be in a two-year deal with 2024 being the second.
Ferrucci is brave and capable of big results, but it’s unclear whether Foyt will hit the market to look for someone slightly more consistent.
Perhaps that’s unfair on Ferrucci as his equipment hasn’t been consistent, so how can you expect him to be?