Romain Grosjean, a Formula 1 veteran with 10 podium finishes under his belt, was anticipated to shine in Andretti Autosport after his transfer last year. His potential was evident with the underdog team, Dale Coyne Racing, following his move across the Atlantic in 2021. However, he currently sits at 13th in points, exactly where he ended last year’s standings – a result neither he nor team owner Michael Andretti had envisioned.
Moreover, his equal number of podiums in his first season with Coyne and in his one and a half seasons with Andretti, a more dominant team, does not make for easy reading.
Despite these setbacks, Grosjean has shown speed this year, securing two poles and coming second in consecutive races at Long Beach and Barber. These performances made his contract extension seem almost inevitable. However, since then, he has been involved in three crashes and faced challenges at Road America and Mid-Ohio, tracks where he was expected to excel.
In his latest race, his steering wheel slipped from his grip over the bumps at Toronto, leading to yet another crash.
In retrospect, Grosjean lamented, “When I was negotiating that turn, I lost control of the steering wheel.” He admitted the recovery was tough, and he lost the steering wheel in the process.
He concluded by saying, “We’ll just have to push ahead from here and concentrate on the next race” – a sentiment that has been recurring in his post-race remarks this year.
On the other hand, Marcus Ericsson’s situation contrasts greatly, even after his two worst finishes of the year.
He joined Chip Ganassi Racing in 2020, backed by Huski Chocolate. His tenure has been successful, securing victory at the Indianapolis 500 last year, earning two consecutive top-six IndyCar Championship finishes, and narrowly losing to Josef Newgarden this season at Indy. He also clinched the 2023 season opener at St Petersburg.
However, Ericsson, often labeled as a ‘pay driver,’ feels it’s time for him to receive a comparable salary to other top competitors, instead of his existing nominal payment that is heavily counterbalanced by the backing of Swedish billionaire Finn Rausing. Ganassi, while publicly praising Ericsson’s talent, has to balance the books – and Rausing’s financial support is crucial.
“I want to be acknowledged as a leading driver because that’s what I am in this series,” Ericsson asserted. “It’s where I aspire to be and I hope we can reach that stage with Ganassi. I believe I’ve earned that.”
The likelihood of the IndyCar driver carousel starting to whirl next month as contract windows open seems high, with some top positions potentially becoming available.
As previously reported, Ericsson told NBC’s Kevin Lee at Road America: “It feels like there’s a considerable gap. I see things one way. The team believes I should pay to be there, but I think I deserve to be paid. I’m frustrated. At least 15 drivers don’t bring a budget — and I’d like to think my performance speaks for itself — but the team disagrees. That’s why we’re quite far apart. I’ve made my intentions clear, but it’s still disheartening.”
Complicating Ganassi’s situation further is the potential loss of its superstar Alex Palou to Arrow McLaren next year – lured by the promise of an F1 future. Can the team afford to lose two of its leading drivers?
The solution? A simple exchange. Andretti Autosport would get a reliable performer in Ericsson with a fantastic Indy 500 record. If Andretti keeps DHL as a long-term partner, they could afford Ericsson’s salary demands. Plus, it would weaken a rival team both in terms of drivers and finance. Could Andretti persuade Rausing to reenter the F1 arena with his new project if he secures an entry?
To satisfy its impressive array of sponsor partners, Ganassi would need a high-profile driver with race-winning potential. In Grosjean, they would find exactly that. It’s surprising that he hasn’t secured an IndyCar race win yet, but team owners know that a content and composed Grosjean is the best version of the driver.
If Grosjean were to inherit Ericsson’s #8 car, he would partner with ace engineer Brad Goldberg, who shares a brotherly bond with the Swede. Alternatively, Grosjean could take the championship-winning #10 ride, likely providing a boost to his morale.
In IndyCar, there’s always a possibility that either of them could secure a win at the Iowa double-header this weekend. As contract windows open next month, there might be a flurry of movement in the driver line-up with some top positions up for grabs.
Both of these ex-F1 racers need to secure their places in a team that suits their abilities before the musical chairs come to a halt.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about IndyCar drivers
Q: What are the performances and salary demands of IndyCar drivers Grosjean and Ericsson sparking speculation about?
A: The performances and salary demands of Grosjean and Ericsson are sparking speculation about a potential team swap in IndyCar.