Vettel’s IndyCar call and the unusual reason behind it – The Race

Graham Rahal has renewed his call for Sebastian Vettel to test or race IndyCar in the wake of the four-time world champion’s decision to retire from Formula 1 at the end of the year, and has explained an unusual reason why he is personally so keen on it. is happening.

Vettel was discussing the Miami Grand Prix circuit in May when he praised the IndyCar Road America track.

Rahal took to Twitter in the wake of those comments to invite Vettel to try IndyCar there, an idea loaned by his team owner and father Bobby Rahal, who won the 1986 Indianapolis 500 and three championships.

When asked by The Race in Indianapolis last weekend if anything had changed with the announcement of Vettel’s F1 retirement, Rahal made it clear that he and RLL were ready to help Vettel realize the IndyCar opportunity.

“He’s open anytime he wants to try and maybe he wants to race, I’m sure we can find a way to do that,” Rahal said.

“Likes [Romain] Grosjean, I think Seb will find IndyCar more relaxing [environment]but also more competitive for sure.

“And a guy like him, as a rider, I’m sure 10th on his back isn’t fun, especially from the world championships and everything else he has.

“So, if he wants to come try it, look, I’m sure there’s a seat, and there’s a house for him.

“In many ways, we are preparing to look at a fourth [car] In the future anyway.

“So, I’m not saying he wants to do it full time, but if he wants to give it a try, he definitely can.”

Vettel has left the door open to race elsewhere after F1.

“Obviously it’s not a problem for your age to do anything else and do more in F1,” he said last week when asked if he would retire from motorsport entirely or just F1.

“It’s not the limit. I think I’m physically in great shape, and I have no problem driving these cars. So there’s nothing that would hold me back at that front.

Because obviously the decision I’m making now is that this chapter will end. I’m not saying this chapter will end because another chapter will open right away and I’m driving other cars next year.

“Time will tell. It is probably the fairest answer I can give right now.”

“If I wanted to race something, I’m sure I’d be able to think of something,” he added.

The latest Formula One driver to make the move to IndyCar was Romain Grosjean, who became a fan favorite upon his arrival in 2021 thanks to some outstanding performances and the back story of his return to racing after the fiery 2020 Sakhir crash.

Before Grosjean, Marcus Ericsson was the last to switch from F1. Now in his fourth season, he has won the Indy 500 and is in the midst of an IndyCar Championship battle.

What connects Rahal and Vetel

Rahal is well connected to the world of sport in general, but there is a reason why he feels especially strong about giving Vettel a chance.

“We never met but our paths crossed in a way he probably wasn’t sure of,” he said, and claimed that one of the most important opportunities in Vettel’s junior career actually went to Rahal.

Finding US F1 prospects was one of the early main goals of Red Bull’s junior programme, with Scott Speed ​​and Colin Fleming being the main primary beneficiaries.

Formula 1 Grand Prix, Bahrain, Sunday

While Speed ​​(pictured above) was moved to F1 with Toro Rosso, Fleming – who was a close runner-up to Speed ​​in German Formula Renault in 2004 – was abruptly dropped from Red Bull’s three-round program in his second World Championship. by Renault season in 2006.

Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, cited: “He didn’t make any progress over the last season or this season and it was clear we had to do something else – eighth and ninth isn’t good enough.”

Fleming himself has since indicated that the decision was precisely because Red Bull wanted to test Vettel – who was fighting for the Formula 3 Euro Series title with Paul di Resta at the time – in a more powerful Formula Renault 3.5 car as it assessed how fast You can get it in F1.

Vettel was dropped in Carlin’s previous Fleming at the Misano Tour and ended up with a double win on his debut, rising from third in race one due to penalizing Pastor Maldonado and Ben Hanley, then winning on the road in race two.

But Rahal says Marco was trying to get him to an old Fleming seat too, only for the calendar clashes getting in his way.

Rahal was 17 years old at the time, fighting Simon Pagenaud for the title at the Champ Car Atlantic feeder series, but was aiming for a European career and lining up in the GP2 tests with the intention of getting on the F1 ladder for 2007 – so while he wasn’t A Red Bull protege at the time, he would have likely been a quick addition to the search for young talent in the United States.

“The guy who ended up taking that seat, and winning at the weekend, is Vettel,” Rahal explained.

“And that’s interesting. And that was kind of what drove him to join the BMW deal in Indy and everything else.”

What did Vettel do and then leave?

Vettel did another WSR tour at Spa, crashing hard at Raidillon in Friday’s opener.

Ultimately, champion Alex Danielson – who was cursed with Vettel’s approach to the conditions, saying he was “driving like a PR**” – collected a stray wheel from Vettel’s car and was lucky to have escaped the injury.

Vettel himself was disqualified for the rest of the event due to a hand injury from debris that got into the cockpit and cut his finger so badly that Vettel at the time described it as effectively slashed.

After the treatment, he went straight to the German Formula 1 Grand Prix in Hockenheim as a guest of BMW, which was also supporting his then young career with Red Bull.

Formula 1 Grand Prix, Germany, Sunday

BMW then dropped Jacques Villeneuve from its racing squad at the Hungarian Grand Prix a week later, promoting reserve Robert Kubica, with Vettel given the role of old Kubica ‘number three’ and making his F1 debut at the weekend in Friday training. At the Turkish Grand Prix a month after the spa crash.

This will be followed by six more Friday appearances and 13 days of F1 testing for BMW across late 2006 and early 2007, then a race debut in June 2007 as Kubica’s stand-up after the Montreal crash in Indianapolis, although Vettel’s relationship with BMW has not been ‘It lasts longer because Red Bull kicked Speed ​​out of his seat at Toro Rosso and put Vettel in that car from the Hungarian Grand Prix in early August.

Rahal’s links with Europe quickly frayed – a delayed flight meant he had to miss a planned GP2 test with the DPR team, and 2007 ended up being the start of his IndyCar career instead, with Neumann/Haas/Lanigan appointing him as teammate Sebastian Pordes. For what proved to be Champ Car’s final year.

Series bosses have been very keen to make Rahal on the grid amid the ongoing war with IRL IndyCar, given his potential marketing value as a young, up-and-coming American talent with a family pedigree in US motorsport. Championship co-owner Kevin Calchoven made it clear that he would put Rahal on his PKV team if Newman/Haas/Lanigan didn’t take him, saying “his coming to Champ Car instead of going to Europe is the best thing that has happened to this series”.

Fleming returned to the United States and appeared on the Atlantic Network in the latter part of 2006 before leaving racing.

Red Bull put future A1GP race winner Adrian Zag in the Carlin WSR after Spa, as Vettel focused on Euro F3 and his new role in BMW F1 – although he ended up again in the Renault series in the early part of 2007 as well.

Will Rahal now make Vettel enter IndyCar?

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Long after they continued – almost – in the cross lanes, Vettel continued to make a strong impression on Rahal.

He continued, “The man is an incredible talent and I have always admired what he has been able to do.”

“But I also admire the class and the character he did, in a world that doesn’t show up often.

“He’s very political over there, isn’t he? And I think he always beat that with some kind of humor and everything else.”

“Everyone thinks [Daniel] Ricciardo, but I think Vettel was the first to do that. And I’m always so impressed.

“I think it’s fine to be yourself and allow yourself to show up and he did, so I would definitely give him a chance [in IndyCar]. “

Rahal believes that at the stage in Vettel’s career, racing in IndyCar could give him a level of fun he didn’t have in the later years of his F1 career and that the car itself would be fun to drive.

“I also think he will enjoy the purity of IndyCar racing,” he added.

“It’s not overly technical, it’s brutal, it’s strength, you have to run the machine around. And I think he’ll probably enjoy that.”

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“It will probably take him back to his early days of racing. So I think it will probably be refreshing.

“I remember the great Justin Wilson who once told me that if you ever get a chance in Formula 1, you should try it, but you definitely won’t like it.

“At Vettel’s position, I imagine he might just enjoy coming and trying this.”

IndyCar may also resume due to a major push to become more sustainable, in line with Vettel’s campaign on climate change.

Next year, the series will offer fuel it claims is “100% renewable” as part of a new sponsorship with Shell – long before F1 introduces a similar product scheduled for 2026.

The chain is also working with Firestone to develop a new rubber tire that can be grown in the United States, thus significantly reducing carbon emissions. Firestone also delivers tires using trucks and electric vans.

Vettel is 35, but still the youngest of two IndyCar season race winners – including current championship leader Will Power and title challenger Scott Dixon, who is third in the standings.

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