Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ rebuilding process continues as the Verizon IndyCar Series team looks to fill its second seat alongside James Hinchcliffe.
SPM completed the 2014 season with Simon Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin as its drivers, yet with Pagenaud’s graduation to Team Penske and Aleshin’s unclear future after returning to Russia to mend from the injuries he suffered at Fontana, team owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson have wasted little time getting their plans in order.
Three-time race winner Hinchcliffe was confirmed in October as Pagenaud’s replacement in the Honda-powered team, and more than a few interested drivers have visited SPM to inquire about its second entry.
2012 GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi is the first driver confirmed by the team as a new candidate for 2015 as the 27-year-old Italian is preparing for his first run in SPM’s Dallara DW12-Honda next month at Sebring.
“We’ve been speaking with Valsecchi, he’s highly accomplished, obviously with his GP2 championship, and we’re going to test him Dec. 16 at Sebring, and may have one or more other drivers there with him in the 2014-spec car,” Schmidt told RACER.
Valsecchi spent 2013 as a test and reserve driver for the Lotus F1 team (LEFT), parted ways with that team at the end of the season, and has spent most of 2014 on the sidelines, barring a few outings in European GT racing. With his career at a crossroads, and an impressive record against many GP2 drivers who went onto F1, a Hinchcliffe/Valsecchi pairing could strengthen SPM’s competitive stance next season.
“There’s about a half-dozen drivers we’re talking with; some have partial funding, others have a more complete budget, and we have a lot to consider,” Schmidt added. “We’ll have James [Hinchcliffe] there at Sebring with Valsecchi to help with a baseline and to get a few miles with the team, too.”