Former Force India test driver Alfonso Celis Jr will make his Indy Lights debut at Barber this weekend.
The 21-year-old Mexican will suit up in Juncos Racing’s No.7 entry, and said that he sees his move to the Mazda Road to Indy as a step toward what he hopes will be an IndyCar career.
“To be honest, that was a really big decision in my life,” said Celis, who spent half a day testing the Lights car at Homestead in February. “I gave away the Formula 1 dream and even the F2 opportunities and everything, and I decided to come here because I see my future here in IndyCar and I want to drive.
“I have zero oval experience except half [the oval test day)]. That’s kind of like the biggest risk. I can’t just jump in an oval in an IndyCar [because] I wouldn’t have done them [before]. You just have to be smart and, as I want to win, the way of winning is learning in Indy Lights and then get help from the series to be in IndyCar.”
Celis was forced to miss the season opener at St Petersburg due to a licensing problem, but has been making use of his time on the sidelines by getting advice from the likes of compatriot Esteban Gutierrez and Juncos teammate Victor Franzoni.
‘”I think it’s been more productive for me, learning wise, standing down [on pit road] than actually having tested the car because I’ve got so much information now,” Celis told IndyCar.com “I’m like a sponge, I’ve ingested everything. I think when you’re driving, you’re thinking about driving and the next corner, so you don’t see the big picture. I’m looking [at] the big picture. It’s been very, very helpful, actually. It’s comparable to having driven the car.”
Celis previously tested a Pro Mazda car with Juncos in 2014, but opted at that time to remain in Europe and spent the next two seasons in GP3 before landing his test role with Force India in 2015. He made his first appearance in the car during practice in Bahrain.