Felipe Nasr’s first NTT IndyCar Series test delivered everything the former Sauber Formula 1 driver was hoping to experience. Invited by Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports to sample James Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Honda at Mid-Ohio, the 26-year-old Brazilian gushed after spending a busy day in the saddle.
“I had a great day driving an IndyCar – does it get any better?” he told RACER. “I’m very thankful for the opportunity, and I had a lot of fun. It’s been a while since I drove a single-seater; two or three years. I enjoy the feeling of the car. You can really attack the braking, attack the corner entry; the car has a ton of downforce and you have to hustle it the whole lap. It fit my driving style very well. I spent a long time out there in the car and I was smiling all the time.”
Nasr’s current day job involves defending the 2018 IMSA Daytona Prototype international title he and co-driver Eric Curran delivered for the Action Express Racing Cadillac team. Prior to his move to America, Nasr’s life was spent in open-wheel machines, where he scored the 2009 Formula BMW Europe championship and won the 2011 British Formula 3 title, beating Carlin Racing teammate Kevin Magnussen by a handy margin.
Known for his technical skills, Nasr was put to work on the chassis development side by Arrow SPM during his IndyCar testing debut.
“It was the day I had to learn the car, the tires, help the team with feedback,” he said. “They had some things they wanted to try. We ticked some boxes with long runs, had me practice doing fuel saving, and all I have to say is it was really good fun. I’m so thankful for the opportunity from Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson. It was very different from the Cadillac prototypes!”
Having spent the weekend embedded with the team, Nasr got to know Hinchcliffe and reconnected with his old Sauber teammate Marcus Ericsson before getting his turn in a Dallara DW12-Honda.
“We had the data references from the weekend with the black Firestone tires; they were very consistent over a full run,” he said. “It was great to understand the techniques and to feel the air coming through my helmet again! And I liked working with the Arrow team a lot. It was a good spirit in all of them.
“All of the engineers involved with the test gave me great support, telling me what’s best to do in the car, how to extract the best from the tires, and they were very open to hearing about my likes to get the car close. They gave me great tools to get up to speed quickly. I’m leaving with a very good feeling.”
With Hinchcliffe on a multi-year deal and Ericsson believed to be on a single-year contract, it’s unclear whether Nasr could be under consideration for the Swede’s No. 7 Honda, or part of a future expansion.
Robert Wickens, Arrow SPM’s 2018 rookie sensation, continues to recover from the injuries sustained in August of 2018 a t Pocono, and has been told his No. 6 Honda will be ready for action once he’s able to resume his driving career.