Arrow McLaren SP will continue to hold a third seat open for Robert Wickens, who will remain with the team in a mentoring role while he continues to recover from injuries sustained in a 2018 crash.
The Canadian’s No. 6 entry was parked this season while he continues his rehabilitation from spinal injuries suffered in an accident at Pocono, and Marcus Ericsson instead drove Arrow SPM’s No. 7 alongside James Hinchcliffe in the No. 5.
Neither of the 2019 race drivers will return next season following Ericsson’s move to Ganassi and James Hinchcliffe being stood down from racing duties in the wake of the arrival of the freshly McLaren-aligned team’s new pairing of Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew. But confirmation that a promise to reserve a car for Wickens in the event that he’s able to race again came when co-owner Sam Schmidt was asked whether car numbers had been allocated for 2020.
“We have obviously got our hand on 5 and 7,” he said. “And [we’re] holding 6 for Robert to come back.”
Wickens maintained a semi-regular presence on the pitwall this year, and made an emotional return to the drivers’ seat when he navigated a pace car around the track at his home event in Toronto. Schmidt said that the Canadian’s experience will be even more valuable as the team heads into a season with two rookies.
“Robert continues to inspire and motivate and just amaze everybody on a daily basis,” he said. “Because he’s continuing the program, he’s continuing to improve, he is a part of the team as a driver coaching consultant and will continue.
“And I think that’s one of the major assets we have… that he will be there at a majority of the races next year, assisting these young guys to get acclimated as quick as they can.”
Schmidt also addressed the team’s decommissioning of Hinchcliffe, who currently remains under contract but has been told that he will be released if an opportunity arises elsewhere.
“What’s to stop him is the race driver within him,” Schmidt said when asked whether Hinchcliffe would be content to simply take a paycheck. “As a driver, you want to drive, you want to prove, you want to win the Indy 500, you’ve still got boxes to check.
“And so I have no doubt that he and his team are burning up the phone lines and talking with everybody out there, in any series but primarily IndyCar. He’s still young, he still wants to win races, so I think that’s what’s to stop him from doing it. Certainly, it’s his option, but I don’t think you’ll see him do that.”