In Felipe Nasr’s perfect world, the next racing season will provide another chance to embark on dual campaigns in IMSA and IndyCar. The 2018 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype title winner came tantalizingly close to branching out into IndyCar in the early months of 2020 as he tested and impressed for Carlin Racing. But the arrival of COVID-19 put an end to those ambitions.
A plan to place the Formula 1 veteran in a second Carlin Chevy to open the season at St. Petersburg was in motion until the coronavirus struck, and with the IndyCar season delayed and condensed, the Brazilian’s sole focus has been on fighting for another championship with the Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi team. Fast in pre-season testing at Circuit of The Americas in the No. 31 Chevy, a feeling of unfinished business continues to linger.
“I still have the passion for doing IndyCar next to IMSA, and looking at the calendar next year, there’s way less clashes than there used to be,” Nasr told RACER. “Looking at 2020, I was set to make my first IndyCar race with Carlin when the pandemic happened and the team pretty much had to downsize to one car. That was disappointing not to get the chance, because, as race drivers, when we get opportunities, we only need one to show what we can do. One opportunity can make a whole lot of difference.
“I thank Carlin for all all the efforts they made. I could really see the skills from the engineering side, all the staff; and I wanted to do well as well for them. It’s frustrating that we were not able to put that one together, but it doesn’t mean I’m giving up on it.”
With Nasr set to return for his fourth season at AXR, the 28-year-old has pinned his IndyCar expansion hopes on finding select testing and race outings in 2021, and has spoken with a handful of team owners in recent weeks. Having raced for two years in F1’s current turbo-V6 hybrid formula, Nasr is also keen to lend his experience and development skills as IndyCar moves towards a turbo-V6 hybrid formula of its own in 2023.
“If you look at the future of IndyCar, and also sports car racing, they’re both promising and they’re both going towards the hybrid era. It’s going to be super important to have an experienced driver and help them develop the car itself,” he said. “And the combination between the hybrid system and the combustion system – that’s going to be a real challenge.
“It’s a lot more complex than just putting the hybrid system in the car and going racing. It takes a lot on the driver’s sensation as well to feel how are they going to harvest that energy that’s coming from the brakes? (It) can be really tricky to maximize braking performance and be efficient at the same time. That took a long time to get sorted out in Formula 1, and it requires a lot of work to get everything adjusted properly. You can ask any engineer who works with hybrids, and they will tell you the same thing.”
One gets the sense that Nasr will keep knocking until another IndyCar door opens, but he’s in no rush to leave IMSA behind.
“Everything going on in IMSA with new prototypes coming, it will be (creating) more opportunities with more manufacturers, and I think is going to be a pretty attractive place to be,” he said. “I know I’m happy I took this route to race in America, and race in IMSA since I left F1. I really found a happy place, won a championship, and we’re putting a car into contention every year. I’m very grateful (to be) in the position I am now, today, on the endurance racing side of things. We took a step back, with getting so close to IndyCar, but it’s a new year coming, so let’s try again and see if I can do both.”