Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
Questions for Robin can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the high volume of questions received, we can’t always guarantee that your letter will be printed, but Robin will get to as many as he can. Published questions have been edited for clarity. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of RACER or Honda/HPD.
Q: I’ve been watching the latest driver changes with interest and I’ve always wondered: when drivers get replaced, do they typically think it’s just business (contract has expired and/or funding-related), or do they take it personally and hold grudges? I’m sure that, since we’re dealing with human beings, the reactions vary. You’ve always been a writer dealing in more in personalities rather than the nuts and bolts of the car, so I’d bet you know. Recalling a quote from one of the very best movies of all time…”It’s nothing personal, its just business.” What say you?
Rick in Lisle, IL
RM: I say that’s a damn good question. As you can imagine, emotions are all over the board when a driver is replaced, but I think shock, anger and surprise would be the three key reactions. I think we were all stunned when Chip Ganassi split with Felix Rosenqvist, especially since the team pursued him for a few years and he won his first race in 2020. James Hinchcliff was understandably furious when he was dropped while he still had a year on his contract with Arrow McLaren SP. And I think Zach Veach knew he was on a short lease with Andretti unless his sponsor re-upped with him. Here’s another example. Michael Andretti rescued Ryan Hunter-Reay’s career 10 years ago and they’ve won Indy and a championship together, but if they hadn’t been able to bring back DHL, I’m not sure RHR would have kept his ride. That’s the definition of just business, nothing personal, but thankfully it looks like everything is good with the No.28 car for next year.
Q: With all the driver movement, we have seen one new car: McLaughlin for Penske. What is the likelihood of an extra car from Rahal? AMSP racing? Shank? Who is a possibility to be driving the second car at Coyne?
Paul Fitzgerald, Indianapolis
RM: Bob always talks about a third car full-time, and I suppose it depends on what Robbie Buhl and Spencer Pigot can put together. Meyer Shank is running a second car but only part-time, and I’m sure AMSP will have a third at Indianapolis. Got no idea on Coyne question. Hell, it’s only November.
Q: Was Felix Rosenqvist asked to leave Ganassi, or did AMSP approach him? While all drivers want to drive for a top three team like Ganassi, the No.10 team has only won about three times since Dario’s 2011 championship season. Except for one year, a talented championship-caliber driver has driven No.10 (Dario, TK, and Felix). Same timeframe, Scott Dixon has won about 23 times and four championships! Stating the obvious, Dixon and Mike Hull, along with Simmons/Cannon, are the best in IndyCar. With this huge difference between the No.9 team and No.10 team, would a current top shelf driver (contract or not) want to move to the No.10 team for 2021?
RM: I don’t know if Alex Palou approached Chip with a sponsor and that triggered Felix’s move, or if AMSP was after him. But I don’t expect anyone to tell me the truth, so your guess is a good as mine. As for the No.10 car, I think it gets everything the No.9 has except Dixie, and a lot of drivers would love to try it.
Q: My question is regarding the paddock and silly season. It’s fascinating to me that so many parts have moved so quickly, what with Rosenqvist and Palou changing teams, Marcus Ericsson and Pato O’Ward re-signing, and Jimmie Johnson, Sebastien Bourdais and Scott McLaughlin confirming their 2021 participation. Which brings me to Friday’s RACER.com article regarding Romain Grosjean’s apparent interest in coming Stateside.
Here’s the problem I see: What seats in IndyCar could he conceivably consider? My assumption is that the Team Goh partnership went with Palou to Ganassi, so Dale Coyne would be looking for a funded driver to play second fiddle to Santino Ferrucci. There is a non-oval ride available with Ed Carpenter that could be possible, and I see Michael Shank is looking to expand to a second car. I don’t have a clue about Trevor Carlin’s plans, but I saw that Elton Julian closed up shop, which is a shame. Andretti, Ganassi, AMSP and Penske are already maxed out. So what it looks like is that for a guy like Grosjean to come to IndyCar, assuming he could bring $7 million with him, he would have to be willing to go from a full-time F1 driver to being the No.2 driver at a mid-pack team, or a part-timer for a team that specializes in ovals? Or is this the type of opportunity Bob Rahal has coveted for years in adding a third car?
Dan W., Ft. Worth, TX
RM: This may sound a little harsh, but why would any of the big teams want a 34-year-old driver that has never won a race and is squeamish about ovals? He wouldn’t sell one ticket over here, but I’m sure if he finds $3-4 million he could find a home with Coyne or Carlin.
Q: As I was reading the news about Grosjean considering IndyCar for 2021, I once again see references to ovals as being a deterrent. Why is it that so many F1 drivers look at ovals as bad juju? Are they bored by the prospect of it? Are they intimidated by it? I realize it requires a different skill set to only turn left for 500 miles, but why does there seem to be so much snobbery about it? I seem to feel like there are lots of F1 studs in history who have come to the States and been humbled by the oval at the Brickyard, and others who have come to Indy and conquered it and felt it was a crowning achievement. And yes, I understand that Indy is a different animal from any other oval on the U.S. circuit, but still… why the widespread aversion?
Brad in Seattle
RM: I think they see the crashes on ovals and want no part of 225 mph laps on a track with walls all the way around it, but as we’ve seen with Emmo, Nigel, Arie, Zanardi, JPM, Sato and others, running ovals is an acquired taste. But when guys like Alexander Rossi and Marcus Ericsson sing the praises of oval racing, it might change a few minds.