Chip Ganassi Racing signed Kevin Magnussen to drive the one car in its stable that had an opening to fill. Should future openings appear elsewhere within the team, CGR would have an interesting solution to consider.
The rapid Dane’s upcoming departure from Formula 1 to share Ganassi’s Cadillac DPi-V.R with Dutchman Renger van der Zande in IMSA strays from the usual script for young F1 stars, and timing plays a significant part in what and where he’ll drive next year.
For now, CGR managing director Mike Hull says that despite the inevitable questions on when Magnussen will make his way to IndyCar with the defending series champions, he’s keeping his new pilot focused on the immediate task at hand.
“There’s no question that drivers like Kevin Magnussen would be able to display their open-wheel talent in an IndyCar in a proper manner,” Hull told RACER. “The thing is, going forward, we do want to focus initially on what we’re going to do in sports car racing.”
Had Magnussen’s departure from the Haas F1 team been announced weeks prior to the formal confirmation on October 22 — days before the NTT IndyCar Series season finale where Ganassi’s Scott Dixon won his sixth title — there’s a strong possibility Magnussen would have been a heavy favorite to join the New Zealander in the American open-wheel series.
But the timelines of Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist leaving for join Arrow McLaren SP, Chip Ganassi Racing’s need to find a new driver for the No. 10 Honda, the subsequent signing of young prospect Alex Palou to replace the Swede, and Magnussen’s availability never converged. Although it appeared Magnussen might be in line for a factory drive in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s new Hypercar class, it was the late deal that brings CGR back to IMSA with Cadillac that ultimately fit the 28-year-old’s free-agent status.
In an interesting and unexpected twist, Magnussen’s vast experience in open-wheel cars was among the most valuable assets sought by CGR.
“I know Chip is quoted as saying he likes winners, and Kevin brings that pedigree with him, but we’ve also been highly advised that to drive a DPi car to its fullest capabilities these days, having a single-seater background is extremely important because they drive a lot more like a single-seater than what prototypes once did,” Hull explained. “And you’d certainly have to think a guy coming from Formula 1 would fit that criteria.”
Magnussen will make his full-time WeatherTech SportsCar Championship debut for CGR in January, and at present, there are no plans for any extracurricular activities within the outfit that competes in IndyCar, IMSA, NASCAR, and Extreme E. Looking beyond 2021, however, and provided a prime new F1 opportunity does not arise, it would be hard to imagine a scenario where an open-wheel driver of Magnussen’s caliber isn’t asked to wield one of the team’s Honda-powered Dallara DW12s.
“To this point, frankly, we haven’t really discussed it,” Hull said. “We discussed IMSA racing and the fact that we had an opportunity for him to be able to drive. He cleared away everything else that was in his way to be able to do that. He’s totally committed to us to be able to be here with is in IMSA, so we’re looking forward to him driving a Cadillac.”