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 want to comment on Romain Grosjean’s decision not to run Indy or Texas. Curiously, I just read an amazing article about Ted Horn. Horn drove anything and everything, breaking through from an inauspicious start to become one of IndyCar’s greats. He was injured seriously multiple times, saw his contemporaries maimed and killed, but rarely missed a chance to do what he loved.
This brings me to Grosjean. Yes, he had a life-threatening accident, but I would say he and few of today’s drivers in any top discipline have the commitment and desire of a Ted Horn or Rex Mays. His arrival in IndyCar is hugely anticlimactic because he brings no star power, accomplishments or larger-than-life persona, and he isn’t up for the biggest auto racing challenge on earth. No wonder motorsports is on the decline. The cars and tracks have been child-proofed, and most drivers still complain about safety. I find myself feeling like there is next to no risk anymore, and today’s drivers except for a few notable exceptions are not worth watching. I don’t want anyone to get hurt, but without the risk and larger-than-life personalities, what have we really got?
Steve, St. Petersburg, FL
RM: I had the same reaction, because it stuns your senses when somebody says they want to try Indy cars but the biggest race isn’t for them. I know Jimmie Johnson wants to run the Indy 500 but promised his wife he wouldn’t, and Grosjean said he didn’t want to cause his wife and children any undue stress. That’s fine, but it does grate on us old-schoolers because nobody ever took that stance in the ’50s, ’60s or ’70s — they knew Indy was dangerous but also a big part of their job, and if they didn’t run somebody else would jump in their seat. It’s just a different world and mindset today, and that gladiator persona no longer exists. That’s kinda why I wrote last Monday’s column. That danger element helped drive Indy cars to the heights of popularity — not because people wanted to see death and destruction, but because not a lot of people could do it and it was only for gunfighters.
Q: How do you think Marcus Ericsson will fare this year? Challenge for a few podiums and/or race wins? Nine top 10s and three top fives last year were impressive to me. I guess if I were Grosjean, I’d try to chase what Ericsson has done in IndyCar since his arrival from F1.
Eric in Wisconsin
RM: I thought he drove a helluva lot better than he results showed last season (12th in points), and I think he’ll do both of the things you suggested in 2021.
Q: Romain Grosjean has destroyed a lot of cars in F1. (Not Andrea de Cesaris levels, but a lot…). Can Dale Coyne keep up with him? Did Grosjean bring money, and from where? Any rumors on an oval runner for his car (Spencer Pigot would be ideal), or are they expecting to need that extra time to straighten his chassis and vacuum up carbon fiber in the shop?
RM: I don’t know much about him, but Edd Straw wrote a good column earlier this week that gives some insight. Obviously he brought money but not idea where from and it’s probably way too early to be thinking about Indy. I imagine Dale has crash damage built into a contract. Love to see Pigot in a car this May, but it will likely come down to who can find some sponsorship.
Q: If Penske goes back to three cars next year, who do you think is the odd man out? It would seem either Pagenaud or Power would be likely — or could it come down to McLaughlin’s performance in 2021? We know Josef isn’t going anywhere.
Brian Henris, Fort Mill, SC
RM: This is the last year of the contracts for Power and Pagenaud, but I imagine a lot hinges on how McLaughlin performs this season. Will is still as fast, if not faster, than anyone, but he’s almost 40 and Simon is 36, and we know The Captain is always looking down the road. I would think Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay might be in his sightlines.
Q: Don’t forget that Swiss IndyCar racing driver Simona De Silvestro: 1) has an engineering degree, 2) promotes STEM and 3) supports Women in Engineering. I don’t know if she intends to put any of that on her IndyCar or not. Do you think that Roger Penske might go along with Simona supporting these noble causes too? It might bring more fans to the IndyCar races. And have you ever heard of a female over-the-wall pit crew?
Bill in CA
RM: It’s probably going to be up to Beth Paretta and R.P. to decide what’s on the car, but I wouldn’t think he would object to supporting the cause with a decal. Never heard of a full female crew over the wall, but Tess Clustivik-Gape and Anna Chatten were the first two I knew of that serviced Indy cars.