In what many consider to be motorsports golden era, Formula One divers used to regularly compete in other global motorsports events. Yet in recent years the F1 schedule has grown and will consist of 24 races next season, so the opportunity for a driver to compete elsewhere is limited.
In recent years a number of F1 drivers when leaving Formula One have joined the American racing series, most famously this year Marcus Ericsson, ex-Sauber F1 racer won the blue ribbon Indy500 in his fourth season of Indycar racing.
With 90 Formula One race starts under his belt between driving for Jordan, BAR and Super Aguri between 2002-08, Tacuma Sato made the transition to the US based racing series. Sato won the Indy500 twice in 2017 and 2020.
Rossi wins Indy500 on debut
Having made his F1 debut for the ill fated Manor Marussi team, American driverAlexander Rossi competed in just 5 Formula one events before being forced to look across the pond for his racing in 2016.
The move proved profitable for Rossi as he won the Indy500 at his first attempt becoming only the 10th rookie to win the event in history.
The race was thrilling, with 10 laps to go the leaders came in for fuel but Rossi decided to try and make it to the end by fuel saving. His 20 second lead was cut repeatedly lap after lap and had been reduced to just 4.4 seconds at the chequered flag.
Indy500 was one part of F1
Emerson Fitipaldi, Jacques Villeneuve, Eddie Cheever and Juan Pablo Montoya all won the American race in Indianapolis before or after their F1 careers.
Yet back in the 1960’s current F1 drivers would travel to the US to compete in one global motorsports triple crown events. This was because the Indy500 was part of the Formula One championship (1950-1960).
The first F1 driver to win the event was Roger Ward in 1962 though he also won the race the year before Formula One’s inaugural season in 1959.
F1 champions and Indy500 winners simultaneously
Even after the race was dropped from the world championship, during the 1960’s F1 drivers would compete each year at the marathon event in Indianapolis. Jim Clarke, Graham Hill and Mario Andretti all won the 500 mile race during that time whilst competing and winning Formula One titles.
Yet over the years the American single seater racing series and Formula One have diverged in car design. Formula One cars only race 305 kilometres while the Indycar events are competed over 805km. Indycar cars refuel several times during the race while F1 banned refuelling on safety grounds after several mishaps.
The difference between F1 and IndyCar
F1 cars are designed for rapid acceleration and sharp braking and mostly run on custom built circuits. The heavier Indycar is built for sustained speed over longer straights. Formula One cars also have greater downforce for cornering together with more efficient braking systems.
However a Formula one car without significant modifications would not last the distance over the longer Indycar format events. The stained G-Forces during the oval races would mean redesigning the F1 suspension and even the power units would struggle to sustain the extra mileage during the longer format race.
F1 and IndyCar same circuit, same weekend
Formula One and IndyCar have rarely competed at the same circuit since the 1950’s but at this year’s Mexican GP we will see both in action at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
The race promoters are running a Legends Cup support race in conjunction with the F1 weekend in Mexico City.
The cars will celebrate the era when Champ Car were held at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track between 2002 and 2007. Champ Car and Indy car merged in 2008.
The cars are similar to this which compete in the Mexican Gran Truism series and will be equally prepared and powered by a 500hp V8 engine.
A race for legends
The field is led by five Mexican drivers who raced during the Champ Car era, namely Adrian Fernandez, Mario Dominguez, Michel Jourdain Jr, Roberto Gonzalez and Luis Diaz.
They will be joined by Paul Tracy, Mark Blundell, Alex Tagliani, Oriol Servia, Max Papis, Bruno Junqueira and Casey Mears.
Only Paul Tracy actually ever won the event in 2002 and the following season we took the Champ Car drivers’ title.
Mexican GP general director Federico Gonzalez has this to say.
“Before hosting F1 in Mexico, we used to promote the Champ Car World Series at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, and it was as big as F1 these days.”
“Being able to reunite all these legends together for a one-time only event here in Mexico is a huge privilege for us and for the Mexican fans. We are sure the Freightliner Legends Cup will be a successful event during this year´s race.
“It will be a very special event to bring together great drivers who gave us unforgettable moments in the past.”
since it’s us gp week let’s remember this brilliant start from lewis hamilton last year pic.twitter.com/RTpGwuAqYT
— val | fan account (@H44MlLTON) October 19, 2022