5 Formula 1 Drivers Who Failed Spectacularly in IndyCar

Oliver Harden@@OllieHardenFeatured ColumnistApril 3, 2015

5 Formula 1 Drivers Who Failed Spectacularly in IndyCar

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    For drivers who find themselves frozen out of Formula One, IndyCar is re-emerging as a viable alternative.

    Since the end of last season, several stars of the 2014 grid have flirted with the American single-seater series, with former Marussia driver Max Chilton helping Carlin's preparations for a 2016 IndyCar assault, while Simona de Silvestro returned to the championship after her hopes of driving for Sauber evaporated.

    Elsewhere, Jean-Eric Vergne told the official IndyCar website of his desire to race in the series soon after his departure from Scuderia Toro Rosso, and Kevin Magnussen explained to Autosport's Lawrence Barretto and Mitchell Adam that deputising for Fernando Alonso in Australia was the only thing which stopped him from racing Stateside in 2015.

    A number of F1 drivers have excelled in IndyCar over the years, with Emerson Fittipaldi and Nigel Mansell winning the championship in 1989 and 1993 respectively.

    Fittipaldi is also one of several drivers to win the Indianapolis 500—an event synonymous with IndyCar but once part of the F1 calendar—with Jim Clark (1965), Graham Hill (1966), Mario Andretti (1969), Jacques Villeneuve (1995) and Juan Pablo Montoya (2000) also victorious at the Brickyard.

    But for all those success stories, there are those who didn't quite crack America.

    And 22 years on from Mansell's crash at Phoenix, here are five drivers who got it wrong in IndyCar.

Takuma Sato

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    When Super Aguri, the team created solely to keep him in Formula One, encountered financial problems and ceased to exist in 2008, Takuma Sato was left in the wilderness.

    Sato, a lovable menace throughout his time in F1—fast in one race, hopeless at the next—had become only the second Japanese driver to record a podium finish in the 2004 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis.

    But with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello locked in at Honda, who had supported him throughout his career, and with Sebastien Bourdais seeing off the Tokyo native to retain his seat at Toro Rosso for '09, Sato's F1 career was over after 90 grand prix starts.

    And it wasn't until 2010 that he returned to full-time racing in IndyCar, where he has failed to make a meaningful impression, failing to finish higher than 13th in the drivers' standings in five full seasons.

    Sato has only won a single race (Long Beach 2013), but his time in IndyCar, just like his F1 career, is defined by a race at Indianapolis.

    On the final lap of the 2012 Indy 500, the Japanese had worked his way up to second and seemed set to pass Dario Franchitti for the win, yet a reckless, all-or-nothing move for the lead saw him spin and smash into the barrier.

    It was an afternoon which could have seen Sato enter IndyCar folklore, but ended with him merely living up to his reputation.

Jean Alesi

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    While one ex-F1 driver was fighting to win the 2012 Indy 500, another was forced to watch from trackside after being deemed a safety hazard.

    Jean Alesi, making a one-off appearance as the oldest rookie in the race's history, had aired concerns prior to the event, telling ESPN how his under-powered Lotus engine left him feeling "very unsafe" at the Brickyard.

    And the authorities shared his unease.

    Alesi and Simona de Silvestro, the only other Lotus-powered driver in the field, qualified at the back of the pack and both were disqualified within 10 laps of the 200-lap race, according to ESPN F1, for lapping around 15 miles per hour slower than the leaders.

    To make matters worse, Alesi failed to acknowledge the black flag for two laps and was given a further penalty, dropping the Frenchman, a veteran of 201 grand prix starts, behind De Silvestro in the race classification.

Nelson Piquet

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    After retiring from Formula One as a three-time world champion and a winner of 23 grands prix at the end of 1991, Nelson Piquet tried to emulate his fellow Brazilian, Emerson Fittipaldi, in winning the Indy 500.

    Despite having no experience on oval tracks, Piquet, driving for Team Menard, adapted well and managed to run as high as sixth in morning practice.

    Yet his Indy assault turned to disaster when a caution light appeared as the Brazilian was on a flying lap. Frustrated at not being able to complete his effort, Piquet swerved to enter pit road at Turn 4 but lost control at frightening speed, smashing into the wall head-on.

    "Pulverized to the point that it wasn't recognizable," was how Dr. Terry Trammell described the Brazilian's shattered foot, according to ESPN's Ed Hinton.

    After making a recovery, Piquet returned to the Brickyard in '93 and qualified a decent 13th, but his bad luck returned in the race as engine issues forced him to retire after just 38 laps.

Scott Speed

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    For someone who is still just 32 years old, Scott Speed is quite the journeyman.

    Since retiring from his final Formula One race for Scuderia Toro Rosso in July 2007, Speed's career has taken him to the ARCA Stock Car series, all three NASCAR series (Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Craftsman Truck), RallyCross and Formula E, with a little bit of IndyCar for good measure.

    And we mean a little bit.

    Speed had intended to race in the 2011 edition of Indy 500 for Dragon Racing, but the team's preparations for the event were catastrophic.

    The American's team-mate, Ho-Pin Tung, suffered concussion in a qualifying crash, while Speed himself was severely lacking in speed, finishing at the bottom of the time sheets.

    Crash.net reported that relations between team and driver were strained—not for the first time Speed had a troubled relationship with his employers—and Patrick Carpentier was drafted in to replace the American before having his own high-speed shunt on Bump Day.

    The record books will show Speed failed to qualify for the 2011 Indy 500, but one suspects that doesn't tell half the story.

Tomas Enge

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    Tomas Enge failed to score a point in three grands prix for Prost toward the end of the 2001 Formula One season, finishing outside of the top-10 at Monza and Indianapolis before retiring at the season finale in Japan.

    The Czech failed to finish nine of the 17 IRL IndyCar events he started between late 2004 and the beginning of 2006, with his four top-10 finishes in the series coming for Panther Racing in '05, when he finished 16th in the championship with 261 points.

    Given his background in circuit racing, it is unsurprising that Enge's best result in American single-seaters, fifth place, came at the Sonoma road course in 2005.


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