Even A World Championship Win Can't Save Your Seat

When the going gets tough racing in Europe, you come to America, the "Land of Opportunity," right?

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Photo: Daimler Media

Just weeks ago Formula E’s seventh season wrapped, crowning Mercedes EQ Formula E driver Nyck De Vries its World Champion, with Mercedes also coming out as the champion constructor. But neither will be returning to the electric racing series’ paddocks for next season.

The most recent (or most standout) time we saw anyone walk away from something like that, was when Nico Rosberg won the F1 World Championship in 2016 and then promptly retired. Ironically, Rosberg was also a Mercedes factory driver.

At least in this case, Mercedes announced its departure from the Formula E series just a week before the final race where De Vries clinched the title. But unfortunately, with the team’s exit, it also left its drivers without jobs.

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But remember, when Europe fails to provide a healthy place for competitive drivers in open-wheeled racing, America is there to save the day. Here in the “Land of Opportunity” know it fondly as, “IndyCar.”

So it should be no surprise that Mercedes’ drivers De Vries and 29-year-old Stoffel Vandoorne are coming to these united of states in less than two weeks’ time to test for the NTT IndyCar Series. On December 6, both drivers are expected at Sebring International Raceway for testing. The Dutch driver, 26-year-old De Vries will test with Meyer Shank Racing in their Honda, while Belgium driver Vandoorne will reunite with a familiar face, testing in the Chevy-powered Arrow McLaren SP.

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De Vries has a decent resume when it comes to racing, having won the 2019 season title in Formula 2, and the 2014 Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 championship. He’s also made three starts in the 24 Hours of Le Mans as part of his extensive sportscar experience.

In a press release, De Vries says the December 6 test will be his first time experiencing any sort of racing in the U.S. (outside of racing Formula E in NYC) saying:

​​I have been following INDYCAR for a while, and I’ve always been curious as to what it would be like. Racing in the U.S. is really raw and appealing to me, so I’m really looking forward to this new experience and seeing where it can take us.”

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Vandoorne prior to this potential move raced full time for McLaren F1 in 2017 and 2018, alongside double World Championship driver Fernando Alonso (who also appeared to love IndyCar). He has a title win in GP2 (now Formula 2) in 2015 where he beat now-IndyCar-series-star Alexander Rossi by 160 points. In Formula E, he finished second in the 2019/2020 season with Mercedes and ninth this past season.

According to The Race, Arrow McLaren has their two-seat gable filled for the 2022 season. Pat O’Ward, who was a title contender for the 2021 INDYCAR championship will be joined by another former F1 driver, Felix Rosenqvist. There have been rumors of a potential third car for the team, however, it may only be a part-time seat for the upcoming season.

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In all, this new Europe-to-America trend is quite the compliment to the American racing series. The names of European racing drop-outs or throwaways like Rosenqvist, Marcus Ericsson and Romain Grosjean are just some examples of drivers making the move (and quite successfully if you ask me). If you haven’t noticed, all of these drivers appear to be much happier, as well.

I personally would like to think some of this is owed to Fernando Alonso’s recent-ish adventure to IndyCar for the Indy 500 in 2017. To be fair, he was coming from a depressing run with McLaren F1 with no championship or points in sight, so you can’t blame him. But there was joy to be had and joy to be seen whenever he was around the IndyCar paddocks.

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And well, if any drive makes you smile like this after, you’d probably want to return, or in this case, go to that place too.

This photo is two years after his Indy 500 oval test, but the smile is still the same.
This photo is two years after his Indy 500 oval test, but the smile is still the same.
Photo: Penske Entertainment: Chris Owens