From F1 to IndyCar: The most successful drivers to make the switch

From F1 to IndyCar is becoming an increasingly popular move, but which drivers have had the most success?

IndyCar has some of the best drivers in the world, with the majority of them coming from the USA.But, due to the extremely competitive nature that IndyCar racing provides, more and more international drivers - some of which have huge CVs - are joining the series.

Throughout the history of IndyCar, drivers from F1 have come and go, trying to achieve success in another discipline away from the limited opportunities F1 has provided in years past.

Planet Sport has taken a closer look at those who have made the switch from Formula 1 to IndyCar to see which drivers have been the most successful in moving Stateside.

10. Justin Wilson

The Brit deserves to be mentioned since his freak accident in 2015 at Pocono, whose abilities as a driver in IndyCar were impressive. His American experience promised to be so much better for him.

His F1 stint was rather brief,with just a single season between Minardi and Jaguar in 2003. This was a poor return for both parties, especially when you consider Wilson won the 2001 International Formula 3000 Championship.

However, Wilson started to make the US his new home when switching to Champ Car in 2004.

Wilson became a regular front runner in Champ Car when making the move to RuSport in 2005. He claimed his first win at Toronto and a second victory at Mexico City in the season finale.

2006 and 2007 were his best seasons in Champ Car. 2006 saw him achieve seven podiums including a win at Edmonton, collecting a good points haul and P2 in the Championship.

2007 saw him collect more podiums with a win at the Dutch track, Assen. Overall, he scored five podiums that season and was second in the Championship albeit with an 83-point gap to Sebastian Bourdais.

In IndyCar Wilson picked up 53 top 10 finishes, including three more wins plus nine more podiums.

9. Romain Grosjean

Grosjean had a relatively long stint in F1 from 2012 to 2020, but his shocking accident in Bahrain left him with a bittersweet feeling when leaving.

Grosjean announced he joined Dale Coyne Racing for 2021 - but only for road courses as he didn't want to risk oval due to his unfamiliarity to this style of racing.

Grosjean's first season with podium finishes at the two Indianapolis road courses and also at Laguna Seca. The progression and success was impressive considering his recovery and still suffering with burns on his arms to this day.

2022 has shown signs of another successful campaign with a P2 finish at Long Beach following a strong, committed drive.

He has a lot more to achieve in IndyCar, though. This is just the beginning.

8.Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato overall hasn't delivered consistently solid campaigns during his stint in IndyCar, however that doesn't and shouldn't define his time in the States.

Sato has had two Indy 500 wins, reinforcing the point that he can be the very best on the day.

Honda connections have kept him in the single seater division as Super Aguri folded four races into 2008. He joined KV Racing in 2010 under the Lotus banner and gained momentum the following year.

He moved to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and had varied success. In the 2012 Indy 500, Sato was unfortunate and crashed on the final lap, trying to pass Dario Franchietti for the victory. He felt he had unfinished business with RLL and joined the team again back in 2018.

His first win came in 2013 at Long Beach for AJ Foyt's team. Unfortunately, he only achieved one other podium in four years and didn't gain traction or success with the AJ Foyt's cars.

However Sato's form changed somewhat when he joined Andretti, grabbing two pole positions and an amazing victory at the 2017 Indy 500. His reputation continued to improve with a solid top 10 finish in the standings in 2017 and then, of course, by taking his second Indy 500 victory in 2020.

7. Dan Gurney

The former Ferrari, BRM, Porsche, Lotus, Brabham, Eagle, McLaren driver made his Indy 500 debut in 1962, which was part of one of nine appearances for Gurney in the 'Great American Race'.

Gurney certainly broke the cycle for F1 drivers to achieve success in IndyCar and showed his class especially at ovals ,something F1 drivers can have a very hard time adjusting to. He never won the Indy 500, but he did win seven USAC races from 19 appearances.

He also dabbled in the USAC Road Racing Championship and he even took a shot at NASCAR, where he showed the regulars how it is done by winning Riverside five times in six attempts.

He finished fourth in the standings in 1969 with him only contesting in nine out of 21 races that year - the only occasions outside the podium were a P4 and a DNF.

He's also won four USAC races while doing F1 full time, something that would be unheard of in modern times.

6. Alexander Rossi

A career which was very small but much more appreciated as the years went on. Rossi only contested in five F1 races, however his success was amazing in IndyCar.

Rossi raced for Manor in 2015, filling in for Spaniard Roberto Merhi and while he was fighting for his seat in 2016, he lost that battle to Rio Haryanto. He ended up at Andretti Motorsport which was a decent partnership, but at first struggled to get major results with his best of P5 at Sonoma outside his Indy 500 victory in his rookie year.

Since then he has spearheaded Andretti Motorsport with title attacks in 2018 and 2019. He challenged Scott Dixon for the title in 2018 and came third in 2019, losing out to Josef Newgarden.

2020 came and he seemed to struggle to adapt to the new aero package and make the most of the set-up. He did achieve four podiums in a five-round streak though.

5. Bobby Rahal

Rahal had a very small stint in F1 with just two races at Footnote. His success however was made in IndyCar as he claimed three IndyCar Championships, with an Indy 500 victory in 1986.

Rahal made his debut with Wolf, a team with an odd history, competing in the North American races. He was also impressive in the European F3 series. He fell short however in 1979 of getting a drive for the F1 season.

He moved to IndyCar from that point in 1982 and while he lacked oval experience, he picked the idea up quickly. He finished the 1982 season P2 and from that point he scored a podium in the next 16 seasons.

Perhaps Rahal's greatest accomplishment came in 1992, when he won his third title driving for his own team. Something that deserves more credit considering how hard operations are.

4. Nigel Mansell

Nigel Mansell behind the wheel

While he may not have the statistics, he certainly has the most impressive performances out of the lot. His speed to adapt to the new ChampCar set-up is something that needs to be recognised. After winning the 1992 F1 World Championship, he was without a seat, so he headed to the States.

In 1993 Mansell dominated the season with five wins and an extra five podiums. He only had experience of one track which was Long Beach and had no experience at ovals. However he took pole positions at Surfers Paradise, and became the first rookie winner since 1966.

The thing that might have let him down during his time at IndyCar is his 1994 season, only collecting 88 points and no wins that year. He finished P8 overall, with two second places. His overall journey in IndyCar, while disappointing, showed he could shoot down the critics.

3. Alex Zanardi

Alex Zanardi's career is something of an absolute rollercoaster.

He won the F3000 Championship with RC Motorsport and his recommendation to Chip secured his career.

Zanardi's IndyCar career started with a very shaky 1996 campaign followed by a maiden win at Portland. He had four straight poles to his name and also made a divebomb on Herta to win at Leguna Seca.

His 1997 campaign was the first of two titles for him, and while he won, it wasn't plain sailing. He tangled with Herta and then he had a crash in the Practice for the Fortana finale - and he was only fifth in the standings when he was at Cleveland. He drove the wheels off his car and therefore achieved his first oval win after two penalties.

His 1998 season was fantastic and showed he had the speed. He dominated the season with seven victories, and 15 podiums from 19 races.

2. Emerson Fittipaldi

Fittipaldi's F1 career was something that deserves praise and is something that will show clear improvement as it went on. The toughness of the cars was a different ball game and when Emerson arrived at IndyCar, it was shocking considering he called time on his racing career in 1980.

He returned with promise as he had a strong comeback in an IMSA race, which led to a deal to drive Pepe Romero's year old WIT Racing of March 1984. He got fifth on his debut. Ganassi had suffered an injury in a terrible crash at Michigan, which led to a vacancy available. This led to a long and successful stint in IndyCar. He won at least one race in the next five years.

He became a regular contender for race wins, but he started to show huge promise in the 1988 season and looked like a possible title contender. This momentum was important, as he won five times in the 1989 season including at Indy. He was again a front runner for years until and achieved another Indy 500 win.

He just fell short of the 1993 season as Mansell won the title.

1.Jim Clark

Jim Clark is considered one of the all-time greats not just in F1, but across motorsport.

Clark won the 1963 and 1965 F1 World Championships and achieved the most Grand Slams of any driver in F1. He also won three Tasman series Championships, was P2 in Le Mans and won the British Saloon Car Championship in 1964.

Clark's versatility is something that many F1 drivers nowadays have, with him winning in multiple disciplines. From five starts, he finished in the top two three times, with no experience of ovals. He then dominated the 1965 Indy 500 to become the first non American driver to win the 500 since 1916. He led an incredible 190 laps. He led the second most laps the following year, but he spun twice.

Jim Clark was the beginning of F1 drivers seriously thinking about coming over to America and trying IndyCar, and deserves the number one spot for his incredible success.

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