With a smorgasbord of winners, smattering of controversy and the rise of the young guns, 2021 has provided plenty of juice to the ongoing season narrative.
No team has won more races this season than Chip Ganassi. The team leads the driver’s championship with Alex Palou and has seen three of it’s four drivers win a race thus far. Palou won the opening round in Alabama, his maiden IndyCar victory, and the Spaniard added to this with another win at Road America. Palou is the second Spanish driver to win an IndyCar race; and became the first driver who isn’t Scott Dixon to win more than once in a season for Ganassi since Dario Franchitti in 2011. No driver has as many podiums in 2021 as Palou – 6.
Dixon himself won the opening round in Texas and has only finished outside the top ten once in 2021. This leaves the six-time champion in third place in the title race – 56 points behind Palou. This is not an insurmountable gap for Dixon with six races to go. Back in 2015 he managed to claw back a 47 points gap to Juan Pablo Montoya in the final race of the season.
Marcus Ericsson is Ganassi’s second first-time winner of 2021. He grabbed victory on the streets of Belle-Isle to make it the first time in its IndyCar history that Chip Ganassi has had three different winning drivers in one season.
Ganassi’s fourth driver is former NASCAR driver and four-time champion Jimmie Johnson. The American has struggled to get to grips with the intricacies of an IndyCar and so far has only finished in the top 20 once in his seven races. Johnson has been skipping the oval races.
The biggest challenger to the Ganassi empire has been Arrow McLaren and it’s young hotshot Patricio O’Ward. The Mexican scored his maiden win in round two at Texas, before becoming the first repeat winner of 2021 with victory in the second Belle-Isle round. O’Ward is 39 points behind Palou in the championship and will be hoping to become both Arrow SP and McLaren’s first IndyCar champion.
What O’Ward doesn’t have which Palou does, is team-mate back-up. New Arrow McLaren recruit Felix Rosenqvist, ironically poached from Chip Ganassi, has struggled to make any impact in 2021. The Swede has yet to register a top ten finish and had to miss two rounds – replaced by Oliver Askew and Kevin Magnussen respectively - thanks to a huge crash in the opening Belle-Isle round.
The forever fledgling Dale Coyne team threw a gamble at 2021 by hiring Formula One veteran Romain Grosjean. Many were skeptical of the move, however Grosjean has impressed everyone across the pond with some mature and fast drives. Grosjean qualified on pole for the IndyGP and would lead most of the race before eventually losing out to Rinus Veekay in the closing laps. Grosjean settled for second equaling the best result for a rookie in 2021. The Frenchman currently lies 16th in the championship and has had four top ten results.
In the other full time Dale Coyne car there have been bursts of pace, but very little to show for them. Ed Jones has often flirted with the top ten in races only for misfortune to rob him of a great result. The Dubai born driver only has one top ten to show from 2021 so far and will be looking to remedy that in the closing six rounds.