Indy 500 to F1? These 5 drivers could make the move

Richard Morin
USA TODAY Sports+

IndyCar will dominate motorsports this weekend with its crown-jewel event, the Indy 500. Across the pond, however, Formula One will also hold one of its prized events, the Monaco Grand Prix.

Both open-wheel racing syndicates have a history of crossover talent. From Nigel Mansell to Marcus Ericsson, Alexander Rossi and others, the possibility exists for drivers to go from IndyCar to F1 and vice versa.

While F1 is widely regarded as the more prestigious single-seat competition due to its global nature and technological advancements, both the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix are part of the Triple Crown of motorsport — along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

F1 champion Fernando Alonso is the most recent driver to attempt the feat. He's won twice at both Monaco and Le Mans, but has yet to secure the Indy 500 title after three attempts in 2017, 2019 and 2020.

RELATED:A complete guide to the 33-car starting lineup for the 2022 Indianapolis 500

With the popularity of F1 skyrocketing in the United States, which drivers participating in Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway could be poised for a move to Formula One? USA TODAY Sports+ breaks down five possibilities:

1. Colton Herta

Team: Andretti Autosport | Age: 22 | Race wins:

Andretti Autosport with Curb-Agajanian driver Colton Herta’s (26) celebrates after winning the GMR Grand Prix, Saturday, May 14, 2022, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.

Herta is one of the most exciting young talents in motorsport. His aspiration to be the next American F1 driver is also well documented. The youngest driver to win an IndyCar race, Herta captured his first victory at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas — a track designed specifically for F1.

Herta's team boss, Michael Andretti, has been trying to acquire a Formula One team for some time and would love to bring Herta with him. Andretti's father, Mario Andretti, is the most decorated American driver in F1 history and won a world championship in 1978.

FACE OF F1: Five drivers who could be Formula 1's next global icon

A move to F1 for Herta would undoubtedly help capitalize on the newfound popularity and visibility of the sport in the United States, which will host three annual F1 races starting in 2023. No other country hosts more than two annual races.

Even if the Herta-Andretti marriage fails to materialize in F1, there could be other options for the American racing prodigy. Herta was signed to F1 team McLaren as a development driver this season and was scheduled to test the team's 2021 car at some point this year.

MORE:Colton Herta says F1's Miami Grand Prix 'like a music festival that happens to have a race'

2. Pato O'Ward

Team: Arrow McLaren SP | Age: 23 | Race wins:

Pato O'Ward celebrates after securing his first IndyCar win of 2022 at Barber Motorsports Park.

O'Ward has already tested a McLaren F1 car, a reward given to him in 2021 for his first victories with McLaren's sister IndyCar outfit. The young Mexican driver called it "the best experience I’ve ever had in a race car in my life," according to RACER, part of the USA TODAY Network.

It's safe to say O'Ward, who recently signed a multi-year extension to stay with McLaren, would relish a chance to race for the papaya-colored F1 team. But are McLaren's plans to keep him vying for IndyCar titles or indoctrinate him to F1?

It is conceivable a McLaren F1 seat could become available in 2023 if the team elects to move on from veteran Daniel Ricciardo, an eight-time F1 race winner who has mostly struggled his two seasons with McLaren. If that seat does become vacant, would McLaren choose O'Ward, Herta or another candidate to race alongside Lando Norris?

INSIDER: Indy 500 is looming, contract squabbles over, Pato O'Ward is 'winning freaking races'

3. Callum Ilott

Team: Juncos Hollinger Racing | Age: 23 | Race wins:

Juncos Hollinger Racing driver Callum Ilott (77) walks the pits on Thursday, April 21, 2022, the second day of open testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway ahead of the Indy 500.

The British driver came up through the European junior ladder and finished second in the 2020 Formula Two championship, behind current F1 driver Mick Schumacher. However, a Formula One seat never materialized and Ilott joined IndyCar in late 2021.

Still, Ilott has split his time between IndyCar and serving as a reserve driver for F1 team Alfa Romeo the last two seasons. Reserve drivers fill in for primary drivers who are unable to participate in sessions or races. Ilott was passed over for a permanent F1 seat in favor of Chinese rookie Zhou Guanyu ahead of the 2022 season.

It remains to be seen whether Ilott, whose appearance in Sunday's Indy 500 will be the ninth IndyCar race of his career, will ever get a chance to earnestly compete in Formula One.

MORE:What you need to know about Callum Ilott before the 2022 Indy 500

4. Alex Palou

Team: Chip Ganassi Racing | Age: 25 | Race wins:

Alex Palou, center, celebrates after winning the 2021 IndyCar season championship.

The defending IndyCar champion would undoubtedly hold his own in Formula One, but would he even want to make the switch? Palou, who will start second on the grid for Sunday's Indy 500, grew up with dreams of F1 but seems content with IndyCar.

Unlike the previous three names listed, Palou does not seem to be actively seeking an F1 seat. The Spaniard told publication Marca he has "no interest in F1 unless I can win" and it would likely take a Chip Ganassi F1 team to sufficiently entice him to make a move.

Still, money talks. And if Palou continues his prolific driving in IndyCar and a Formula One team came calling with a large wad of cash, would he reconsider that stance?

INSIDER:No one's talking about defending IndyCar champ Alex Palou. How's he feel about it?

5. Romain Grosjean

Team: Andretti Autosport | Age: 36 | Race wins:

Andretti Autosport driver Romain Grosjean (28) waits to head back out onto the track Friday, May 20, 2022, during Fast Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The only person on this list with genuine Formula One experience, Grosjean has made 179 starts and notched 10 podiums since his F1 debut in 2009. And although he's spent the last two years in IndyCar, could Grosjean make it back to F1?

Grosjean was average during his F1 career, especially during his five-year stint with Haas from 2016-20. He's been slightly more competitive in IndyCar and enters Sunday ranked ninth in the championship standings. Grosjean will line up ninth for the Indy 500.

Still, there aren't many drivers who can match Grosjean's F1 experience. If a team becomes desperate for a driver with significant F1 miles under his belt, Grosjean could find himself back in Formula One.

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