The IndyCar 2021 season is starting as it ended, with the shadow of the COVID-19 hanging over it. The urban rounds in St. Petersburg and Long Beach have had to be postponed pushing back the start of the competition for a whole month.
The pandemic has once again managed to disturb the competitive pace of the season although thankfully it has had no effect on the configuration of the grid itself. The number of teams will be the same as in 2020, and there are also some interesting new developments to report.
The American Indy Car will thus raise the curtain to its 2021 season this weekend with the Alabama GP. The Barber Motorsports Park returns to the calendar after having been part of the wave of cancellations in 2020 (8 in total), that followed the spread of the pandemic.
The racetrack was designed for motorcycle racing in 2003. It is 3,829 meters long with plenty of fast corners, high-speed sections and very significant elevation changes of up to 24 meters, all of which make it a really challenging drive.
Dixon, a record of seven IndyCar title
One of the lead characters of the opening event will be Scott Dixon. The New Zealander is setting on defending his crown with the added challenge of equalling A.J Floyd’s record of seven IndyCar titles.
Looking at his previous performances, however, Sunday’s appointment is a difficult nut to crack for Scott. He has had a total of eight podiums in Alabama – including six second places – but has never taken a victory.
This year Scott will count on a new teammate at Chip Ganassi, the Spaniard Álex Palou. This is the second IndyCar season for Palou and his debut with a winning team that will allow him to demonstrate his undeniable quality.
Much of the focus this weekend, however, will be on the debut of three seasoned rookies. After suffering a chilling accident five months ago at his last Formula 1 race, 2020 Bahrain, Frenchman Romain Grosjean embarks on a new stage of his career in the ranks of Dale Coyne Racing.
Also wanting to make an impression is three-time Australian Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin for whom this would be his second season at the American championship, now with a full-time seat at Team Penske.
The third rookie in question is seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson who has taken on a discipline completely unknown to him. In his favour, however, there is the profound knowledge he has of the Alabama track where he has competed on numerous occasions while in NASCAR.
In the fight for the championship, Team Penske is one of the main candidates to succeed. Not in vain, they count among their ranks with Josef Newgarden, champion in 2017 and 2019, and three-time winner in Alabama.
Will Power will also be present at Penske throughout the year. The 2014 champion is a great classifier and could match Mario Andretti’s pole record during the course of the season.
Considered to be the third force on the grid, Andretti Autosport has twice Alabama winner Ryan Hunter-Reay to defend its colours at the Barber. Alexander Rossi for his part will try and make a clean slate and forget about his 2020 mistakes.
Meanwhile, his teammate James Hincliffe will complete his second season with the team. Finally, Colton Herta will continue with his progression in order to establish his name in the permanent circuits.
Others that could give a surprise are the Rahal Letterman Lanigan with Takuma Sato, winner of the Alabama GP in 2019, and Meyer Shank Racing, represented by veteran Jack Harvey.
AJ Foyt Racing will have the promising Sébastien Bourdais, who shined during the preseason and last but not least there is Ed Carpenter Racing with their main man Rinus Veekay, who is competing after recovering from an accident in the preseason tests where he broke a finger.
Images of Alabama GP: Barber Motorsport.