Updated: Feb 25, 2022
Written by Danny Jones, Edited by Morgan Holiday
After what has felt like an eternal wait since the 2021 season finale at Long Beach, it is finally time to kick off the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series, at the tricky Streets of St. Petersburg, which returns to its traditional opening race slot for the first time since 2019. After that, there will be 16 more races to decide who will be crowned champion, including a double-header return to Iowa Speedway, and a first race since 2019 in the Streets of Toronto.
This season is predicted to be as tight as ever for the championship title. Colton Herta probably comes in as the favourite, with Pato O’Ward not far behind. But you can never count out figures such as Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, and Alex Palou to challenge for the title. Herta’s absolute domination of four events last year could be a preview of what’s to come this year. The most notable point about Herta’s dominated events is that three of them came on street courses at Long Beach, St. Petersburg, and Nashville. Therefore, Herta is one of the favourites coming into this weekend.
St. Petersburg will be a debut race for four drivers. Devlin DeFrancesco steps up from Andretti’s Indy Lights team to their Indycar team, Tatiana Calderon and Kyle Kirkwood both make their debuts for A.J. Foyt, and David Malukas makes his first appearance for Dale Coyne racing with HMD Motorsports. Ex-F2 drivers Callum Ilott and Christian Lundgaard are both in contention for the Rookie of the Year award as well despite three appearances for Ilott and one for Lundgaard in 2021, with the two driving for Juncos Hollinger Racing and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing respectively.
We will also see multiple drivers switch teams at St. Petersburg from last season. Romain Grosjean will have a highly anticipated debut for Andretti Autosport. Some fans even back him for the title, but his minimal oval experience may hamper his chances. However, will we be able to see Grosjean, known in the US as ‘The Phoenix’, after his dramatic crash in Bahrain, win races in 2022, in the #28 Andretti DHL-Honda.
Takuma Sato will take Grosjean’s seat at Dale Coyne with Rick Ware Racing, after RLL opted for Christian Lundgaard. Sato, who is now 45, will surely have limited seasons left in the series, and with his aggressive and exciting driving style, he could be one to watch. RLL expanded their operations, and added the #45 car on a full-time basis, after Santino Ferrucci, Christian Lundgaard, and Oliver Askew all featured in the car in 2021. That seat has been given to Jack Harvey, in a slightly surprise move, but we will see Ferrucci in 2022, as he will be racing for Dreyer and Reinbold Racing at the Indianapolis 500.
Meyer Shank have also expanded, to a two car program after Harvey’s departure to RLL. Helio Castroneves will drive full-time in 2022, which was announced after his Indianapolis 500 win, as the Brazilian pursues a historic fifth win at the Brickyard this season. Meyer Shank have also signed Simon Pagenaud on a full-time basis, as Pagenaud and Castroneves re-unite as teammates after many years at Penske. Conor Daly also moves full-time to Ed Carpenter Racing, after Carlin ceased their IndyCar operations and Ed Carpenter opted to do the Indy 500 only.
St. Petersburg is notorious for being a challenge for everyone, the very hot temperatures in Florida are a very tough ask for the drivers, and have only been made harder after the introduction of the aeroscreen in 2020. Romain Grosjean cited it as even tougher than the Singapore Grand Prix. With many drivers not having raced since September, and with St. Petersburg being a very tricky street course, the season opener could provide fireworks, as the IndyCar season finally begins.
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