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The inside view: Prema’s move to IndyCar

Written by Archie O’Reilly

On Tuesday, it was confirmed that illustrious Formula One feeder series outfit Prema would be mounting a two-car, Chevrolet-powered NTT IndyCar Series effort starting in the 2025 season. They will be operating out of a state-of-the-art facility in Indiana, with locations being evaluated at present.

Since being founded by Angelo Rosin in 1983, Prema have won a total of 80 championships and produced drivers such as F1 World Champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve. Nine of the current F1 grid have competed with Prema, along with IndyCar drivers Ryan Briscoe, Felix Rosenqvist, Callum Ilott and Marcus Armstrong.

The team’s release indicates that a venture into North America’s premier open-wheel series will benefit the team in multiple areas, whether improving know-how, adding experience or offering new opportunities for drivers. It was also mentioned that the step up to IndyCar could be an avenue for professional growth for team members.

Team Principal Rene Rosin described it as a “pivotal moment in the history of Prema” and reinforced the high standards that the team abides by upon the announcement on Tuesday. Their successes elsewhere point towards their addition being valuable to the series as the field preliminarily grows to 29 cars for the majority of the 2025 season.

DIVEBOMB presents the story of how a move to IndyCar came about and what the future could look like for Prema in the series…

How did the move come about?

Rosin has confirmed that discussions about making a move to IndyCar commenced “more than two, three years ago” in terms of initial ideas being posed. Discussions with IndyCar about an expansion to run Stateside then started “in the last six, seven months” before Tuesday’s announcement.

“We’ve been talking with them,” IndyCar President Jay Frye said during a media availability at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “We worked on the plan, let them see what it looks like going forward. We’re really excited to have them.”

Of course, it has been helpful that Prema has a catalogue of drivers that have gone on to compete in IndyCar.

“We are still in very good contact with all these drivers,” Rosin said. “We just celebrated our 40th anniversary in December - most of them joined us in Venice for our event. We are always very close to them and have a very friendly relationship with all of them. 

“We always talk together. They always say, ‘Why not come to America? Why not do IndyCar? It would be something very good for you, very good for the team.’”

What could their lineup look like?

The team said in their initial release that announcements about drivers, sponsors and partners would be made in due course. But while options are still being evaluated, there does seem to be an idea internally as to how the lineup could be shaped, albeit nothing is being ruled out and “everything is open” at this stage.

“Ideally it will be good to have an experienced driver and of course one rookie,” Rosin said. “On the other hand, as Prema, we always work with rookies. We are not scared to even have two rookies. We are really evaluating all the opportunities to maximise what is our potential. 

“I think this is now the next step on what we will dedicate most of our time together to building up the teams in the best ways possible. That’s quite soon we will have some news.”

Rosin admitted the team do have some ideas of drivers - both within the Prema pipeline and elsewhere - that they could approach to form an immediately competitive lineup. A venture into IndyCar also gives an opportunity to keep hold of some of their own talents from the F1 ladder if they do not make it to F1.

“Of course, the motorsport market can offer different opportunities,” Rosin said. “But for drivers going after Formula 2, the places in Formula 1 are quite limited. Having the chance to explore the IndyCar world is also something to consider and something positive. It’s something we can offer to our drivers in order to continue their progression.”

Rosin’s role and other personnel

With Prema’s commitments already being wide-ranging through junior motorsport and sportscar racing, the team will have to make sure to balance the commitments of their senior personnel. That includes Rosin as Team Principal.

“First of all, we need to continue competing and winning on the European side,” he said. “My role will evolve into more overlooking both sides of Prema. In each group we have [someone] responsible that is on the day-by-day management. 

“I will be present in the most important events, then I will try to do my best to make sure that every team has all the needs and the possibility to perform well.”

Another significant body in Prema’s IndyCar operation is Piers Phillips, who is their IndyCar CEO. Phillips has had previous involvement in IndyCar, including as President of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. 

“Starting from what is effectively a blank page, being able to incorporate what I know from my time here in this amazing championship, the Prema experience from Europe, being able to blend that and really produce a different sort of culture, really progressive-thinking organisation, along with our partners at Chevrolet, really excites me,” Phillips said.

He spoke highly of “the enthusiasm” and “energy that emanates from them” having known Rosin and those working alongside him at the team for a while. 

“I think to see that come to fulfilment, first race, first race win dare I say, will be an amazing journey for everybody that’s involved with it,” Phillips said.

Moving over from Europe, the Italian team are keen to strike a balance between utilising existing expertise, allowing professional growth, while also tapping into those that have experience in the United States.

“Obviously IndyCar is, particularly the ovals… a niche of experience is required,” Phillips said. “There’s a lot of people. I’m surprised my phone didn’t end up in a little ball of melted plastic yesterday. We will be looking at blending the talents from both sides of the Atlantic.”

Why did IndyCar appeal to the team?

With Prema such an illustrious outfit on the road to F1, some may wonder why efforts have been concentrated on making a switch to IndyCar rather than a possible future F1 effort. There is the factor of F1’s strictness with accepting new teams, as shown with the Andretti Global debacle. But the allure of IndyCar is clear.

“It is a great challenge, something that expands our business opportunities to another level in another continent,” Rosin said. “We wanted to get out of Europe because we reach every possible category within the ladder of motorsport apart from Formula 1 in Europe, from karting to Formula 2. 

“We have a technical partnership in the World Endurance Championship and LMDh. This is something we were looking to expand our boundaries to make sure we can create a global group within our entity.”

Rosin has said Prema is always looking for “new challenges” and “new adventures” for everyone involved with the team, from drivers to engineers. IndyCar fits that bill.

Not joining to make up the numbers

“When Prema joins a championship, it’s not to join to be just a number or to be somebody part of it, we want to be part as a protagonist,” Rosin said.

And that aligns with the high standards held by a team that has won an average of two championships per year across its 40 years since being established. They are not venturing over to IndyCar for the sake of participating. They mean business.

“It is a great challenge to have because it means that we are the top level of motorsport worldwide,” Rosin said. “Of course, there will be some tough times in terms of organisation, in terms of planning, in terms of engineering. With the patience and determination of everybody in the team, I think we can succeed. 

“It will be a learning year in 2025. We need to learn this difficult way of racing from road courses, ovals and street circuits. I think we are looking forward to blending together the European and American mentality and bringing some novelties within this championship.”

There is realisation that it will most likely take time to adapt to the series, though with a confidence that Prema have the necessary quality of personnel to allow this adaptation to be seamless enough.

“There’s a huge amount for Prema to understand,” Phillips said. “Obviously the core of the team will have experience and I’m really comfortable with the individuals we have in line for that. 

“I always tell people IndyCar is probably the most challenging series in the world. The diversity of the tracks, the street courses, the ovals. Every street course is different. Every oval is different. Every road course is different. We need to really hone in, concentrate our efforts and put a competitive program together as quickly as possible.”

The desire of such a revered operation to join IndyCar speaks to the health of the series too. Frye harked back to a “rolling five-year plan” implemented by the series in 2017, which consisted of a desire “to recruit new and elite race teams and owners” - as is the case with the addition of Prema.

Forming an alliance with another team

One way that teams have tried to support their growth in the series is through the formation of alliances with some of the series’ established, powerhouse teams. 

Meyer Shank Racing formed a technical alliance with Andretti in 2019, while AJ Foyt Racing have more recently partnered with Team Penske. There is also a strategic alliance between Juncos Hollinger Racing and Arrow McLaren, starting this season.

“We are open to everything,” Rosin said. “We are open to evaluating. Of course, we want to get our team in the best way possible. When it will be the moment to discuss it, I think we will start discussing. It is something that we want to do - to first analyse all the opportunities, then decide what is the best to do.”

Avoiding a repeat of Carlin

Carlin is a recent example of a team moving over from Europe to compete in IndyCar. And it did not end so well for the British outfit, who had some highs during four years in the series, including a pole position at Iowa for Conor Daly in 2020, but exited in 2021. 

A best Leaders’ Circle finish of 16th-place was not disastrous for Carlin by any means, but their stint in IndyCar cannot be called a success when the operation ceased at the end of the 2021 season. Resources from Carlin were ultimately turned over to the Juncos team.

As Prema is attempting in 2025, Carlin entered the series as a two-car operation before downsizing to a single car to better focus its personnel and resources. Those behind the Prema effort seem keen to learn from others’ shortcomings.

“I think the main thing in my experience is understanding the culture of American racing because it’s different to Europe,” Phillips said. “Having worked on both sides of the Atlantic, having had success on both sides, you understand the strengths. But the racing is different. 

“I think it’s important that you come in and respect the championship and respect the series for what it is. You need to understand the cultural differences, being able to blend the best of both worlds and end up better than everybody else. I think we start from a really strong foundation with Prema, their experience. 

“It’s up to me to make sure that we guide it in the right direction and keep our eyes open and make sure that we don’t fall into any of the situations that those previous teams did.”

The threat of a charter system

Something that could have an impact on Prema is the introduction of a charter system, which could see teams that are staples in the series locked into the field for every race and others forced to qualify their way in. 

The threat of not making the field for regular races could become a concern for some teams given the field is set at 29 cars in 2025 at the moment, with potential for more. This tally exceeds the maximum number of cars that can fit in some pit lanes across the year.

“Obviously we’re aware of the situation, aware of the discussions that are ongoing,” Phillips said. “[We are] obviously in communications with IndyCar on that. We’ll keep that in our focus as we move forward.”

Rosin also acknowledged that a charter system is “something that is on the table” and is something he wants to understand before the team “will decide what is the best way to go”.

Could Prema expand to Indy NXT?

Carlin ran in IndyCar’s premier feeder series, Indy Lights as it was named at the time, until the year prior to the team’s step up to IndyCar, then again in 2021. As with most of the process of their step up to IndyCar, Rosin is not closing off any options.

“Of course, we need to keep our eyes open and see what the market will require,” he said. “At the moment we have quite enough on our table with what we are doing. We are looking to improve that and stabilise all our efforts and maximise the results.”

The Prema project will be a key story to follow as they gear up for their IndyCar debut in the 2025 season.


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