Scuderia Ferrari‘s team principal, Mattia Binotto, has confirmed that the team are in the process of evaluating a potential entry into the NTT IndyCar Series for as early as the 2022 season.
The Italian stated that the team were looking into potential entries into other motorsport categories so that the team can continue to employ their current number of staff in the wake of the new-for-2021 budget cap in Formula 1.
Binotto’s comments came during an interview with Sky Sport Italia on Thursday in the wake of the announcements of Sebastian Vettel‘s departure from the team and Carlos Sainz‘s arrival for next year’s championship.
Binotto was asked about potential restructuring within the Scuderia Ferrari team in the wake of the 2021 budget cap, which will limit teams to spending $145 million instead of the previously agreed limit of $145 million. Binotto said, as a result of the cap, the team would have to look at entering other championships in order to avoid having to let go some of its current employees.
“Ferrari feels a lot of social responsibility towards its employees and we want to be sure that for each of them there will be a workspace in the future,” Binotto told Sky Sport Italia.
“For this reason, we have started to evaluate alternative programs, and I confirm that we are looking at IndyCar, which is currently a very different category from ours but with a change of regulation scheduled in 2022 [introduction of hybrid engines].
“We also observe the world of endurance racing and other series [as options]. We will try to make the best choice.”
Binotto referred to the forthcoming introduction of hybrid power-units to the NTT IndyCar Series for 2022. The change was announced in August last year with the aim of making IndyCar racing more relevant to manufacturers and, in turn, attracting new manufacturers to the championship. Presently, Honda and Chevrolet are the sole engine manufacturers involved with IndyCar racing, with Cosworth and Porsche having been rumoured to be interested in joining in the past.
Now, it seems as though Ferrari are very interested in joining the NTT IndyCar Series in some capacity. As it stands, the team would only be able to join as an engine supplier, as the NTT IndyCar Series uses a standardised chassis produced by Dallara. However, if Ferrari were to agree to supply engines for a number of teams on the grid, the rules could change in the future to allow Ferrari to develop their own chassis.
Of course, this is not the first time that Ferrari has flirted with the idea of competing in the NTT IndyCar Series. In the 1980s, frustrated by regulation changes and political battles in Formula 1, the Scuderia threatened to join IndyCar. The series, then known as CART, had been big enough to pose a series threat to Formula 1 and, furthermore, the North American market was an important one for Ferrari’s production car business.
This led to Ferrari producing a fully functioning IndyCar – the Ferrari 637 – which was designed and ready to race in CART as early as the end of the 1987 season. Whilst the car would never race, it proved to be instrumental in securing Ferrari’s future commitment to Formula 1.
When members of Formula 1’s governing body, FISA, visited the Ferrari factory in Maranello in 1986, negotiations were not going Ferrari’s way. Then, somewhat suitably timed, the Ferrari 637’s engine would be fired up, thus making the FISA representatives realise just how serious Ferrari’s threats of racing elsewhere were. This led to a new Concorde Agreement being signed a few months later, thus allowing Ferrari to continue using its preferred V12 engines for the foreseeable future in Formula 1.
Since then, a potential Ferrari entry in the NTT IndyCar Series has never looked as likely as it does right now. Ferrari involvement in the NTT IndyCar Series could be massive for both the manufacturer and the championship as it would open the series up further to European racing fans, whilst also giving Ferrari more presence in North American motorsport.
The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series is set to finally get underway on Saturday, June 6 with the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. Currently, the 2020 FIA Formula 1 World Championship is set to start with the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring on Sunday, July 5.