Will Power acknowledges Formula 1 as the top level in motorsports, but sees the NTT IndyCar Series as a more competitive overall product.
During a session with the media on Tuesday ahead of this weekend’s season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Power shared his thoughts as to why the likes of Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward have high interest in F1 despite the competitiveness of North America’s premier open-wheel championship.
“Obviously, Formula 1 is the pinnacle when you look at the level of money and television coverage around the world that it has,” said Power, 40. “So if you’re a young driver, it’s somewhere you would love to go and have experienced that series. But as far as competing and competition and parity, there’s no other open-wheel series in the world like IndyCar. It is more competitive than Formula 1, not because the drivers are better but simply because the cars are all exactly the same. You’ve got so many drivers and teams that have been around for so long in these same cars that it is really, really tough. You don’t even have to take my word for that. Just look at the practice sheets and the qualifying times. You can mathematically work that out yourself, that IndyCar is more competitive than Formula 1.
“Formula 1 you compete possibly just against one person, which is your teammate, but maybe this year they have more parity. The drivers are not — I’m not saying that IndyCar drivers are better. That’s not true. I’m just saying that the formula is more competitive, and I think the formula is better for fans, honestly. You never know who’s going to win.”
Reigning and four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, who returns to compete full-time in IndyCar since 2017 with Meyer Shank Racing, was also a participant on the call and weighed in on the subject.
“For me, when you’re young obviously you want to try everything, and Formula 1 is the middle of the world,” said Castroneves, 46. “Obviously, as Will mentioned about money, and obviously you can explore so much more. However, again, if you’re not in the right team you’re not going to be in the right position to even finish in the points maybe.
“At IndyCar, it’s completely different because the rules are able to allow your talent to show. Obviously, you go out there and you might have one fantastic weekend and sometimes not, but the competition level in IndyCar, it’s so difficult.
“However, because of the different styles of tracks, with ovals, with short ovals, with street courses, you definitely blend so many different talents, and you can still have, as we have today, drivers just not going for one style of racing. You create more competition, create more buzz, and yes, that’s why IndyCar has continued going in the right direction.
“Now, with Penske Corp taking care of the series, hopefully now with the pandemic just passed over, I do believe IndyCar can concentrate to becoming what it used to be 30 or 40 years ago.”
Power, the 2014 IndyCar champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner, drove the point even further home later in the session.
“You’re not going to find a more competitive racing series in the world,” said Power, driver of the No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet. “You know, it’s open-wheel racing, so they’re purpose-built race cars. We go to tracks like Indianapolis where in qualifying we’re doing 240 miles an hour and 300,000 people will be watching on race day. We need to get it out there as much as possible because the product is so good and you race on so many different disciplines. You have road courses, street courses, superspeedways, and bullring short ovals.
“Like Helio said, you never know who’s going to win, you never know who’s going to be on pole, and you really don’t know who’s going to win the championship until the last race and sometimes the last lap. It’s a great product, and it has been growing over the last decade. It’s significantly grown since I started in IndyCar, and the teams and the drivers are the highest standard that I’ve ever seen. It’s a great series. It really is. It’s a great series, and I hope that we continue to push to get it out to the public.”
Lastly, Power, who has 62 career IndyCar poles (second all-time to Mario Andretti, 67) delivered sympathy for 20-year-old fellow Aussie Oscar Piastri, who had to settle for a reserve role with Alpine’s F1 team instead of a full-time drive despite capturing championships in Formula Renault Eurocup, Formula 3 and Formula 2 in both 2019 and 2021.
“Oscar Piastri certainly deserved to be in Formula 1 this year having won back-to-back titles in Formula 3, then F2 first year out as a rookie,” said Power, a 40-time race winner in IndyCar.
“And then not to be in Formula 1, to me the system is sort of broken. Why? Why do they spend all this money to run something like F2 and you win the championship the first year, and I’m going to say the budget for that has got to be 2 million Euros or something like this, and not get a Formula 1 seat? I think he deserves to be in Formula 1. He should be in Formula 1. I can understand why he wouldn’t want to come over to IndyCar, because he’s worked his whole career (to get to F1). I’d have to say I was kind of disappointed that he didn’t get a ride.
“So we’ll see what happens. It’s a total travesty if he doesn’t end up in Formula 1 next year because then he’ll probably won’t ever end up in Formula 1, which is just such a shame.”