Revealed: The 14 drivers with F1 connections to watch out for at the Indy 500

Elizabeth Blackstock
Arrow McLaren's Alexander Rossi at the 2024 Indianapolis 500.

Arrow McLaren's Alexander Rossi.

The lure of the Indianapolis 500 has attracted the world’s top racing talent since the early 1900s, iconic racers like Alberto Ascari, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Emerson Fittipaldi and so many more.

This year, the 33-car starting field for the 2024 running of the 500-mile event will host 14 drivers with some kind of Formula 1 connection.

Former F1 drivers in the 2024 Indy 500

Four current Indy 500 competitors have actively raced in Formula 1, while 10 others have been contracted by F1 teams for other services – test driving, development driving and more.

Today, we’re breaking down the F1 backgrounds of those 14 Indy 500 racers; some of them are sure to surprise you. In each category, drivers are listed based on their 2024 Indy 500 starting position.

For 2024, there will be four former Formula 1 drivers starting the Indy 500.

The highest qualifier in the race is Alexander Rossi, who will be piloting the No. 7 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet from fourth place. Rossi made his Formula 1 debut in 2015 with the slowly collapsing Manor Marussia team. He replaced part-time Marussia driver Roberto Merhi for five races near the end of the 2015 season: Singapore, Japan, Austin, Mexico and Brazil.

His best finish was a 12th place at the U.S. Grand Prix, which was not representative of the talent he showed in F1 feeder series like GP2. Rossi joined Andretti Autosport for the 2016 IndyCar season and took a shock victory at his very first Indianapolis 500 — which also happened to be the 100th running of the event.

Japanese racer Takuma Sato will start in 10th place behind the wheel of his No. 75 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Sato debuted in Formula 1 all the way back in 2002, when he raced with Jordan before moving to BAR and, finally, Super Aguri.

In his seven years of F1 competition, his best finish was a third place at the 2004 U.S. Grand Prix. Sato then moved to American open-wheel racing in 2010, where his career has been highlighted by two Indy 500 victories — one in 2017 and a second in 2020.

Then comes Romain Grosjean, who will start the 2024 Indy 500 in 26th position in his No. 77 Juncos Hollinger Chevrolet. The Frenchman spent 10 years in F1, first with Lotus before moving to Haas. Though he never won a Grand Prix, he took 10 podiums before his F1 career came to a close with a fiery wreck at Bahrain in 2020.

He moved to IndyCar the following year, where his performances have been quite mixed. His best finish at the Indy 500 thus far has been 30th; he’ll be looking to secure a better performance this year.

Moving on to Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of F1 champion and Indy 500 victor Emerson Fittipaldi. The young Fittipaldi has raced everything from open-wheel cars to stock cars and in 2019, he joined Haas as a test driver, later contesting two grand prix weekends in 2020 after Grosjean’s Bahrain fireball crash.

He’ll contest the 500 behind the wheel of the No. 30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, starting from 30th.

And finally we have Marcus Ericsson. After a challenging Month of May, Ericsson battled hard to put his No. 28 Andretti Autosport Honda into the show in 32nd position – a tough break for the driver who won the 2022 Indy 500.

Ericsson’s F1 career began in 2014 with Caterham before swapping to Sauber for the following four years. His best F1 finish was an eighth place in the 2015 Australian Grand Prix.

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Former F1 reserve and test drivers in the 2024 Indy 500

Will Power has become something of a legend in the American open-wheel world and his No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet will line up in the middle of the first row for this year’s 500.

Back in 2004, he served as a test driver for Minardi, but it was a role that only lasted a year. He moved to the American open-wheel world soon after, where he became a two-time IndyCar champion and winner of the 2018 Indianapolis 500.

Starting in sixth, on the second row of the starting grid, is No. 14 A. J. Foyt racing driver Santino Ferrucci. Ferrucci served as a test and reserve driver for the Haas F1 team in 2016 before being promoted to Haas development driver in 2017 and 2018. His European career came to a screeching halt in 2018 after he intentionally crashed into his Trident teammate Arjun Maini and was caught using his cell phone in the cockpit.

Ferrucci made his IndyCar debut that same year and has remained there ever since; last year, his third-place finish in the Indy 500 also doubled as his career best IndyCar finish.

Colton Herta has long been in F1’s peripheral vision and back in 2022, he served as a test driver for the McLaren F1 team and he was also strongly considered by Red Bull for its junior F1 team until it became clear that Herta would not have enough Super License points to qualify.

As driver of the No. 26 Andretti Global Honda, he’s been strongly in the conversation about the team’s proposed expansion into Formula 1. He’ll start the 2024 Indy 500 from 13th position.

Next to Herta is Spanish driver Álex Palou, driver of the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. Palou cut his teeth in the F1 ladder and in 2023, he was officially named McLaren F1’s reserve driver after the team recruited him for a September 2022 test session.

He was involved in some drama when Chip Ganassi Racing announced his renewal for the 2023 season, only for Arrow McLaren to also assert their rights to his employment. Ultimately, McLaren sued Palou – likely ending his F1 dreams for the near future.

Rounding out the fifth row is Callum Ilott, manning the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet before Théo Pourchaire takes over for the rest of the year. Ilott has long been considered a promising future F1 talent, which seemed confirmed when he was signed as Alfa Romeo test driver in 2019.

He remained with Alfa until 2022, pulling double-duty as a Haas test driver in 2020 and a Ferrari test driver in 2021. An F1 seat never materialized and Ilott lost out on his full-time IndyCar ride this season. His 15th place starting position is his best ever in the 500.

To get to our next test driver, we’ll have to jump down the grid, to the 29th starting position. Conor Daly, driver of the No. 24 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet, is likely best known for his American open-wheel racing career, but he actually started off on the Formula 1 ladder and even put in a year as test driver for Sahara Force India back in 2012. He had a chance to test a car once, then made his Indy 500 debut the following year.

Last on the F1 test driver list is Katherine Legge. The British racer had a promising start in European open-wheel circles before she began looking for a future in America. Still, in 2005, she served as a test driver for Minardi — the same year she became the first woman to test an A1 Grand Prix car. Legge will be attempting her fourth Indy 500 this year behind the wheel of the No. 51 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.

Former F1 simulator drivers in the 2024 Indy 500

Christian Lundgaard’s brief time in F1 didn’t actually involve getting behind the wheel of a car; instead, back in 2021, the Danish racer served as Alpine F1’s simulator driver while he competed in a full Formula 2 season, followed by a one-off IndyCar start with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

He moved to RLL in 2022 and has been there ever since; he took his first win in Toronto in 2023 and his No. 45 Honda will start the 2024 Indy 500 in 28th place.

Former Red Bull junior drivers in the 2024 Indy 500

Pato O’Ward’s brief flirtation with Formula 1 was… complex.

In May of 2019, O’Ward was quickly signed to the Red Bull Junior Team to compete in one Formula 2 race and a few Super Formula events, with the goal of placing him in a Red Bull-affiliated F1 team in 2020.

However, the FIA stated that O’Ward’s Indy Lights championship win would not provide him with enough Super License points to actually compete in F1. Helmut Marko granted O’Ward an early release from his Red Bull contract to scoop up an open Arrow McLaren seat. O’Ward is still behind the wheel of the No. 5 Chevrolet, and he’ll start the Indy 500 from eighth place.

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