Robert Wickens’ shadow looms large over 2019 rookie class

(via Indy Star) – Robert Wickens did the 2019 NTT IndyCar rookie class no favors last year. Actually, he didn’t do the 2018 class any favors either.

“Robert Wickens set the bar way too high for any other rookie,” Andretti Autosport driver Zach Veach said with a laugh last year.

Though Veach and his fellow freshmen enjoyed bright spots in 2018, none of them could keep pace with Wickens, who nabbed pole position and nearly won his first IndyCar race before having one of the greatest debut seasons in recent memory. By May, Will Power was raving about Wickens, saying he had the talent to compete for championships for years to come.

Of course, Wickens’ racing career has been put on hold as he recovers from a serious spinal injury, the memory of his incredible debut season will not soon be forgotten. Fair or not, he set a new standard for which all newcomers will be compared.

Can anyone in the 2019 class rise to Wickens’ level? Normally the answer would be a resounding no, but this class boasts some intriguing talents the IndyCar world has long waited to see… [READ MORE]

Marcus Ericsson, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports

The man filling in for Wickens at Arrow SPM enters the 2019 season as the top sleeper pick for rookie of the year. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing for the 28-year-old ex-Formula One driver. He’ll have to contend with far less pressure than his fellow IndyCar first-timers, yet he’s still plenty equipped to succeed. Somewhat lost amid the Andretti (five wins), Penske (6 wins, including the Indianapolis 500), Ganassi (season champion) battle at the top last season was Arrow SPM taking a major step forward. James Hinchcliffe notched two podiums, including a win (Iowa) and his best championship finish at Arrow SPM (10th). Wickens, meanwhile, was on his way to a potential top-five finish in the championship before his accident at Pocono. Until then, Wickens had racked up four podiums and had a couple others ripped away from him (St. Pete, Iowa).

With Arrow’s increased involvement in the team, there’s little to reason to think the team can’t keep inching closer to IndyCar’s Big 3. As for Ericsson himself, don’t let his backmarker F1 status fool you. As all racing fans know, unless you’re with a top team, it’s tough to do much of anything in Formula One. Consider that in his sophomore season (2015) at Sauber, he outscored Fernando Alonso (15-11) during the Spaniard’s first year at McLaren.

That said, no one is expecting him to step in and immediately be as fast as Wickens. All Arrow SPM is asking Ericcson to do is learn the tracks, show steady progression throughout the season and deliver some quality results.

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