2022 will see a new look for Andretti Autosport. After ten seasons, Ryan Hunter-Reay is leaving the #28 DHL Honda. Hunter-Reay racked up 13 wins, one championship and the 2014 Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport. It’s one of the most iconic duos in IndyCar’s recent history, DHL, Hunter-Reay and Andretti Autosport. Hunter-Reay hasn’t won a race since 2018 and at the age of 40, Michael Andretti decided it was time for a change. Insert F1 veteran Romain Grosjean and the #28 DHL Honda will continue in 2022. Grosjean will continue the familiar DHL colors and will enter the Indianapolis 500 for the first time. Adding to the Andretti Autosport lineup is rookie Devlin DeFrancesco. Alexander Rossi and Colton Herta will be back in 2022 as well.
When the deal for Michael Andretti to acquire Saubers F1 team fell through, the rumors of Colton Herta to Formula One died as well. The young American has the talent to be the next American to make a splash in F1, but that day will have to wait. Colton Herta will return to the #26 Andretti Autosport Honda after finishing the 2021 season winning the final two races at Laguna Seca and Long Beach. The California kid will contest his fifth season in IndyCar competition. Herta won three times in 2021, snagged three pole positions and started on the front row of the Indianapolis 500. Herta will head into the 2022 season with all the momentum in the world and as one of the championship favorites.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Ovals. Colton has struggled to gather his footing on ovals, especially Iowa and Indianapolis. 2021 saw Herta finish 22nd, 5th, 13th and 18th on ovals. Add in a double header at Iowa in 2022 where Herta has finished no better than 18th in his career, ovals are a main focus for the 21 year old to contend for the championship.
PROJECTION: Herta will find victory circle multiple times in 2022. He is on my A list of drivers that have the best chances to not only win the IndyCar Championship, but win the Indianapolis 500 as well.
Alexander Rossi heads into the 2022 season as the veteran at Andretti Autosport. The 2016 Indy 500 winner has had back to back seasons of terrible luck in the #27 Honda. Rossi had just one podium last season at Portland. Even the Indy 500 has plagued the California native over the last two seasons, finishing 27th and 29th after scoring Top 7 finishes in his first four 500s. Rossi has a driver option on the 2023 season and will have some control over what seat he lands in 2023. If he gets off to a hot a start in 2022 and is in the championship hunt by Road America, he will more than likely stay with the team that brought him to American open wheel racing.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Consistency. Rossi had just one stretch in 2021 of back to back top 10 finishes. He finished outside the Top 15 on six occasions last year. Improving at the Indianapolis 500 will help as well. He crashed out of the 2020 race and wasn’t a factor at all in the month of May in 2021.
PROJECTION: Rossi will break his 37 race winless streak in 2022. However, I haven’t seen enough out of him over the last two seasons to confidently say he will be a championship contender. The dude is way too talented to be shut out of the win column for a third straight season. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when he will break through in 2022.
Romain Grosjean enters his first full time season as an IndyCar driver and his first with Andretti Autosport. The popular former Formula 1 driver takes over the #28 DHL Honda. Grosjean bursted on the scene in 2021 with Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware. He scored three podium finishes and a pole position at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. Grosjean is a fan favorite and brought plenty of new eyes to the sport of IndyCar. His infectious smile and drive to learn American culture has made him a driver that everyone can root for.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: With only one career oval under his belt, learning Indy, Iowa and Texas will be learning curves. Continuing to improve off of an impressive rookie season will be key. Moving to Andretti Autosport will take his talents to the next level.
PROJECTION: Grosjean will be knocking at the door of a first career win all season. Winning Rookie of the Year isn’t out of the realm of possibility at the Indianapolis 500 either. Look for Grosjean to at least duplicate his rookie campaign with three podiums and a pole. His best chance to win will come at one of the two Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course races.
Also joining the Andretti Autosport stable for 2022 is rookie Devlin DeFrancesco. DeFrancesco has been in the plans for Michael Andretti and George Steinbrenner since 2019. The 21 year old Canadian moves up to the #29 after a year racing in Indy Lights. DeFrancesco will be Canada’s new favorite driver as he takes over the seat vacated by James Hinchcliffe. DeFrancesco was brought up to IndyCar in the same capacity as Steinbrenner and Andretti moved Colton Herta up.
PROJECTION: DeFrancesco will learn plenty over the course of the season. I expect him to be fast at the tracks he has been on before in the past. If he can adapt to ovals quickly, he will have a chance at the season long rookie of the year crown. Plenty of haters took to social media at Devlin when this deal was announced as fans thought Kyle Kirkwood deserved the ride over DeFrancesco. Proving he belongs will be a motivating factor for Devlin in 2022.
In 2021, Colton Herta was the only driver that competed for wins for Andretti Autosport in 2021. I expect a six car effort for the team at the Indianapolis 500, adding Marco Andretti to the mix in the #98 Honda. If Andretti Autosport can return to it’s dominating days, this is the lineup that can do it. I expect numerous wins by the team and possibly a championship out of Colton Herta. Adding Grosjean to the mix adds a world class driver to the stable that will help Devlins rookie season learning curve and will elevate Colton and Alexander. If Rossi can throw out the bad luck from the last two seasons, this team could be the best, or second best in the paddock for 2022.
CHAMPIONSHIP PROJECTION ODDS
COLTON HERTA +600
ALEXANDER ROSSI +1200
ROMAIN GOSJEAN +2000
DEVLIN DFRANCESCO +5000
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