Thursday, December 29, 2011

Is Guerrieri Ready For IndyCar?

Between Marshall Pruett columns and foreign websites, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Esteban Guerrieri is potentially in the mix for the final seat at KV Racing for 2012.

The Argentinean driver showed speed and talent in 2011 Firestone Indy Lights, but as he prepares to turn 27 next month, is he ready for the IZOD IndyCar Series?

As far as his resumè goes, it could be that of just about any other young IndyCar hopeful. A swing through multiple European junior open wheel series, a nice 2010 campaign in Formula Renault 3.5, and some success at the Indy Lights level highlight his accomplishments up until now. It’s as much or more as many successful IndyCar drivers have had.

However, let’s take a look at his more recent stats. Guerrieri challenged eventual Lights champion Josef Newgarden repeatedly throughout the 2011 campaign, but the big difference was in consistency. True, Newgarden had 5 wins to Guerrieri’s 3, but Newgarden also had only a single race where he placed P10 or worse. Guerrieri had five such races. Newgarden simply looked more patient and polished at times than his Sam Schmidt Motorsports teammate.

Ready or Not?
(Courtesy IndyCar Media)

Assuming he goes to KV Racing (and nothing’s a done deal), Guerrieri will be matched with a team that showed they could be fast last year, but also struggled with unforced errors and mistakes at times. That sounds like a situation that matches Guerrieri’s perceived profile, which could be a warning flag. There’s no reason to expect him to be a James Hinchcliffe right off the bat, but more patience and fewer incidents will be a fine measure of just where he is in terms of development. He has the knack for looking smooth on track one moment, and then so very much like an impatient rookie the next.

So is he ready? Like so many questions we’ll finally get to have answered in IndyCar in 2012, I have to respond right now with “we’ll see”. I think he’s got potential, but “potential” sounds suspiciously like a dirty word when your driver’s “growing pains” involve lots of trashed carbon fiber, or last multiple years. I find myself wondering if another KV driver long associated with the aforementioned P word would step up his game in 2012, or if EJ Viso will keep giving us head-scratchers each race weekend. How would the chemistry between Tony Kanaan, Viso, and Guerrieri work out? The identity and performance of KV’s third driver could say a lot about whether or not Jimmy Vasser’s crew completes the fine improvement they displayed overall last year. If it’s Esteban Guerrieri, that leaves us a lot of questions to be answered when the flag drops at St. Pete.


  1. This is a pretty even evaluation, IMO. After watching most of the Lights races this year, I finished the year saying to myself "if Esteban stays in Lights instead of trying to go back to Europe or winds up out of dough and goes back to South America, he's gonna figure this Lights stuff out and sweep the championship, Hildebrand-style". However, a jump to the Big Cars? Too soon, man, too soon.

    Of course, this is coming from a dude who's just watching the races from his couch, not somebody who's ever done an engineer's debrief with him or had to run against him. Maybe he's one of those guys who can make the leap after one year. I guess, like you say, Zachary, we'll see.

  2. It's going to be interesting to find out. If he does sign, we might have a more ROY battle than originally anticipated.