Thursday, Oct 26 05:24pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

Chip Ganassi’s latest signing is good news for Brendon Hartley

Verizon IndyCar Series stalwarts Chip Ganassi Racing just put an end to one of the best rumours in the paddock and Kiwis should be stoked.

After Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball and Tony Kanaan all left the team, speculation surrounding a replacement quickly surfaced.

Homegrown Formula 1 star Brendon Hartley was a hot tip by RACER.com to join the championship winning team alongside his fellow countryman Scott Dixon.

Instead, they’ve signed 2017 IndyCar Series rookie Ed Jones.

United Arabs Emirates born 22-year-old Jones has just completed 17 races with Dale Coyne Racing. In 2016 he won the Indy Lights Series for Carlin after finishing third a year earlier in his first season.

"We’ve been following Ed’s career for quite some time now and are pleased we are able to add him to strengthen our Indy car lineup,” Ganassi said.

“He has a year of IndyCar racing under his belt now and is the type of young talent that we were looking for. We can’t wait to get him on the race track.”

Jones scored a top-10 on his St. Petersburg IndyCar Series debut. But his stand out performance in this year’s Indianapolis 500 with a third place finish put him to the fore as a name to take notice of. He was duly crowned Rookie of the Year following a string of consistent performances.

So why should we care?

Because it means Brendon Hartley is very unlikely to contest the IndyCar Series next year as Ganassi move back to a two-car operation.

That there might have just secured Hartley’s future in Formula 1.

Before news of Hartley’s Formula 1 drive surfaced, he was well on his way to securing a drive alongside Dixon at Ganassi. Only a month after the rumour surfaced, velocitynews.co.nz learned the handshake was firm and the deal was done.

But with that deal now limp at best, there’s a good chance Hartley might be in the box seat for a 2018 drive with Scuderia Toro Rosso.

This week the Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko confirmed they’d dropped longtime Red Bull junior development driver Daniil Kvyat. Several crashes and misdemeanours earned him the name ‘The Torpedo’.

Today Red Bull launched the missile and Kvyat’s Formula 1 dream exploded.

That put Hartley and Frenchman Pierre Gasly in the box seat. After winning the 2016 GP2 Series; Gasly was pushed into Japan’s SUPER FORMULA while Kvyat and Carlos Sainz occupied the two STR12’s.

An engine deal between Renault, Honda and Red Bull meant Sainz would move to Renault on a one-year loan contract from Red Bull. But that got fast tracked ahead of the United States Grand Prix—chaos ensues, Red Bull are left wondering ‘who fills the seat?’

With Gasly in Japan looking to win the SUPER FORMULA title on debut and a spare seat available—in comes Hartley.

13th on debut was the marker he needed to hit and he got it. Red Bull announced Hartley and Gasly would compete at the Mexico Grand Prix. Now the latest report suggests Kvyat is a goner and Hartley is in the running to take that position.

With Ganassi confirming Jones for the second seat alongside Dixon, Hartley’s chances of returning in 2018 are looking good.

Silly season is well underway and it just got a little more interesting.

Photo: Red Bull