There once was a time when Indy was considered not just a stepping stone to F1, but a viable alternative. Those were the days when proven grand prix drivers looking for a new challenge – drivers like like Nigel Mansell, Emerson Fittipaldi, Graham Hill and Mario Andretti – could take to America's fastest ovals and obtain glory on par with Europe's finest circuits. Those days may seem long behind us, but they could be coming back around.
The road to Indy's revival as a premier racing series is being paved with a number of developments. The reunion of the IRL and ChampCar series was one major stepping stone. The arrival of multiple engine suppliers this year is another. But what Indy really needs is big name talents instead of losing its stars to NASCAR. And it just might be getting what it needs, thanks in no small part to Lotus.
After bringing former F1 driver Takuma Sato to Indy, Lotus announced it had signed notable former grand prix pilots Jean Alesi and Sebastien Bourdais to IndyCar contracts as well. So who's next? Rubens Barrichello.
The elder statesman of the F1 grid, Barrichello was left without a ride when Williams showed him the door in favor of fellow Brazilian Bruno Senna. Now reports indicate that he is gearing up for a test drive with KV Racing, the team with which Lotus returned to American open-wheels a couple of years ago.
While Rubens has no oval-track experience and reportedly promised his wife he wouldn't try it, the 2012 schedule – having come a long way from the oval-dominated days of yore – includes only four speedways (those at Indianapolis, Texas, Iowa and Fontana, California), leaving Rubens with a real opportunity to contest the remaining dozen road courses and street circuits on the calendar.