Arrow McLaren SP’s Sam Schmidt says dropping James Hinchcliffe from the team’s IndyCar line-up in favour of Oliver Askew and Patricio O’Ward for 2020 was a “gut-wrenching” decision.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsport has been renamed Arrow McLaren SP ahead of next season, with the addition of the famous Formula 1 team’s backing and a switch from Honda power to Chevrolet.
On Wednesday, the squad announced Askew and O’Ward as its 2020 drivers, leaving no room for long-term Honda affiliate Hinchcliffe in its line-up.
“Ric [Peterson, co-owner] and I would say that this is one of the toughest decisions we have had to make since we have been team owners, because I personally have known James, [father] Jeremy, [mother] Arlene and his brother Chris for 11 years and love him,” said Schmidt.
“And I really appreciate what he’s done for the team – [a] tremendous investor in the sport and our brand and everything else.
“So it’s a gut-wrenching decision, but we were faced with an opportunity to pick up these two young guns coming out of Indy Lights that already have 13, 14, 15 years worth of experience and it was just an opportunity that we couldn’t pass up.
“So everything’s amicable. I have all the faith in the world that James is going to wind up in a full-time ride and Ric and I are fully supportive of that.
“It’s just a competitive environment and for our partners – it was a group decision – we got an opportunity in front of us. We [have] got to take it, we want to go win races.”
When asked to comment on his dismissal by Autosport, Hinchcliffe said he is “not ready yet”.
The Canadian driver joined Schmidt Peterson Racing for his fifth IndyCar season in 2015 and has been with the team since then.
He’s taken three wins with the team, and remains under contract with the team for 2020. Regarding the possibility of Hinchcliffe sitting out next year while still taking a wage from Arrow McLaren SP, Schmidt said: “What’s to stop him is the race driver within him.
“You want to drive, you want to prove, you want to win the Indy 500 – you’ve still got boxes to check.
“And so I have no doubt that he and his team are burning up the phone lines and talking with everybody out there, in any series but primarily IndyCar.
“He’s still young, he still wants to win races, so I think that’s what’s to stop him from doing it.
“Certainly, it’s his option, but I don’t think you’ll see him do that.”
IndyCar team owners Bobby Rahal and Dale Coyne are rumoured to be early suitors for Hinchcliffe’s signature.
His 2019 team-mate Marcus Eriksson has already moved on and will drive a third entry at Chip Ganassi Racing alongside Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist.