Old Friends Meet New Beginnings: Hinchcliffe and Wickens Score Big on Chemistry for Schmidt Peterson

For the first time in over a decade, the Verizon IndyCar Series will feature an all-Canadian team lineup. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports will feature long-time friends Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe and Guelph’s Robert Wickens in their two-car operation for 2018. On Thursday at Goodwood Kartways, the two friends came together to seal the deal on IndyCar’s new Team Canada.

“This is where not only our careers started, but kind of the story of us as friends started,” said Hinchcliffe. “Getting to come back here and talk about two kids from Ontario that grew up dreaming of making it in the big times announcing that not only will we be racing in the same series but on the same team, it’s a dream come true.”

Hinchcliffe and Wickens honed their craft on Goodwood and tracks like it around Ontario in their youth, forming a bond that sees them coming together as teammates at the pinnacle of American open-wheel racing. In doing so, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports - co-owned by Canadian Ric Peterson - are bringing Canadian racing talent back to the forefront of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Wickens boasts one of the strongest resumes in motorsport, having won in every series he’s competed in. With a strong background in open-wheel racing including victories in Champ Car Atlantic, GP3, and a title in Formula Renault 3.5, Wickens has spent the past six seasons in Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters.

Having raced in Germany for so long, the return to racing in Canada has been met with a whirlwind of media attention. However, for the experienced IndyCar rookie, the welcome has been warm.

“It’s a lot easier to do an interview in English than it is in German, I’ll say that right now,” Wickens laughs. “Canada is just so supportive. Canadian people are amazing. Whenever they have any player or any athlete at any level, it doesn’t matter what it is, they get behind you so well.”

2018 may be the most opportune time for Wickens to join IndyCar. The complete overhaul of the series’ aero package and approach to racing sees the Canadian enter a relatively level playing field.

“I see it as a big advantage with the new aero package coming in,” he says. IndyCar experience will always be IndyCar experience, and I’m not ruling that out at all, but just that every driver will have to adapt in some way I think helps me.”

Old friend and new teammate Hinchcliffe agrees.

“This is the best year for [Wickens] to be coming into the series,” he says. “Not only is it new for everyone, they’ve taken a bunch of downforce away from the cars which actually brings it much closer to the level of what he’s been driving the last couple seasons… It’s one of those things, man. I mean, the timing’s just right.”

With the two starting their careers and friendships in childhood, the coming together in the IndyCar series will bring a new team dynamic in which their familiarity with one another will translate into their racing strategy.

“A big part of team success is chemistry,” Wickens explains. “I think that with the friendship that James and I already have, we’ve already checked that box. We trust each other, we work well together, we’ve done it in the past. The biggest thing is honestly the chemistry that we already have.”

Not only do the drivers hope that this dynamic will benefit them on the track, but motorsport in Canada as a whole.

“At the end of the day, what’s good for IndyCar racing and what’s good for IndyCar racing in Canada is good for me,” Hinchcliffe says.

Of course, key to that, is having the pair racing strong in the homeland at the 2018 Honda Indy Toronto.

“Racing in Toronto for the first time since 2007 is going to be a really special moment for me,” Wickens says. “I’m just going to take it all in and see how it goes.”