Newly crowned Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden should be on the radar for Formula 1 teams seeking new driver talent, according to former GP2 and GP3 racer Conor Daly.
Newgarden clinched the 2017 title on Sunday after coming second in the season finale at Sonoma Raceway. The race was won by his Penske team mate Simon Pagenaud.
The 26-year-old from Tennessee spent his early years competing in Europe. He raced in Formula Ford, Formula Palmer Audi and GP3. He returned to the US in 2011 to win the Indy Lights title.
After five seasons in single car teams in IndyCar, Newgarden was finally given a real shot at the title this year when he was signed by Penske.
"The progression is what's impressive about Josef," Daly told RACER magazine. "Drivers are always learning
"He's only been with Penske one year and look what he's done already. He's going to be very difficult to beat here in the future. If he doesn't get taken by a Formula 1 team!"
Newgarden won four races this year, and was second on fourth more occasions. He ended the season 13 points ahead of Pagenaud. Four-time series champion Scott Dixon was third in the final standings.
"Right now, the pace Josef has been on with his steady development, he should be receiving calls from Formula 1 teams." Daly himself competed with AJ Foyt Racing in this year's championship.
That said, Daly wasn't sure that Newgarden would have survived F1's fast-paced 'hot housing' approach to driver development.
"It's hard to accept that a talent like Josef, that we've seen for many years, would have been kicked out of the Red Bull system if he had gone to Formula 1," Daly said.
"Their deal would be, '23rd as a rookie, 14th in Year 2, let's get rid of him.' You aren't given a lot of time to grow, which he's had now in IndyCar."