Has an F1 driver won the Indy 500?

Only 13 F1 drivers have managed to win the Indy 500 so far.


Has an F1 driver won the Indy 500?

2018 Indy 500 (Credits: Beyond the Flag)

The Indy 500 is one of the most highly anticipated races in the world. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is seen as the symbol of oval racing. The race is part of Motorsport’s unofficial Triple Crown that also includes the Monaco GP and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The ‘Brickyard’ is a track known for testing the cars to their limits during this special race.

Often labeled as ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’ every racing driver has dreamt of winning the Indy 500. The race used to be a part of the F1 World Drivers’ Championship till 1960. Although currently, it is not included in the current Premier open wheel racing schedule. It is part of the IndyCar Championship. Yet that has not stopped F1 drivers from having a go at this highly anticipated and rather challenging endeavor.

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However, winning the Indy 500 is not easy. Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso gave a shot at adding another part of the Triple Crown through the 500 twice, once in 2017 and later in 2019. Unfortunately, the Spanish driver was forced to retire from the lead on his first attempt and later failed to even qualify for the race two years later. Let’s delve in to find out the F1 drivers who won ‘The Greatest Spectacle of Racing.’

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List of F1 drivers that won the Indy 500

1. Rodger Ward – 1959, 1962

Since the Indy 500 was part of the F1 championship for a decade, this allowed Indycar drivers to make their way up the F1 standings. Rodger Ward competed in 12 F1 race starts, 10 of which came from the 500. Ward managed to win the race at the Brickyard on two occasions, in 1959 and 1962. However, the American’s career in F1 was rather short-lived as he only entered two US GPs, once in 1959 and then in 1963. He retired from both races.

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2. Jim Clark – 1965

Considered one of the greatest drivers of all time, Jim Clark was a two-time F1 world champion. The British driver crossed the pond to race in the Indy 500 between 1963 and 1967 with Lotus-Ford. Clark finished second on his first attempt at conquering the Brickyard and took Pole position a year later. However, it was only in 1965 that Jim could come out on top at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Jim Clark and his team, image via The Jim Clark Trust
Jim Clark and his team, image via The Jim Clark Trust

Clark led 190 out of the total 200 laps of the race and won dominantly. This was the second time a Briton had won the 500 while being the first occasion when a rear-engined car won this spectacle. Jim Clark is remembered as a magnificent driver in both F1 and Indycar due to his stellar performances.

3. Graham Hill – 1966

Hill is the only driver to have achieved the mammoth task of winning the Triple Crown of Motorsport. The Briton won the Monaco GP five times between 1963 and 1969 while clinching the win at Le Mans in 1972. Graham won the Indy 500 on his first attempt, albeit the race was marked by controversy.

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Graham Hill and his crew, image via IMS Museum
Graham Hill and his crew, image via IMS Museum

Jim Clark came home in P2 at this race, but Lotus’ members believed Jim had won after a lap was not credited to the Briton as he spun twice. Yet no official dispute was raised by any party, and as such, Graham kept his win. Mr. Monaco would try twice to win again at the Brickyard but fail on both attempts.

4. Mario Andretti – 1969

The 83-year-old holds the record for the second-highest Indy 500 starts with 29. The Italian-American won the 1978 F1 title, but his win at the Brickyard came almost a decade prior. Mario Andretti led over half the race despite pushing the tires to the limit. Mario managed to win with a massive lead of over two minutes in front of fellow F1 driver Dan Gurney.

Mario Andretti, image via Pinterest
Mario Andretti, image via Pinterest

5. Mark Donohue – 1972

Mark Donohue had a short career in F1, with only 14 race starts, as he passed away after a tragic accident at the 1975 Austrian GP. Yet Donohue had showcased his talent as he clinched a podium in those 14 races. Mark clinched the first Indy 500 win for McLaren as he drove a Penske-run M16. The American won the race by a staggering lead of 3 minutes.

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6. Danny Sullivan – 1985

Danny had an underwhelming time in his one season in F1, with only a single points finish at Monaco. However, Sullivan had a far more successful stint in America as he won the 1988 IndyCar championship. The American driver won 1985 Indy 500 after doing a complete 360 and narrowly avoiding the wall, then later taking the lead at lap 140 and crossing the chequered flag in P1.

7. Emerson Fittipaldi – 1989, 1993

The Brazilian is considered one of the best drivers in F1 history. Emerson Fittipaldi was the youngest F1 world champion when he won the title in 1972. The 76-year-old moved to IndyCar in 1989 and won the championship. The Brazilian battled wheel-to-wheel with Al Unser Jr to win the Indy500 that year. Emerson won the race four years later ahead of another F1 champion Nigel Mansell. Fittipaldi decided to break the norm and celebrate the victory with orange juice instead of milk.

Emerson Fittipaldi, image via Panales Solares
Emerson Fittipaldi, image via Panales Solares

8. Jacques Villeneuve – 1995

Villeneuve won the 1995 Indy 500 amidst controversy. The 1997 F1 champion passed the pace car twice as he was unaware that he was leading the race. Subsequently, the Canadian driver was given a two-lap penalty. Jacques Villeneuve came home to win the race after Scott Goodyear was removed from the results for not serving a stop-and-go penalty. Villeneuve became the only Canadian to win the Indy 500 and later won the CART title.

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9. Eddie Cheever -1998

Cheever might not have made the mark in F1 with only nine podiums in 11 seasons. But the American did stand out when it came to racing in his home country. The 65-year-old won several races in the Indy Racing League. Notably, Eddie won the 1998 Indy 500 after winning the Indy 200 a year prior. Certainly, Eddie Cheever got to prove his talent in The Land of the Free.

Jacques Villeneuve, image via Poleposition.ca
Jacques Villeneuve, image via Poleposition.ca

10. Juan Pablo Montoya – 2000, 2015

Montoya succeeded in F1 and IndyCar, although he failed to win a title in the former. The Columbian driver won 2000 Indy 500 after dominating the race as he led 167 out of the 200 races. After leaving F1 and a long stint in NASCAR, Juan Pablo Montoya got a call-up to race in IndyCar in 2013. Two years later, Juan won The Greatest Spectacle of Racing just a tenth ahead of teammate Will Power. This is the record for the longest gap between two wins at the Brickyard.

Juan Pablo Montoya 2015 Indy 500, image via Npr.org
Juan Pablo Montoya 2015 Indy 500, image via Npr.org

11. Alexander Rossi – 2016

Rossi made his highly-anticipated F1 debut in 2015 but was forced to switch to IndyCar after Manor F1 decided not to sign the American driver. The 31-year-old became the 10th rookie in history to win the Indy 500 on his first attempt. Alexander’s team took a gamble on strategy, but he managed to win the race by a gap of 4.4 seconds, showing F1 the talent it lost.

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Alexander Rossi, image via Formularapida.net
Alexander Rossi, image via Formularapida.net

12. Takuma Sato – 2017, 2020

Sato was forced to spend his F1 career with below-par machinery. The Japanese driver soon pursued a career in IndyCar in 2010. In 2017 massive attention was paid to the Indy 500 as Fernando Alonso attempted to win the race. However, it was Takuma Sato who crossed the chequered flag in P1, a race that had 15 different leaders. Three years later, Takuma proved his mettle once again at the Brickyard.

13. Marcus Ericsson – 2022

Marcus Ericsson spent five seasons in the back of the F1 grid with stints at Caterham and Sauber. The Swedish driver was ousted by Sauber at the end of 2018. Thankfully, Ericsson succeeded more in IndyCar since he switched to the series in 2019. The 32-year-old came home with a surprise victory at the Brickyard in 2022 and became the second Swedish driver to win the Indy 500.

Marcus Ericsson
Marcus Ericsson

Thus, this rounds up all the F1 drivers who have successfully conquered The Greatest Spectacle of Racing. Several drivers have attempted to win the Indy 500 over the decades, including Fernando Alonso and Nigel Mansell. Yet only these 13 drivers could cross the chequered flag in P1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

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