Newly crowned IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden believes he has time on his side to make the switch to Formula One in the future.
The American driver won the IndyCar title in his first season with Roger Penske's famous team this year, claiming four race victories in the process. Newgarden's title has led to calls from both sides of the Atlantic that the Tennessee-born 26-year-old should be considered for an F1 drive.
F1 has been trying to crack the United States for a long time, but even though it now has an American team in Haas, a popular circuit at COTA and American owners in Liberty Media, many feel having a competitive driver from the States is still the key to making an impact. Alexander Rossi was the last American driver in F1, but he completed just five races at the end of 2015 before switching to IndyCar.
Though Newgarden made it clear that his immediate focus is on retaining his title and capturing a maiden Indy 500 crown in 2018, F1 is still very much on his radar.
"I've got to understand where I am at," Newgarden told ESPN. "I'm in the best situation I could ever possibly dream of in the American side.
"With IndyCar, with American racing, you can't beat Team Penske. Even on a global scale, they are arguably one of the greatest motorsport teams in all of history. You look at that and you say, 'Well, I'm in a phenomenal position.' The IndyCar series, to me, is a really great one now it's on the up, it's got great competition, but absolutely, Formula One, I'd love to try it.
"I'm a bit like Fernando [Alonso] in a way that he wants to try all different disciplines. He wants to be well-rounded, and I agree with that a lot. I'd love to try every form of motorsport, sports cars, NASCAR. I love IndyCar and want to continue doing that, but also I'd love to do Formula One.
"It was a dream of mine when I was younger to do multiple forms of open-wheel racing, IndyCar and Formula One. If it was something that I could dip my hand into, I would be all for it. If the right opportunity came about and we could make it happen, I'd want to try it."
Unlike Alonso's Indy 500 appearance, which was a one-off race in a season he spent primarily in F1, Newgarden would want a proper opportunity to prove himself if the right opportunity arose.
"I think you've got to look at it in terms of years. I'm still young enough where it's possible to go do that. If you hopefully make it to 40, 42 in motorsports ... when you're 26 there's still time to move around a bit right now. I would definitely be open to moving over to here and this side of the world for a little bit, but my end goal would probably be to come back to IndyCar if that happened.
"You never know how these things shake out. For me, I'm focused on IndyCar and working for Team Penske. That's my gig, and I'm very happy with it. But if something could be worked out in Formula One, I would absolutely look at it and try to make it happen."
It was then put to him that he should go and talk to Gene Haas, owner of the grid's only American team, to which he nodded, laughed and said: "Maybe you're right!"
Though F1's grid is more or less set for next year, the 2019 driver market is likely to be wide open, with several big-name drivers entering a contract year. As for Haas, a team that has so far resisted signing an American driver, it has Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen on deals that run until the end of next season.