Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has revealed that former full-time Verizon IndyCar Series driver Sebastian Saavedra will drive the No. 7 Honda at this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto rather than Mikhail Aleshin.
The surprise announcement came in the form of a team statement, in which the team offered no explanation and noted that neither itself nor Aleshin will be providing further comments at this time.
The weekend on the streets of Toronto will mark Saavedra’s 62nd competing in the premier North American open-wheel championship.
He’ll be paired with his former race engineer, Blair Perschbacher, recreating a duo that claimed multiple Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race victories before Saavedra stepped up to IndyCar.
One pole and one win in Indy Lights at Toronto for Saavedra while with Perschbacher preceded his six IndyCar starts at the temporary street circuit to date. The 27-year-old Colombian debuted at the event in IndyCar with Conquest Racing in 2011 and achieved a best finish at Toronto of 15th with Dragon Racing in Race 2 of the 2013 doubleheader.
Branding from AFS Racing and longtime supporter Gary Peterson will be added to the No. 7 Honda as Saavedra comes aboard this weekend.
“We welcome the opportunity to compete with Ric and Sam at a venue where [Sebastien] and I have had great success in the past,” Peterson said in the team statement.
Saavedra has started one other IndyCar race this year: the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 with Juncos Racing (pictured above), where he finished 15th in his first race since September 2016 driving for an all-new team.
Surprise Announcement Displaces Aleshin
Aleshin, a 30-year-old Moscow, Russia native, has participated in each of the 11 races completed thus far in 2017, collecting a best finish of sixth in Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit on Belle Isle.
Following his participation at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June with a Russian LMP2 team, Aleshin faced immigration issues and wasn’t allowed to return to the United States in time for Friday’s practice sessions at the recent KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America.
Though he did make it to Wisconsin in time to qualify on Saturday and participate in Sunday’s race on June 24–25, DTM competitor Robert Wickens was called up to turn laps in Aleshin’s car during the two practice sessions held on Friday.
Racking Up Crash Damage
Aleshin has dealt with no further airport trouble since trying to return from France, but he’s consistently found himself in trouble on the racetrack in 2017.
Spinning and crashing on his own at Turn 2 during Lap 57 of this past weekend’s Iowa Corn 300, resulting in a 21st-place finish, did nothing but bring Aleshin’s average finishing position of 13.1 before visiting Iowa Speedway down to 13.8.
Aleshin finished 15th at the messy Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, factoring himself into the millions of dollars of crash damage that made headlines.
Wickens, of Ontario, Canada, has no DTM obligations to fulfill this weekend but will not be returning to the No. 7 Honda this weekend to make his IndyCar debut at what would be his home race.
Aleshin will be on-site at Toronto for this weekend’s event supporting SPM but it’s unclear if he’ll make a return to the cockpit this year.