Matthew Brabham will compete in rounds five and six, the GP of Indy and Indianapolis 500, next year for PIRTEK Team Murray. The 21 year-old American will get his first call up to the big leagues in 2016 after previously competing in IndyLights and Formula E (for two races). His team is working in conjunction with KV Racing to field their car for the races. Brabham will be just the third 3rd-generation driver to compete in the 500, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather (a 3-time Formula One World Champion). Here’s a look at what should be expected from him.
Brabham didn’t race a full season in any series this year, competing in three IndyLights races for Andretti Autosport and two Formula E races for the same owner. In the 13 car Lights field, Brabham failed to crack the top five once, finishing 11th twice and seventh once. Not much to write home about. He performed little better in Formula E, finishing 13th and 17th.
Let’s go back a year to 2014, where Brabham completed a full, 14 race season in IndyLights (all races had between 8 and 12 cars in them). Brabham won the first Indianapolis GP race and took fourth in the second, meaning he’ll be familiar with the track when he heads there for his first IndyCar race in May. In the Freedom 100 (the Indianapolis 500 equivalent for IndyLights) he started third and finished runner up to current IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves in the closest finish ever — the margin of victory was .005 seconds. Brabham will get a chance to go head-to-head against Chaves once again this year.
His complete season stats looked like this: 1 win, 4 podiums, average start of 3.9, average finish of 5.2, 4th place in the championship. Overall, not a bad season, but it’s also IndyLights. He’s not competing against the best drivers in the world, and that explains why he’s only getting a ride for two races in 2016. He’s a good IndyLights driver, not a great one.
His third-generation story no doubt played the biggest role in getting him the ride. He couldn’t secure a full-ride anywhere last season and probably wouldn’t have been able to secure his two race deal this year without it. Jack Harvey and Ed Jones would have both been better choices for a team looking to truly compete for a good race result. I’m not trying to disregard him; being a third-generation Indy 500 driver is amazing and I’m sure he’ll be able to beat some guys when he gets in the car — if the Chevrolet advantage still exists. But based on the numbers, I just don’t see Brabham being much of a competitor in IndyCar next season.