Hewlett Packard's primary sponsorship of the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton Racing Honda Indy car will come to a conclusion at the end the season, according to SHM co-owner Davey Hamilton.
The former Indy car driver made a successful transition from the cockpit to his new role as a team principal, bringing HP with him to Sam Schmidt's team. Pagenaud currently sits third in the championship with the HP-sponsored entry, but will bid farewell to the white and blue livery after tomorrow night's season finale.
“HP's leaving, but it's not all bad. They're a good friend; they've been very good to me and the team, and we have other things in the pipeline for Simon's car next year,” said Hamilton in a RACER exclusive. “They're changing their sponsorship strategies across the board, not just in IndyCar, so I can honestly say this isn't as a reflection on the series or our team; they're stepping back in many areas, so this wasn't completely unforeseen.”
Prior to partnering with Schmidt, Hamilton and HP played a vital role at Dragon Racing, and the HP funding was akin to a lifeline in 2012, allowing Pagenaud to make the grid and earn Rookie of the Year honors. Losing HP is a significant blow to the No. 77 program, but Hamilton is confident a replacement will be found and expects no changes to their 2014 plans.
“I'm not in panic mode,” he said. “The team's going on. Simon Pagenaud will be back next year, we intend to do two cars, and thanks to our relationship with HP, they could be back in the future. And you won't see them with another team; it's just an honest change in corporate sponsorship strategies.”
Ric Peterson took an ownership stake in the Schmidt team for 2013, with the No. 55 Honda driven by rookie Tristan Vautier carrying the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports name on its entry list. The departure by HP will not impact the SPM program, but the reigning Firestone Indy Lights series champion, who has had a variety of sponsors piece a full season of funding together, could also be looking for funding to continue.
“It's still up in the air,” said Peterson of Vautier returning next season. “We just found out about HP, and went from having to find funding for one car to now needing to find it for two. We have some lines on things, and we'll be back, no question about that. It's just tough news, but we'll be working over the winter to get both cars funded.”
The unfortunate news of HP's exit could be tempered by a few driver announcements that could come over the next 24 hours.
As RACER revealed on Thursday, James Hinchcliffe is set to return to Andretti Autosport, Honda should be confirmed as Andretti's new engine provider, Indy 500 runner-up Carlos Munoz could also be confirmed with Andretti for 2014, and news of an extension for Justin Wilson at Dale Coyne Racing is said to be imminent.