Marcus Ericsson

Twenty drivers tested the new NTT INDYCAR SERIES hybrid system Tuesday at the Milwaukee Mile, completing a combined 3,563 incident-free laps on the day.

“It’s a lot of fun,” AJ Foyt Racing driver Santino Ferrucci said. “Overall, it’s a great change for the series.”

The new power unit will make its race debut in the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by the 2025 Civic Hybrid on July 7 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Deployment of the hybrid assist is only available through a latching button similar to the existing Push to Pass system. On road and street courses, the hybrid assist can be used with Push to Pass, which combined is an additional 120-plus horsepower. That pushes the horsepower of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES machinery over 800 for the first time in two decades.

“You can feel it deploying,” Andretti Global driver Marcus Ericsson said. “It depends on when you deploy. If you deploy in the middle of the corner, you definitely are going to put yourself in some trouble or potential trouble. You need to be precise when you deploy and smart about it. The same when you regen (regenerate). That does things for the handling of the car when it regens into the corner or wherever you want to regen.”

Teams and drivers are free to use regeneration options as they see fit, either automatically by braking or throttle position or manual via selected steering wheel paddles or buttons.

During regeneration, acting on the clutch shaft, the Motor Generator Unit (MGU) developed by Chevrolet/Ilmor builds power to be stored in the Energy Storage System (ESS) developed by Honda.

The hybrid unit is a first-of-its-kind collaboration between the two engine manufacturers in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. The additional horsepower is deployed through the same motor generator on drivers’ demand.

Ericsson said the hybrid system on his No. 28 Delaware Life Honda is going to change the way the drivers attack a race weekend. When the hybrid assist button is deployed, additional horsepower is engaged. More horsepower will change the car’s handling, he said.

The other aspect is when using the hybrid assist, eventually the power is going to run out. A driver must regenerate the hybrid unit. When losing horsepower, the car will handle differently.

“I think the drivers that have a lot of brain capacity are going to be the ones that come out on top,” Ericsson said. “Because even here (Milwaukee) and on short ovals you have obviously your weight jacker up, front and rear roll bar to play with, and now we have the hybrid unit and different settings on that and deploy and regenerate. A lot of things going on behind the wheel, and to do all that with tire wear with cars side by side with you, it's going be tough. It’s going to be tricky.

“You have to be on top of your tools. The best drivers are the ones that really are on top of their tools, and the hybrid is going to make it even more important. It’s definitely a tool that I think from track to track, from team to team to manufacturer to manufacturer, you have different techniques on how to use it. That’s what I like about it, that it hopefully is going to be something that you can do different to your competitors.

“Some drivers like to jump in and just drive and don't think about anything, and I think that's not going to work very well in these cars with the hybrid.”

Graham Rahal drove the No. 15 Hendrickson Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Tuesday and felt the similarities to what Ericsson described.

“I feel like the power delivery of the deploying side is actually quite good,” Rahal said. “There were a couple of times today in those race runs when you were in light traffic, you'd hit it, you could definitely feel the rear. There's clearly more power going through the rear tires, so you've got to be careful. But those are all things we're going to have to balance over time. When do you use it? How much do you use it? There's a lot of thinking to do in a short period of time.

“I think this is going to be important. Also, you have your amount of deploy you're allowed per lap, right? Where do you utilize that? How much do you utilize it per straight? Do you use it once into the headwind? Twice, once in the front, once in the back? What is the net effect?

“There's a lot you can do.”

Josef Newgarden, the second-quickest driver of the day with a top speed of 160.759 mph in the No. 2 PPG Team Penske Chevrolet, said there will be a learning curve with the hybrid and its strategic use, which will vary by driver and situation. The driver who navigates that curve most quickly could have an edge, Newgarden said.

Ericsson said being busier behind the wheel could increase the likelihood of mistakes being made, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Drivers who grasp how to use this technology better than others will stand out.

“It’s going to be a bit more difficult, but that’s why we’re here,” Ericsson said. “We’re some of the best drivers in the world driving this car. If it would be easy, everyone could do it.”