IndyCar Finale Firestone Grand Prix

26TH OCTOBER 2020 BY ADAM WHEELER

Dixon crowned six-time champion to outshine Newgarden victory

Josef Newgarden’s last gasp attempt to be crowned IndyCar champion could only be accomplished with a win. Anything short of victory on the streets of St Petersburg would leave almost no path to deny Scott Dixon his sixth world championship.

Image courtesy of IndyCar

Newgarden, who started in eight, carved his way through the grid culminating with a spectacular two-car pass to take the lead and indeed the win. However, this wasn’t enough as Dixon was able to follow through from eleventh to finish in third place and thus the title.

“Six is good. Seven sounds better, that’s the goal,” Dixon said.

Scott Dixon’s sixth championship title takes him into IndyCar folklore, residing amongst the very best in history. He now is only one championship off the most successful IndyCar champion of all-time, A.J Foyt (7).

With victory at St Petersburg Newgarden achieved his series-best fourth win of the season. The Tennessee born two-time defending champion now loses his title but was remarkably magnanimous in defeat.

Newgarden went to victory lane to congratulate his rival.

“We weren’t good enough,”Newgarden said. “We’ll reset, we’ll hit them harder next year and I promise you, we will be in the fight.”

It is indeed incredible that it was nearly seven months ago that the 2020 season was abruptly abandoned. St Petersburg was originally scheduled to take place in March but was postponed to the last race of the season. A sold-out crowd of 20,000 spectators was the largest crowd of the whole season, which lost races in seven cities, had just one street course event with Sunday’s finale, and still managed to complete a 14-race year.

It was a finale to remember which was plagued with error-prone ending mistakes which saw three different Andretti race leaders crash out and Newgarden there to capitalise.

The start of the race was dominated by Alexander Rossi who took the lead of the race from pole sitter Will Power with an apparent down-shift issue. Power who was in a tight race for third in the final standings, then made an uncharacteristic mistake crashing into the barrier and promptly retiring from the race thereafter. The Australian threw his gloves in anger and admitted to driver error.

“I just lost it. Had a moment,”he said. “I was definitely frustrated there, making a mistake and hitting the wall. It’s my bad. It put us out of the race and that’s a bad situation.”

What followed were three cautions over 10 laps, the third on the restart of lap 47 brought out by Australian Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin who spun on his debut. The debutant collected into Rinus VeeKay, who clinched the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title on the same day his contract was renewed for a second season with Ed Carpenter Racing.

Despite the crash and ultimately finishing in 22nd, McLaughlin hailed his experience in IndyCar as an exciting one:

“Awesome. Far out. The best day of my life, besides my wedding,”

After the first round of pit stops, it seemed Alexander Rossi was in control of the race followed by his two Andretti teammates Colton Herta and James Hinchliffe. However, Rossi went into a spin on lap 70 collecting both the 

Rossi had been determined to extend a streak of at least one win a season that dates to 2006 when was Skip Barber’s youngest champion at 14-year-old.

His long and frustrating season ended with a 21st-place finish for the Andretti Autosport driver.

“Just lost it. It sucks, this is the first time I’ve crashed while leading,” Rossi said.

Chaos continued when Marco Andretti, who had magnificently fought his way from near the back to seventh, spun while racing for the final spot in IndyCar’s bonus programme which would have gifted an extra $1 billion to the Andretti team.

Moreover, there was a spin for Andretti’s James Hinchliffe who had been running in the top three for most of the race.

In a bizarre turn of events, the pace car which had been used for an unusually high number of caution laps reported it was on low fuel. Quickly after that, Andretti’s Colton Herta, who had inherited the lead from both Rossi and Hinchliffe spun making it a day to forget for the Andretti Autosport team.

Newgarden took control soon after, but soon had the McLaren SP driver of Pato O’Ward on his tail. Unfortunately, the Mexican could not gain on the American who stretched his lead to nearly 5 seconds by the chequered flag. O’Ward eventually settled for second.

All the earlier attrition helped Dixon slip through the field to third. There was nothing Newgarden could do, even on a day he did everything he had to, to deny Dixon a sixth championship.

Dixon, a 40-year-old considered the best of his generation, ranks third on IndyCar’s all-time wins list behind A.J. Foyt. His first title was in 2003, his first season with Chip Ganassi Racing, and his latest championship comes as the team has welcomed NASCAR’s seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson to the organization.

Colton Herta was able to finish the season in third in front of Pato O’Ward, who in his first full IndyCar season, finished fourth in the standings.

Race Classification

1. Josef Newgarden
2. Pato O’Ward
3. Scott Dixon
4. Sebastien Bourdais
5. Ryan Hunter-Reay
6. Simon Pagenaud
7. Marcus Ericsson
8. Charlie Kimball
9. Graham Rahal
10. Takuma Sato
11. Colton Herta
12. Max Chilton
13. Alex Palou
14. James Hinchcliffe
15. Rinus VeeKay
16. Oliver Askew
17. Conor Daly
18. Felix Rosenqvist
19. Jack Harvey
20. Marco Andretti
21. Alexander Rossi
22. Scott McLaughlin
23. Santino Ferrucci
24. Will Power

IndyCar Firestone GP Qualifying: Will Power takes pole after timing chaos.

image courtesy of IndyCar

Will Power took his ninth pole position on the streets of St Petersburg in the final qualifying of the season. Today’s achievement takes him to 62 career poles, now five behind Mario Andretti’s all-time record of 67.

A hectic session ensued in which multiple drivers had their times deleted due to various infringements, including Chip Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist who was relegated to 22nd for blocking Alex Palou. This caused a massive delay to the ‘Fast 12’ while IndyCar figured out the official classification.

Four Honda drivers, associated with Andretti finished inside the top five. Andretti Autosports’ Alexander Rossi lines up alongside Will Power in second place while Andretti Harding Steinbrenner driver Colton Herta continues his brilliant run of form starting in third.

Andretti Autosports’ James Hinchliffe will start in fourth in front of Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey in fifth who had one of their best qualifying performances of the season.

Of the six who made it through to the final Firestone Fast Six, Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward was the slowest.

A.J. Foyt Enterprises’ Sebastien Bourdais qualified in seventh place ahead of only realistic championship contender remaining, Penske’s Josef Newgarden in eighth. The two-time champion must win the race tomorrow to stand any chance of snatching the championship from Scott Dixon.

Originally qualifying in ninth place, he was bumped up to eighth after teammate Simon Pagenaud was dropped from eighth to 12th due to a penalty.

image courtesy of IndyCar

Rookies Rinus VeeKay of Ed Carpenter Racing and Oliver Askew of Arrow McLaren SP are set to round out the top ten in ninth and tenth place respectively. VeeKay is certain to win the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title by starting the race tomorrow.

Chip Ganassi’s Scott Dixon starts in eleventh for tomorrow’s race and is assured his sixth championship title if he finishes in the same position. If Dixon finishes the race in eleventh, Newgarden can not mathematically win the title even if he wins the race.

image courtesy of IndyCar

IndyCar also welcomed Australian Supercar Champion Scott McLaughlin for his debut with team Penske. However, the Kiwi had some trouble getting used to the car and missed out on advancing to the second stage of qualifying, making contact with a wall in the process.

Here is the full starting lineup for the 2020 Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the streets of St. Petersburg, with all penalties factored in.

Starting Lineup
1st – Will Power
2nd – Alexander Rossi
3rd – Colton Herta
4th – James Hinchcliffe
5th – Jack Harvey
6th – Pato O’Ward
7th – Sebastien Bourdais
8th – Josef Newgarden
9th – Rinus VeeKay
10th – Oliver Askew
11th – Scott Dixon
12th – Simon Pagenaud
13th – Takuma Sato
14th – Conor Daly
15th – Marcus Ericsson
16th – Alex Palou
17th – Graham Rahal
18th – Santino Ferrucci
19th – Ryan Hunter-Reay
20th – Charlie Kimball
21st – Scott McLaughlin
22nd – Felix Rosenqvist
23rd – Marco Andretti
24th – Max Chilton

Who could be Haas 2021 drivers?

image courtesy of Haas F1 Team

In the lead up to this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix, it was announced that both Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen would not be retained by the American outfit for 2021, which makes it Haas’ biggest shake-up since it first appeared on the F1 grid back in 2016. Grosjean has been with the team from the start, and Magnussen joined him for 2017. Aside from Mercedes with Hamilton and Bottas, Haas have been the only team with a consistent line-up for many years so this news is hugely telling as far as the future for the team.

There have been some indications as to who could end up at Haas, some more likely than others. So let’s run through some possible candidates.

Experienced sideliners

First up we have to immediately mention the likes of Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez, both drivers are very well known quantities of the F1 paddock that are in danger of missing out.

Hülkenberg lost his Renault seat to Esteban Ocon and failed to secure a full-time drive for 2020, however has performed incredibly in his appearances with Racing Point when both drivers fell ill. One of those being Pérez, who has been let go from the team in favour of Sebastian Vettel when it is rebranded as Aston Martin.

Both drivers are of really high quality and shouldn’t have to beg for drives. But even Pérez who brings a lot of money from his native Mexico is struggling to find a seat at all, and may even end up at Williams alongside Nicholas Latifi and kicking out the also very highly rated George Russell.

But even being a great and proven driver isn’t enough these days, there needs to be more. For example..

Ferrari juniors

At the last Grand Prix, Ferrari academy drivers Mick Schumacher and Callum Ilott (who are both first and second in the FIA Formula 2 championship) were due to make FP1 appearances. Schumacher was due to drive with Alfa Romeo and Ilott was with Haas, however the foggy October sky around northern Germany put pay to that plan and instead they’ll be making their FP1 debut at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Despite being considered a Ferrari ‘B-Team’, Haas have never done what Alfa Romeo have done and run one of Ferrari’s academy drivers in one of their seats. They’ve had the likes of current Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi do FP1 runs for them, but with the plethora of young talent in Ferrari’s camp, this could very well change for next year.

Not only do you have Schumacher and Ilott, but also last year’s FIA F3 champion Robert Shwartzman who comes with strong backing, however he seems less likely and a second season in F2 wouldn’t do any harm.

With the financial strains put on many teams due to the pandemic, it would make sense for the team to take on a Ferrari junior in exchange for getting their Ferrari power units cheaper. However speaking of financial incentive, that leads me on to the name that is floating around like a stubborn rubber dinghy.

Another kid with a rich dad

No list of possible drivers for smaller F1 teams would be complete without at least one rich kid who has more money than talent. The one in question here is Nikita Mazepin, son of $7.1 billion net-worth Dmitry Mazepin, who won’t stop trying to buy his son an F1 team. His name has been mentioned in conversations for buying out the likes of Force India, Renault, Williams and now Haas.

Mazepin has had a pretty underwhelming career, although he is fighting for victories in his second season of F2 and finished runner-up to the late Anthoine Hubert in the 2018 GP3 season. He was also runner-up in the FIA World Karting Championship in 2014 to current McLaren F1 driver Lando Norris, so I must give him credit where it’s due.

However like current Williams driver Nicholas Latifi, it’s obvious that his father’s money would be more of a reason than his ability as to why Haas would hire him. In this day and age, it’s a necessary evil if it means Haas can keep afloat and there are certainly many drivers who have much less ability they could have picked.

With that being said though, Mazepin is up there with the likes of Dan Ticktum and Santino Ferrucci in terms of polarising and distasteful character. He once punched Callum Ilott and only got a one race ban for it after claiming the Brit held him up in practice at the Hungaroring for an F3 race. He’s also come under fire for threatening to out a current F1 driver as gay, which when you consider the possible implications due to F1’s reliance on money from very homophobic countries, just makes me despise this Russian.

One thing is for sure though should this happen, the Drive To Survive episodes that we will inevitably see with a bad tempered team boss and spoilt son of a Russian oligarch, they’ll be entertaining to watch.

So who could it be?

Immediately, Mazepin seems all but certain, as unfortunate as it is. The extra injection of cash could be imperative for Haas as this could very well serve as a rebuilding phase for the team. Puzzlingly though, the extra money from Sergio Pérez’s backers may not be accepted, which considering a combination of an inexperienced driver like Mazepin with a seasoned veteran and both bringing in money sounds very ideal.

At the moment, it’s all rather up in the air. Haas may end up going with a Ferrari junior on one side of the garage and Mazepin on the other, which could end up backfiring since both drivers are hugely inexperienced and we remember how Williams struggled in 2018 with the money coming from both Lance Stroll’s and Sergey Sirotkin’s backers but both being very inexperienced.

If I was a betting man, that’s who I’d go for right now, Mazepin and a Ferrari academy driver.

But let’s take a moment to acknowledge their current drivers. Romain Grosjean is an anomaly, having had ounces of pace but lacked that refinement to keep him from keeping it on the straight and narrow but over time instead of ironing out those rough edges, he’s lost that spark and arguably shouldn’t have been picked over Nico Hülkenberg for 2020.

As for Kevin Magnussen, from scoring a podium on his debut to becoming the F1 bad boy and driving way too aggressively on occasion, and like Grosjean did show plenty of promise. However that whittled out and now I would be very surprised if either of them managed to find a drive in F1 for next season.

What’s next for them? Well Grosjean has expressed interest in spearheading Peugeot’s Le Mans Hypercar program as well as flirting with the idea of both Formula E and DTM, whilst Magnussen could be linked with a move to IndyCar although I would hope if he does, his defense style is quickly dealt with on ovals..

IndyCar Finale: St Petersburg Preview

image courtesy of IndyCar

After seven months we have finally reached the culmination of a full season of IndyCar racing. We head into the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg, after COVID-19 risked the suspension of the series in its entirety, with an enthralling championship decider, and some wonderful races along the way.

With the cooperation of the Florida city’s governing leaders, they have fortunately been able to construct the airport / street layout in time for this weekend’s fall event. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon leads Penske’s Josef Newgarden as the two battle for the NTT IndyCar Series crown in a year dominated by postponements, cancellations, and rescheduling, but will finish with 14 races instead of the intended 17. Dixon has never won here but has been a runner-up four times while Newgarden had one “top-of-the podium” St. Pete finish a year ago.

This weekend’s running of the Firestone Grand Prix is the 17th event at St Petersburg since 2003, will run for 100 laps/180 miles; ten laps shorter than in 2019 when Josef Newgarden won there for the first time. Team Penske will be confident having won here nine times while Will Power and Sebastien Bourdais have each won twice among the active series drivers. Will Power also has an incredible eight pole positions to his name so don’t overlook the Australian this weekend.

 

LAST TIME OUT

In March 2019, Josef Newgarden took his first St Petersburg win, kickstarting his championship winning campaign. Power took the start from pole position, surging to an early lead until the first round of pit stops. Opting for an alternative strategy, Newgarden waited five extra laps before stopping, building an extensive lead out front before changing to the softer tyre. The margin he built on his competitors meant he was able to win by 2.899 seconds over Scott Dixon who has never won there despite being a five-time series champion

 

DRIVER NEWS

St Petersburg sees the debut of Australian Supercar champion Scott McLaughlin who features for Penske this weekend,

There has been some seismic driver news for 2021 over the past few weeks, notably the change at Arrow McLaren SP. It seems that Oliver Askew following a season placated by a variety of issues will be leaving the team at the end of the season.

To take his place is Chip Ganassi’s Felix Rosenqvist, who has one IndyCar victory to his name. The lineup alongside Pato O’Ward will undoubtedly excite all fans as one of the best young driver pairings on the grid.

Unfortunately for Askew, it seems that his luck ran out. What started with a promising podium at Iowa came crashing down, with the American featuring inside the top ten once since then. Lately, Askew was forced to miss the Harvest GP after is was revealed that he was suffering with ‘concussion-esque’ symptoms after his crash at the Indy 500. Helio Castroneves filled in for Askew at the Harvest GP, however he has been cleared fit to race for this weekend and will feature one final time for McLaren.

The final question will be who takes the vacant Chip Ganassi seat? With incoming NASCAR champion Jimmy Johnson set to feature in a few races, it seems only logical that Ganassi will share that car between Johnson and an IndyCar veteran. Rumours have been that Tony Kanaan or Helio Castroneves could fill in.

And significantly Formula E champion Antonio Felix Da Costa will take part in a pre-season test with Rahal Letterman Racing. It is unclear whether this is with a view for a 2021 IndyCar seat but would undoubtedly replace Conor Daly to line up alongside Dutch superstar Rinus VeeKay.

CHAMPIONSHIP OUTLOOK

The good news for Josef Newgarden is that there are nearly 200 scenarios in which he can clinch the IndyCar championship Sunday at St. Petersburg, Florida.

The bad news is there are nearly 19,700 ways in which rival Scott Dixon will win the championship.

Entering the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a 32-point lead, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver, who has led the standings since opening the season with three consecutive victories, is a heavy favourite for his sixth championship. He will clinch the title with a ninth-place or better, regardless of where Newgarden finishes.

 

WHO ELSE TO WATCH OUT FOR

Colton Herta, Patricio O’Ward and Rinus VeeKay have all had successes at St Petersburg in their lower formula experiences. All three has taken victory here in either IndyLights or the Pro Mazda championship.

Colton Herta has been in magnificent form with an amazing qualifying record, a win at Mid-Ohio and a podium at the Harvest GP. He is currently third in the standings and will be looking to finish his campaign in similar style.

Rinus VeeKay is almost certain to win the ‘Rookie of the Year’ title. His nearest challenger his Alex Palou who is 54 points behind. Palou would have to take pole, win, and lead the most laps in the race to tie level. Simply put, an impossible task.

Finally, Alexander Rossi has put his gremlins behind him. A season plagued with issues has effectively written off the American’s year. However, with four consecutive podiums since Mid-Ohio Rossi will be looking to send a statement to everyone heading into 2021.

 

WHAT TIME IS THE RACE?

 

SATURDAY 24 OCTOBER

10:55 EST / 14:55 GMT – Practice

15:05 EST / 18:05 GMT – Qualifying

 

SUNDAY 25 OCTOBER

14:30 EST / 19:30 GMT – Race

 

WHERE CAN I WATCH THE RACE?

Coverage in the UK for the races will be on Sky Sports F1. However, you can also read our session reports right here, on ThePitCrewOnline.

F3: Nannini fastest in first post-season test

Matteo Nannini topped the first day of Formula 3’s post-season test in Barcelona ahead of Jake Hughes and Calan Williams.

On his first day driving for Campos Racing, Nannini set his time of a 1:32.170s in the morning session, before switching to race simulations in the afternoon and logging a total of 64 laps. Hughes, returning to HWA, was only 0.257s slower than Nannini and set 62 laps overall.

Jenzer’s Williams led a tight trio of drivers with less than three tenths separating him from Dennis Hauger at Prema and ART rookie Victor Martins in fifth. Renault junior Martins, currently leading the 2020 Formula Renault Eurocup championship, was the only rookie within the top ten and had one of the highest lap counts with 74.

Victor Martins, ART (Photo Alexandre Guillaumot, DPPI / Renault Sport Media)

Enzo Fittipaldi (HWA) and Roman Stanek (ART) were sixth and seventh, while Jack Doohan was eighth-fastest overall and topped the afternoon session for Trident. Clement Novalak (Trident) and David Schumacher (Prema) rounded out the top ten.

HWA rookie William Alatalo recorded the most laps of the day with 93, while Novalak had the fewest with 49.

Six drivers set their fastest laps in the afternoon session, all of whom were rookies: Alessandro Famularo (Campos), Amaury Cordeel (MP Motorsport), Jonny Edgar (MP Motorsport), Patrik Pasma (Charouz), Rafael Villagomez (Trident) and Josef Knopp (Charouz).

Overall classification:

Pos. Driver Team Time (best) Laps (total)
1 Matteo Nannini Campos Racing 1:32.170 64
2 Jake Hughes HWA Racelab 1:32.427 62
3 Calan Williams Jenzer Motorsport 1:32.500 60
4 Dennis Hauger Prema Racing 1:32.512 74
5 Victor Martins (R) ART Grand Prix 1:32.527 74
6 Enzo Fittipaldi HWA Racelab 1:32.615 73
7 Roman Stanek ART Grand Prix 1:32.625 77
8 Jack Doohan Trident 1:32.777 57
9 Clement Novalak Trident 1:32.816 49
10 David Schumacher Prema Racing 1:32.948 73
11 Igor Fraga Hitech Grand Prix 1:33.069 70
12 Franco Copalinto (R) MP Motorsport 1:33.085 77
13 Jonathan Hoggard (R) Jenzer Motorsport 1:33.096 54
14 Artur Leclerc (R) Prema Racing 1:33.161 71
15 Jak Crawford (R) Hitech Grand Prix 1:33.286 72
16 Michael Belov Charouz Racing System 1:33.331 50
17 Ben Barnicoat Carlin Buzz Racing 1:33.450 51
18 Oliver Rasmussen (R) Hitech Grand Prix 1:33.492 74
19 Pierre Louis Chovet Campos Racing 1:33.509 64
20 Olli Caldwell ART Grand Prix 1:33.530 72
21 William Alatalo (R) HWA Racelab 1:33.772 93
22 Sophia Floersch Carlin Buzz Racing 1:33.819 61
23 Ido Cohen (R) Carlin Buzz Racing 1:33.838 61
24 Alessandro Famularo (R) Campos Racing 1:33.988 68
25 Amaury Cordeel (R) MP Motorsport 1:34.139 75
26 Jonny Edgar (R) MP Motorsport 1:34.389 71
27 Patrik Pasma (R) Charouz Racing System 1:34.911 64
28 Rafael Villagomez (R) Trident 1:35.062 65
29 Filip Ugran (R) Jenzer Motorsport 1:35.170 56
30 Josef Knopp (R) Charouz Racing System 1:35.758 70

IndyCar Harvest GP: Newgarden victory keeps title fight alive. Maiden podium for Rinus VeeKay.

image courtesy of IndyCar & Chris Owens

Josef Newgarden landed a crushing blow to Scott Dixon’s championship lead, gaining his 20th career IndyCar victory at the IMS, his 3rd this season. The New Zealander would eventually finish down in ninth after a late and costly mistake.

Dutchman Rinus VeeKay led from pole position from Colton Herta, and managed to pull a healthy gap on the rest of the field after starting on the faster sticker red tyres.

However, Herta started on the sticker blacks, going further on his first stint, looking to make up the time with the faster tyre on the second stint. This tactic proved to be successful, passing the Dutchman after the first pit stop with an audacious dummy move down the inside of turn 7.

Josef Newgarden also chose to start on the sticker blacks. Managing to go 10 laps longer than his rivals, he was able to come out ahead of Colton Herta after the pit stops into the lead of the race.

But came back fighting did Herta. Using up all his push to pash to catch Newgarden, diving to the inside of Turn 1 to take the race lead back from the two-time champion.

Following the second pit stop all of the top three chose to go onto the sticker reds, emerging with Herta in front, followed by Newgarden and VeeKay. Herta would unfortunately struggle with his rear tyres, prompting a lock up on lap 60, gifting the lead back to Newgarden before putting again.

Newgarden would follow, both opting for the sticker blacks. However, the two time champion was able to magnificently pull away from the rest of the field, enough to seal his first career win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This win cuts the championship gap to 40 points with 108 remaining over the next two races, one of which comes tomorrow with the second of the doubleheader weekend. What was seemingly an unassailable championship fight going into Mid-Ohio in September, now seems like a mouth-watering prospect as Newgarden chases his third and what would be his most incredible championship.

Colton Herta on the other hand, would fall under the pressure of a charging Felix Rosenqvist, who had dropped as low as 10th before fighting back to the podium. Although, an unsuccessful pass on Herta would drop him into the clutches of Alexander Rossi who would steamroll through both Rosenqvist and Herta for a second-place finish. Rossi was visibly irritated following the race due to a penalty brought on by exceeding track limits. It marks another string of penalties at the IMS for Rossi who is starting to make something of a habit of it at this circuit.

Image courtesy of IndyCar by Doug Matthews

Rinus VeeKay, who had done so well to put that Ed Carpenter Racing car on pole position, had to make up for lost ground during the pit stops, but saved the majority of his push to pass to overtake both Herta in fourth and Roseqnvist in fifth to take his first IndyCar podium in style.

Behind them, a titanic battle ensued with Will Power who suffered due to a stuck front-right wheel during his first pit stop as well as experiencing a huge slide going into turn 1 that could have easily ended his race. Behind him was Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey who were able to capitalise on a unusual late mistake from Scott Dixon who ran wide onto the grass, to finish in a disappointing ninth. Rounded out the top ten was Marcus Ericsson marking a solid day for Chip Ganassi who featured every car in the top ten.

The race ran without a caution period but Marco Andretti was forced to retire with a handful of laps remaining after the rear caught fire. Andretti was able to bring the car back to the pits for his pit crew to put it out.

RACE CLASSIFICATION

1 Josef Newgarden
2 Alexander Rossi
3 Rinus VeeKay (R)
4 Colton Herta
5 Felix Rosenqvist
6 Will Power
7 Graham Rahal
8 Jack Harvey
9 Scott Dixon
10 Marcus Ericsson
11 Max Chilton
12 Conor Daly
13 Charlie Kimball
14 James Hinchcliffe
15 Santino Ferrucci
16 Simon Pagenaud
17 Alex Palou (R)
18 Takuma Sato
19 Ryan Hunter-Reay
20 Helio Castroneves
21 Sebastien Bourdais
22 Pato O’Ward
23 Sage Karam
24 Dalton Kellett (R)
25 Marco Andretti

IndyCar Harvest GP Preview

image courtesy of IndyCar

The first Indy Harvest Classic was held way back in 1916, so here we are in 2020, about to witness the next running, now called the Indy Harvest GP, to be run in two parts on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.439-mile road course Friday and Saturday, October 2-3. Races 12/13 of the NTT IndyCar Series were a somewhat late addition to the often-altered season schedule and will precede Sunday’s 8-Hour GT World Challenge America endurance race.

The previous IMS road course race (the GMR GP) was held during July’s Brickyard weekend after its traditional May running was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Honda ran away with the race after a full-course caution shuffled the field on lap 36/80. Dixon had stopped three laps earlier while the leaders at the time pitted under caution after Oliver Askew’s crash. Following the green flag, Dixon chased down then leader Graham Rahal on Lap 48 and cruised to a 19.9-second victory after leading 26 laps; his first GMR win after three runner-up finishes. Rahal was second with Jack Harvey taking his first podium finish in third.

This event will mark the eighth and ninth times that the IMS road course has hosted an IndyCar race. So far, only Simon Pagenaud (three times), Will Power (also three times) and Scott Dixon have won here. Power has started from pole position here four times, with the other three poles going to Sebastian Saavedra, Pagenaud and Felix Rosenqvist.

Seven drivers are still mathematically eligible for the 2020 IndyCar championship. Dixon on 456 points, Josef Newgarden -72, Pato O’Ward -118, Colton Herta -129, Will Power -150, Graham Rahal -155 and Takuma Sato -156. There will be no double-points available at the St. Petersburg finale, however. So with a maximum of 54 points available from any race (50 for the win, 1 for pole, 2 for leading most laps, 1 for leading a lap), drivers emerging from Friday’s race more than 108 points behind Dixon will be out of the title running. Dixon will clinch his sixth championship a race early if he is more than 54 points ahead of his nearest pursuer come Saturday evening.

 

DRIVER CHANGES

Helio Castroneves will be temporarily replacing Oliver Askew in the Arrow McLaren SP after he was deemed not medically fit to race. It marks the third time in three years that the Indianapolis 500 winner has taken part in the Indy Road Course since his retirement from full-time racing.

Sebastien Bourdais returns this weekend taking the third A.J Foyt Racing entry, joining with Charlie Kimball and Dalton Kellett for the final three races.

Conor Daly is back with Ed Carpenter for his usual road course duties while Dryer & Reinbold will extend its schedule, entering Sage Karam for the weekend.

Finally, Zach Veach has permanently stepped out of the Andretti Autosport No. 26, making way for James Hinchcliffe for the remaining races and perhaps next season. Hinchliffe had driven for Andretti up until the 2015 season when he moved to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

 

OUTLOOK FOR THE WIN

In my opinion you cannot overlook the Penske drivers for this race, who have won a staggering five out of the last six iterations of this race. Will Power has won here three out of six in that time and will be looking to improve on his race winning performance at Mid-Ohio.

Remember it was Power who led from pole position this time back in July when a poorly timed caution cycled him back into the pack. He will have the ‘bit between his teeth’ to right that wrong and push for a top three championship position.

 

OTHERS TO LOOK OUT FOR

As we go into this race Rinus VeeKay still leads the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title 39 points ahead of his nearest challenger Alex Palou. With Askew withdrawn, there is very little competition going this weekend. Rinus has been consistent and has pulled off some staggering overtakes this year. I expect him to carry on in a similar fashion this weekend.

Also, I fully expect Colton Herta to do what he has been doing all season. In his sophomore season, he is currently fourth in the standings with both a win and a pole position to his name. His win last weekend was a just-reward for his performances lately, and I expect, with a few improvements here and there, that he will be a fully fledged title contender in the years to come.

 

WHAT TIME IS THE RACE?

There are two!

THURSDAY 01 OCTOBER

14:15 EST / 19:15 GMT – Practice

18:20 EST / 23:20 GMT – Qualifying

 

FRIDAY 02 OCTOBER

15:30 EST / 20:30 GMT – Race 1

 

SATURDAY 03 OCTOBER

10:20 EST / 15:20 GMT – Qualifying

14:30 EST / 19:30 GMT – Race 2

 

WHERE CAN I WATCH THE RACE?

Coverage in the UK for the races will be on Sky Sports F1. However, you can also read our session reports right here, on ThePitCrewOnline.

F2 Sochi: Zhou takes maiden win under red flag

Renault junior Guanyu Zhou was awarded his first Formula 2 win at Sochi, after the sprint race was ended early under the red flag following a heavy crash for Luca Ghiotto and Jack Aitken at Turn 3.

Zhou got a good start from reverse grid pole to hold the lead into the first corner, helped by Nikita Mazepin dropping back from second to third behind Aitken. Championship leader Mick Schumacher shot up from eighth on the grid, passing Jehan Daruvala through Turn 2 to get up into fourth.

Mazepin retook second from Aitken on lap 2, and a lap later Schumacher overtook the Campos for third. Aitken briefly lost fourth as well to Daruvala at the start of lap four, but he retook the place when Daruvala ran wide at Turn 2 and earned himself a time penalty for not rejoining the track correctly.

On lap 6 Ghiotto got past Daruvala and started reeling in Aitken for fourth. But on lap 7 the two made contact as they went wheel-to-wheel through Turn 3 and shot into the TecPro barriers. Both cars ended up between the layers of the barriers with Ghiotto’s car catching fire, but thankfully Aitken and Ghiotto were both unharmed.

Luca Ghiotto, Hitech (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

The race was immediately red-flagged, and the extent of the repairs needed to fix the barriers meant there wasn’t time for it to resume. As a result Zhou was declared the winner, albeit with half points, with Mazepin second and Schumacher third.

Aitken and Ghiotto were able to take the points for fourth and fifth as per red flag rules the race result was counted back to lap 5. Tsunoda, Ilott and Ticktum took the final points, while Mazepin claimed the two bonus points for fastest lap.

Guilherme Samaia and HWA rookie Jake Hughes also retired from the race after making contact on lap one.

After Sochi, Schumacher’s championship lead has extended as he holds 191 points over Ilott’s 169. Schumacher’s Prema team also extends its lead over Ilott’s UNI-Virtuosi with 331 points to 288.5.

Formula 2 returns on 28th November for the first of the double header finale in Bahrain.

Nikita Mazepin, Hitech (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 7.5
2 Nikita Mazepin (FL) Hitech Grand Prix 7
3 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 5
4 Jack Aitken Campos Racing 4
5 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 3
6 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin 2
7 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing 1
8 Dan Ticktum DAMS 0.5
9 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
10 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing
11 Jehan Daruvala Carlin
12 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab
13 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
14 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
15 Marino Sato Trident
16 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport
17 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
18 Juri Vips DAMS
19 Roy Nissany Trident
20 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport
Ret. Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
Ret. Jake Hughes BWT HWA Racelab

 

F2 Sochi preview: focus on 2021

Formula 2 returns this weekend for round 10 of the championship at Russia’s Sochi Autodrom, where all the field will now be driving with one eye on their 2021 plans.

With only three rounds of the season left, the focus of the championship has shifted to who’s gunning for an F1 graduation, and who’s teeing up a campaign for next year’s F2 title. Obviously the driver attracting the most spotlight at the moment is championship leader Mick Schumacher, who is reported to be a firm favourite for one of Alfa Romero’s 2021 seats.

If Schumacher wants to solidify his chances he’ll have to continue to pull away from his title rivals Callum Ilott and Robert Shwartzman. And doing that means having a much better weekend in Sochi than he did last year, when he scored nothing after retiring from both races. A repeat of that this year would be disastrous for his title aspirations.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

For Shwartzman in particular though, a troubled weekend for the title leader would be just what he needs. After two non-scores last time out at Mugello, Shwartzman has now dropped to fourth in the standings behind Schumacher, Ilott and Christian Lundgaard, and is 21 points off the championship lead he’d previously held for so long.

Shwartzman fortunately has a great relationship with the Sochi Autodrom to help him this weekend. As well as being the Russian’s home circuit, it was at this track last year that he wrapped up the Formula 3 title in commanding fashion, with pole position and two podiums to leave him 54 points ahead of runner-up Marcus Armstrong.

If Shwartzman can bring that kind of form again this year, there’s no reason he can’t make up for Mugello and get right back in the title hunt.

Another driver whose 2021 F1 shot is looking in danger after Mugello is Yuki Tsunoda. After his pole and win in the Spa feature race made him a shoe-in for AlphaTauri next year, Tsunoda has only scored once in the five races since. Crucially, he’s dropped from fourth to sixth in the standings, and if he doesn’t improve from there he won’t secure the superlicense points he needs to move up to F1.

What Tsunoda needs most of all is a clean race weekend. He’s shown no lack of speed since Spa, but some scruffy racing like his incidents with Dan Ticktum and Felipe Drugovich at Mugello have kept that speed from translating into the points finishes Red Bull are expecting of him.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

What makes things more difficult for Tsunoda is that he’s racing for that fourth spot against Lundgaard and Nikita Mazepin. Both drivers are on excellent form and will almost certainly be title contenders if they remain in F2 next year.

Neither of them had a particularly profitable outing at Sochi last year. Mazepin finished eighth in the F2 feature race but retired from the sprint race, while Lundgaard finished fourteenth and ninth in the two F3 races.

But in terms of their recent results, Mazepin and Lundgaard are both riding high as the winners of the Mugello feature and sprint race respectively. Lundgaard especially has a lot of momentum behind him, as he was on pole for the Mugello feature race as well and scored a double podium at Monza the week before.

Lundgaard’s results have put him back into the championship’s top three after a run of non-scores in the middle of the season knocked him down the order. Although he’s touted as one of next year’s title favourites, the Dane is only 16 points off Schumacher and could be a surprise late contender for the 2020 crown instead.

Giuliano Alesi, MP Motorsport (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

There have been two driver changes ahead of Sochi. Nobuharu Matsushita has left MP Motorsport, saying in a statement that he’s “decided to move on to fresh challenges elsewhere”. He’s been replaced by Giuliano Alesi who moves over from HWA, and in turn HWA have promoted their F3 driver Jake Hughes to take Alesi’s seat.

Alesi will be hoping that MP, who have won three races this year with Matsushita and Drugovich, will provide him with a car more capable of challenging for points than HWA. Alesi’s only points this year came with sixth place in the opening race in Austria.

Finally, Juri Vips will continue to drive for DAMS this weekend. The Estonian was initially only due to replace the injured Sean Gelael for three rounds ending with Mugello, but this has been extended to include Sochi as well.

Jake Hughes, HWA (Bryn Lennon / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Formula 1 is broken!

Formula 1 is broken!

It’s not the fault of Hamilton or Mercedes but instead the strict formula that teams have to work to. If there’s to be a constructors championship then we need looser regulations so designers and engineers can have more freedom, different engine types and different aero design. Then, lets go racing!

If not, we might as well have a single construction championship like Formula 2 where the racing is much closer and more exciting, even if admittedly some of that is because young drivers make more mistakes.

Formula 1 should be open. I bet that if it was, you’d have more than just hybrid engines! We’d have the possibility of an electric car racing a combustion engine in the not too distant future. I’m afraid that if huge changes aren’t made then F1 will be left behind. If we had those kind of regulations would Formula E even have got up and running? Look how exciting the races are. Guess what? They are all driving the same car!

I’m not advocating that F1 should be a single constructors championship, but if they are to all build their own designs completely then they need to take the shackles off. Budgets have been cut now going forward which can only be a good thing, but all of the teams working towards a single design framework will lead to almost identical cars again.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Somehow, like in football, the richer teams like Ferrari and Mercedes will find a way to attract the best people even on a restricted budget. We need to make room for initiative, give a chance to the next Adrian Newey or Colin Chapman, whose ideas revolutionised the sport. With tight regulations these kinds of ideas are harder to find.

If they really want to save money then Friday free practice should go! Other than a cheap day out to watch Formula 1 cars I can see little need for it.

Here’s my road map for the sport.

You probably have your own ideas on how to fix F1. These are just me spit balling mine. We’d love to hear your ideas.

A. Loosen the restrictions to allow for innovation in both engine and chassis design.

B. Cut costs by cutting out Friday free practice sessions.

C. Teams should be allowed to race three cars but the third driver must be a young driver or a guest with enough super license points. The team would lose the points of the third driver.

D. Tyres should only be one small element of the teams strategy, so maybe another tyre manufacturer should come in.

If the Formula 1 changes that are scheduled now for 2022 – when in all likelihood Lewis Hamilton will be an eight-time world champion – do not make the significant difference that they promise, F1 will not attract enough new young fans to make it viable and, in my opinion, Formula E will become the de-facto pinnacle of motorsports.