Fernando Alonso: What’s Next?

Image courtesy of Pirelli

Motorsports After coming perilously close to drinking the milk at the end of the 2017 Indianapolis 500 race, speculation over whether Fernando Alonso would take the leap from Formula 1 to the Verizon IndyCar Series began to spread across the paddocks on both sides of the pond.

It was confirmed in November of this year that Alonso would throw his hat into the ring once again driving for McLaren, working with Andretti Racing, in the hopes of obtaining the unofficial ‘Triple Crown’. There is much speculation as to whether Alonso would be interested in becoming a more permanent fixture in what some motorsport fans consider the ‘American Version’ of F1, however, nothing has been set in stone.

Talking with journalists following his last race in Formula 1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Alonso is in no hurry to make plans: “I needed a break and I need to find motivation again.

“For 2020, I don’t know exactly what I will do or what will be the plan. I am open to different things – maybe a full season in IndyCar, maybe a full season in F1 again.”

Alonso wouldn’t be the first Formula 1 driver to make the transition. He would be following iconic drivers such as Rubens Barrichello, Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya, and with the interesting mix of street and oval circuits, the series offers a new challenge for Alonso after 18 years in F1.

In the run up to the end of the Formula 1 season, Alonso signed himself up to a mixture of endurance races. He is scheduled to complete the remaining 3 races in the World Endurance Championship, finishing in Le Mans, before heading to Indianapolis for the second time to hopefully take the win.

Not long after reaching the chequered flag in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Alonso was back in the driving seat, this time having swapped cars with NASCAR Champion Jimmie Johnson. It was thought that Alonso’s interest was in testing Johnson’s car in preparation for the Daytona 500, which he has since confirmed he will be a part of.

Interestingly enough, Johnson’s contract with NASCAR team, Hendrick Motorsports is set to end in 2020 and having already expressed an interest in IndyCar. Though it is highly unlikely Johnson would ever drive in F1 (apart from the one-off car swap), taking an open-wheel car out for a spin has given him a new outlook on his abilities:

“What I take away from that F1 experience is I climbed in an unfamiliar car and environment and did really well. My natural instincts, my ability to drive, my ability to scare myself and challenge myself hasn’t gone anywhere.” Perhaps the pair are beginning to lay the foundation for a standalone McLaren team in the Verizon IndyCar Series?

It’s probably best not to get carried away just yet, as Alonso has also confessed his departure from F1 might be short lived: “I’ve been doing this my whole life. Maybe next year by April or May I am desperate on the sofa, so maybe I find a way somehow to come back.” Perhaps he will follow in ex- Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa’s footsteps in announcing retirement, before returning unexpectedly to race another season.

Only time will tell, but for now keep an eye on Alonso, his career certainly isn’t over yet!

Ericsson considering IndyCar, Super Formula for 2019

Marcus Ericsson has said he is targeting a move to either IndyCar or Super Formula for 2019 following the loss of his Sauber Formula One race seat.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Ericsson will remain with Sauber next year as reserve driver and brand ambassador, but has said he is also looking to continue racing with a full-time drive in another single-seater category.

“I want to race at the highest level possible [next year] because I see myself coming back to Formula One in the future,” Ericsson said.

“To be able to come back to F1, I want to stay in single-seaters and fast cars. IndyCar is the best series to do that in.

“We’re talking to some teams there and I think it is a realistic target.”

Most of IndyCar’s 2019 drives have already been settled, although seats are still available at Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, Carlin and Juncos Racing.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Ericsson has also admitted Japan’s Super Formula is “also an option”, and that he would be interested in contesting the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

But despite insisting on a single-seater programme for 2019 to keep him prepared for an F1 return, Ericsson said that Formula E is not high on his preferences:

“It is interesting in many aspects but to stay in F1-type of driving it’s maybe not the best one.

“FE is more of a career move. There are some other options that you can keep on the F1 radar [to] come back.”

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

IndyCar Sonoma Preview

The IndyCar season has reached its conclusion, this is it. 85 laps will decide who is crowned 2018 IndyCar champion… but those will be no ordinary 85 laps. There will be drivers, some rookies, some more experienced, with nothing to lose mixed among drivers who have absolutely everything to lose at what is expected to be the last Sonoma race for the foreseeable future with Laguna Seca coming onto the scene.

Cautions proved to be crucial last time out at Portland with Alexander Rossi’s otherwise perfect race being hampered by one that was caused by his very own teammate, Zach Veach. Championship leader Scott Dixon had a frightening opening lap, getting caught up in a collision but somehow coming out unscathed, before going onto finish ahead of his main title rival in Rossi and extend his championship lead.

Pole sitter Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske IndyCar Chevrolet V6, leads the field at the start of the Grand Prix of Portland Sunday, September 2, 2018 on his way to a 21st place finish after gearbox issues during the Verizon IndyCar Series race at the Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon. While mathematically still in contention for the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship heading into the double-points season finale at Somona, it’s a challenging scenario. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)

In amongst those story lines, it was easy to lose the fact that Takuma Sato took his third career IndyCar win and his first for Rahal Letterman Lanigan with a inspired strategy call and an impressive final stint.

If Portland was good, Sonoma promises to be even better…

Last year Sonoma staged the showdown between Josef Newgarden, Dixon and Simon Pagenaud. Newgarden came into the race with a slim four-point lead over Dixon, but the latter struggled in the race and was unable to get ahead of Newgarden. Pagenaud, meanwhile, rolled the strategical dice with a four-stop strategy, as opposed to the usual three, and it paid off with the Frenchman winning the race and taking second in the championship off Dixon. It was, however, Newgarden who took the title and with it the #1 plate for this current season… something that he had hoped to defend, but that looks less than likely now.

Josef Newgarden, driver of the #2 hum by Verizon Team Penske IndyCar Chevrolet V6, celebrates winning the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship with a second place finish Sunday, September 17, 2017 during the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. Newgarden edged out teammate and 2016 Champion Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #1 DXC Technology Team Penske IndyCar Chevrolet V6, who won the race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)

The title permutations for this season are numerous with four drivers in with a shout of the title, even if two of them have a very small chance…

The Heat Is On: IndyCar Title Permutations

Away from the title race, there are a few driver changes for the last race of the season. Juncos will not be seeing out the season having taken part in 12 races in their debut year, meanwhile fellow newbies, Harding Racing, will field a two-car team for the first time this season, giving Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward and runner up Colton Herta their IndyCar debuts. Elsewhere, we’ve still got Santino Ferrucci at Dale Coyne, Jack Harvey in the Meyer Shank/Schmidt Peterson entry and Carlos Munoz in the #6 Schmidt Peterson, as they all were at Portland.

For most drivers, this weekend marks the end of the season and a chance to end it on a high; for others, it’s a crucial weekend to show potential 2019 employers that they are worth a seat. And then, for Dixon, Rossi, Will Power and Newgarden, but mainly the first two, it’s the most important weekend of the season to get right and to have a good result… a championship depends on it!

The main championship still hangs in the balance, but two awards of a similar nature have already been handed out. Honda have clinched the manufactures title having won 10 of the 16 races so far and having had the measure of Chevrolet throughout the season.

Josef Newgarden, driver of the #2 hum by Verizon Team Penske IndyCar Chevrolet V6, takes the checkered flag to win the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship with a second place finish Sunday, September 17, 2017 during the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. Newgarden edged out teammate and 2016 Champion Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #1 DXC Technology Team Penske IndyCar Chevrolet V6, who won the race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)

The other award is that of ‘Rookie of the Year’ which has, of course, gone to Robert Wickens who remains in hospital in Indianapolis after his Pocono crash. Without that crash, Wickens’ rookie season was one of the best there have been in recent memory, though he somehow missed out on that illusive win. The latest update on Wickens was a rather sobering one, with the full extent of his injuries revealed, but he’s starting the road to recovery and that’s the most important thing.

With all the Mazda Road to Indy championships concluded, IndyCar are the sole series at Sonoma, meaning all the focus will be on that one race, and it’s an important one! Practice and qualifying are both streaming as normal in all the usual places while BT Sport 1 have the race, however, it is a bit of a late one for UK viewers.

For the last time this season, the timings for the weekend are as follows:


Practice 1 – 7:00pm
Practice 2 – 11:00pm


Practice 3 – 7:00pm
Qualifying – 11:00pm


Race – 11:30pm

(All times BST)

IndyCar Texas Report: Dixon triumphs as Indy 500 winner Power wrecks

Texas Motor Speedway delivered what we’ve come to expect from it, a sensational race with numerous cautions and unexpected turns. Last week’s Race 1 winner, Scott Dixon, took a dominant win over Penske’s Simon Pagenaud who graced the podium for the first time this season, managing to hold off a charging Alexander Rossi.

Will power ahead of Scott Dixon. Image courtesy of Team Penske

Before Texas, Dixon had only led 39 laps in the whole season but he put that right by leading 119 laps in the night race, over double that of anyone else. After battling with Tony Kanaan early on, Dixon had got into the top three, behind Will Power and Robert Wickens. Once those two had swapped positions, Dixon quickly picked off the struggling Power before passing Wickens for the lead shortly after the second round of pit stops. It turned out to be a lead that he didn’t surrender for the remainder of the race, finishing a good five seconds ahead of his nearest rivals to take his 43rd career win, his second in a week and, most importantly, the championship lead. The #9 Chip Ganassi driver now boasts a 23-point lead as he, along with Kanaan and Sebastien Bourdais, heads off to Le Mans.

Second on the road was Pagenaud who finally scored his first podium of what has been a very troublesome season. The 2016 champion initially lost places and his race was looking far from good when all three Penske cars started experiencing extreme tyre blistering, it was a wonder Pagenaud even made the end of the race. Already struggling with the inferior fuel mileage on the Chevrolet’s compared to the Honda’s, Penske were left with no choice but to call both Pagenaud and Power in after teammate Josef Newgarden’s tyres had blistered incredibly badly, leaving the canvas of the tyre exposed. After the final pit stops had been made and the field went green after the third and final caution, many doubted Pagenaud’s ability to even make the end of the race but the cooler temperatures that had come with nightfall favoured Pagenaud, meaning he could make the end and hold off Rossi, taking a very respectable second place finish.

Josef Newgarden. Image courtesy of gm.com

For a long time, it looked like Rossi would be winning in Texas. The #27 Andretti driver had superior pace to those around him and was willing to risk it all for overtakes around the outside that most drivers wouldn’t dare attempt, carving his way through the pack from his starting place of eighth. A fuelling issue after pitting under the second caution could’ve cost Rossi any chance of a decent result but he was saved by two factors: 1) they were under caution and 2) there were only six cars on the lead lap. After that drama, Rossi quickly recovered the lost ground to be all over the back of Pagenaud on the third restart however, the Frenchman proved a tough nut to crack and Rossi was eventually forced to concede defeat. That podium finish has put Rossi back up to second in the championship, overtaking Power and now just 23 points back from Dixon.

Power himself certainly had a race to forget; the #12 Penske driver had run well for the first part of the race but, like his teammates, struggled with tyre blistering as well as his car balance. His race ended when Zachary Claman De Melo was trying for an overtake around the outside and Power turned up on him, putting both of them into the wall. Power was quick to remove any blame from the rookie or though wouldn’t fully take it himself.

A much-needed decent result finally came for the otherwise incredibly unlucky James Hinchcliffe, scoring his first top ten finish since the Indy GP and first top five since Barber. Hinchcliffe qualified way down in fifteenth and, with rookie teammate Wickens in fourth, the pressure was on for a good result. The #5 Schmidt Peterson driver progressed well in the first laps, eventually making his way up to shadow his good friend Rossi. As the race went green after the last restart, Hinchcliffe was right in the battle for second with Pagenaud and Rossi but, after dropping slightly in the closing laps, fourth was the best he could do – still, a very important, confidence-boosting weekend for Hinchcliffe.

The same could almost be said for teammate Wickens who ran an excellent race, passing on the inside and outside before dicing with Rossi and even taking the lead for four laps. However, it all came tumbling down on Lap 171 when the rookie sensation tangled with Ed Carpenter. It was Carpenter who took the blame for the incident, Wickens was on his inside to lap him when Carpenter turned down on the rookie, sending the pair into the wall and ending both their races. An unfortunate end to what was a very promising weekend but Wickens wasn’t the only rookie shining for once.

Andretti’s rookie Zach Veach was running an amazing pace with all the confidence of an old-timer, gaining ten positions in the first fifty laps to be running in sixth. This performance, like Wickens, soon came crashing down. Veach got up too high, brushing the wall and breaking his right-rear tow-link, just as Kanaan had done 50 or so laps previous. The other rookie to come to blows was Matheus Leist whose car caught fire just five laps into the race.

It’s a well-deserved weekend off for the IndyCar paddock who are next out at Road America on 24th June.

Full Race Result

  1. Scott Dixon
  2. Simon Pagenaud
  3. Alexander Rossi
  4. James Hinchcliffe
  5. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  6. Graham Rahal
  7. Takuma Sato
  8. Sebastien Bourdais
  9. Ed Jones
  10. Charlie Kimball
  11. Spencer Pigot
  12. Max Chilton
  13. Josef Newgarden
  14. Marco Andretti
  15. Gabby Chaves
  16. Zach Veach (R)

DNF – Zachary Claman De Melo (R), Will Power, Robert Wickens (R), Ed Carpenter, Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist (R)

Featured image courtesy of media.gm.com

Indy 500 Report: Power takes all the glory at the Brickyard

Once again, the Indy 500 delivered an action-packed race full of twists, turns and the inevitable cautions, seven this time! We had a new Indy 500 victor in Will Power, who now tops the championship as a result of his 100-point haul, but the likes of Ed Carpenter, Scott Dixon and Alexander Rossi all put up very good fights. It wasn’t all plain sailing though, the new, lower downforce cars coupled with the higher temperatures and subsequently lower grip caught more than one notable driver out.

Starting at the top, Power may have taken the win and led a sizeable number of laps in the process however, it wasn’t until well after half-way in that he actually took the lead for the first time. After qualifying third, Power dropped back at the start but regained the lost ground at the first round of pit stops under the first caution, gaining three positions in one go and putting him back up to third. In the latter quarter of the race, Power’s win rarely looked in doubt but there was very nearly a surprise when Stefan Wilson, Jack Harvey and Oriol Servia all didn’t pit under the last caution. Wilson led the race for three laps after the restart, making him and his late brother Justin the fourth set of brothers to do so, but it wasn’t to be as all three drivers had to pull into the pits having run out of fuel. With those three out of the way, Power had a clear track ahead of him to take a dominant win, well ahead of Carpenter and Dixon. Power, along with his Penske squad, was clearly elated in victory circle and it was a win he certainly deserved after a less than great start to the season.

Super-speedway specialist, Carpenter, was tipped by many to take the victory and seemed in charge in the opening stages of the race but he was overhauled by first Tony Kanaan and then, once Kanaan had eliminated himself from the lead with a puncture, Power who went on to the victory. Carpenter had taken a few front row starts at the Indy 500 before but never a win, he was confident that he could rectify that before the race but the cautions and changes in strategy just didn’t play into his favour and he was left in a rather disappointing second. A story of what could’ve been for Carpenter who knows time is fast running out for him to get that elusive Indy 500 win.

Scot Dixon. Indycar 2018: Round Six – image courtesy of hondanews.eu

Third on the road was Dixon who managed to not go flying this year to take a well-deserved podium. The #9 Chip Ganassi driver had a fairly quiet first half of the race, other than very nearly crashing with Sebastien Bourdais, often running within the top five but never taking the lead however, he rolled the dice under the sixth caution by pitting and trying to make the end. Once the rest of the pit stops had cycled out, Dixon found himself in the net lead and a fair amount ahead of Power however, he was soon caught on his older tyres with both Power and Carpenter blasting past, leaving Dixon to fend off Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay. That he did, taking third and propelling himself into fourth in the championship.

Rossi was, amazingly, the bookmakers favourite going into the race despite the fact that he was starting second-to-last in thirty-second. After enjoying the last row club, along with Harvey and Conor Daly, it was down to business for the #27 Andretti driver. He made up a good six positions in the first five laps, but his progress stalled somewhat, only making up a further three positions in the next forty laps. By the third caution, Rossi had made it up to twelfth before he made incredible progress on the fourth restart, going around the outside, in very brave fashion, of just about everyone in his group. This trait was continued on the fifth restart when he went high to take a further two cars, putting him into third. The last round of pit stops didn’t play into the 2016 winner’s hands with Rossi eventually having to settle for fourth but gaining twenty-seven positions in one race is nothing to be ashamed of!

Penske, despite the win, didn’t have the best of days with their other three drivers. Josef Newgarden’s off strategy gamble under the third caution didn’t really pay off and, after being as low as twentieth, he was only able to recover an eighth-place finish putting him ten points back from the lead in the championship. Simon Pagenaud went fairly unnoticed throughout the race but a long last stop quashed any remaining chance the Frenchman had of a podium, eventually coming home in sixth. The last Penske of Helio Castroneves was the most unfortunate after he was the cause of the fifth caution. He was clearly upset after losing the rear and ending up hitting the inside wall, but he wasn’t along in doing so.

Danica Patrick’s last race. Image courtesy of media.gm.com

First to fall foul of these oversteer-prone cars was last year’s third place finisher, and arguably Rookie of the Year, Ed Jones who ploughed into the wall, causing the second caution of the day. This crash was repeated by Danica Patrick whose fairy-tale final race at Indy was ended when she too lost the rear after struggling with her car all day. Bourdais, Sage Karam and Kanaan all had very similar crashes to Jones and Patrick with those three causing the fourth, sixth and seventh cautions respectively.

Takuma Sato. Indycar 2018: Round Six – Indy 500, Indianapolis. Image courtesy of media.gm.com

All but one of the cautions were caused by a single car crash which is very unusual for the Indy 500, usually famed for its wrecks. The only exception to that rule was the very first caution which was caused by last year’s winner, Takuma Sato, hitting the back of James Davison. Davison had been running considerably slower than the cars around him for quite a number of laps before Sato was caught out by the pace differential coming out of the corner, leaving him a passenger as he hit the side of Davison.

All drivers were thankfully ok following their incidents, with only Jones’ in slight doubt for next week’s double header at Detroit after being taken to hospital as a precautionary measure with head and neck pain.

It hasn’t been announced yet, but Schmidt Peterson’s Robert Wickens is expected to take Rookie of the Year after an impressive ninth place finish in the absence of bumped teammate James Hinchcliffe.

Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske IndyCar Chevrolet V6, celebrates his victory Sunday, May 27, 2018, after winning the Verizon IndyCar 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. This is the first Indy 500 win for Power and the 17th win for team owner Roger Penske.  Image courtesy of media.gm.com and the photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing.

With the 102nd running done, it won’t be long before talk points to the 103rd running of the Indy 500 however, for now, IndyCar heads to the double header that is the Duel in Detroit next weekend before completing the second, and most valuable, triple header at Texas Motor Speedway.

Full Race Result:

  1. Will Power
  2. Ed Carpenter
  3. Scott Dixon
  4. Alexander Rossi
  5. Ryan Hunter-Reay
  6. Simon Pagenaud
  7. Carlos Munoz
  8. Josef Newgarden
  9. Robert Wickens (R)
  10. Graham Rahal
  11. JR Hildebrand
  12. Marco Andretti
  13. Matheus Leist (R)
  14. Gabby Chaves
  15. Stefan Wilson
  16. Jack Harvey
  17. Oriol Servia
  18. Charlie Kimball
  19. Zachary Claman De Melo (R)
  20. Spencer Pigot
  21. Conor Daly
  22. Max Chilton
  23. Zach Veach (R)
  24. Jay Howard

DNF – Tony Kanaan, Sage Karam, Helio Castroneves, Sebastien Bourdais, Kyle Kaiser (R), Danica Patrick, Ed Jones, Takuma Sato, James Davison

Featured image courtesy of media.gm.com

The Blueprint – Takuma Sato Explains How To Win The Indy 500 | M1TG

Check out the latest video from Mobil 1 The Grid. In this piece, the Japanese driver discusses his win in 2017, how he went about winning the race, whilst laying down a blueprint of the key to success at Indianapolis.

Takuma On Winning The Indy 500: “In my entire life, maybe the birth of my child, that is obviously an amazing day. But besides on that, [winning at Indy] was my significant moment in my life, and certainly the best day of my race career. And that changed so many different things. I just never forget the feeling of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has and how deeply I understood the history and the energy that the Indy 500 has. That was just an unbelievable, amazing, amazing experience for me.”

Takuma On How To Win At Indy: “The key is to stay out of trouble problem, because it’s just such a long race. Anything can happen. Just stay calm, because the race comes back to you.”

Indycar 2017 Round Six: Indianapolis 500, Indiana
Credit: hondanews.eu

Takuma On How Heartbreak In 2012 Prepared Him: “Going through all the preparation by yourself and as an athlete, you learn from your faults: What you didn’t go through, and what you know already. Then there is a great chance to learn new things. Moving forward, that’s the name of the sport. 2012 is obviously a bitter experience and but I really appreciate it because I’m proud that I was able to challenge for that. In the end, I failed it. But it’s really made me stronger. Going through every single year, there’s lots of ways you think about it, and of course, before the 2017 start, you’re going through 2012, saying ‘What could I have done? What should I have done? What we will need to do?’ And that’s exactly what I did. That was the moment I really needed.”

Takuma Sato On The Legacy Of Winning The Indy 500: “Indy 500 winner… we knew that’s a big deal. People say that it’s going to be forever, and then like almost every month there is some award or there is ceremonies and the events just it’s go on and on and on. When I go back to Japan, there was almost every week, an event or award. So it was an unbelievably busy winter, but it was a happy busy moment. The Indy 500 is beyond your imagination.”

Indycar 2017 Round Six: Indianapolis 500, Indiana
Credit: hondanews.eu

Takuma Sato On Indy 2018: “I can’t imagine how it’s going to be as a defending champion going to the Month of May. I think it will be so cool, so pressured and so busy. I can’t wait [to] go there. But, equally, I think that now everyone wants to win and beat me so, basically, I have to have a huge challenge to do back-to-back race wins. Nothing is impossible, but I think it’s going to be very tough but we will challenge for that anyway.”

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IndyCar Phoenix Report: Newgarden finally breaks his Phoenix curse

IndyCar got its first oval of the season done at Phoenix and, while Josef Newgarden was the one to take the win, it was rookie Robert Wickens who was once more grabbing headlines and stealing the show with a remarkable second place finish. Alexander Rossi was the big mover of the day, completing over 50 overtakes while Sebastien Bourdais’ race fell apart at the first hurdle.

After qualifying on pole, Bourdais’ race started with trouble after the Frenchman’s Dale Coyne was kept in the pits for the first formation lap to give the team time to restart his car. He joined the track in time to take the start on pole but his team soon reported that they’d lost all telemetry on his car however, that problem was soon negated when he came into the pits and hit one of his pit crew, giving him a drive-thru penalty and dropping him to last. Thankfully, the pit member involved was unharmed.

Another one to be compromised by the first round of pit stops was Rossi who, like Bourdais, hit his pit crew and landed himself a drive-thru penalty, Again, the crew members involved were fine. Rossi didn’t come back into significance until he assisted Will Power into the wall, ending the Penske driver’s race, before fully un-lapping himself under green flag conditions. When Ed Jones hit the wall with 21 laps to go, all the field pitted other than Wickens, James Hinchcliffe and Rossi; this gave the three track position over the fresh tyre runners but high degradation in the latter stages of the race cost all of them at least some positions.

Wickens was leading the race up until those final stops but was unable to defend from Newgarden who was flying on his new Firestones. Before then, Wickens had come to the front after pitting early at the second round of stops and passing teammate Hinchcliffe who’d gotten caught up in traffic. The Canadian dropped to third after the third stops but was propelled into first after Jones crashed out of second and leader Newgarden pitted; the win was not to be for Wickens but second place on his first ever oval race is outstanding achievement.

Josef Newgarden. courtesy of media.gm.com

Newgarden himself was relieved to break his unlucky streak under lights at Phoenix after failing to finish on the podium at any of his previous races here. The reigning champion worked out second after the first round of pit stops, something he attributed to team owner Roger Penske insisting that the team clean the pit boxes thoroughly. The second pit stops didn’t work out in the American’s favour but, with Power out, Newgarden was the first to pit at the next round, allowing him to take the lead. He took the risk to pit again when Jones hit the wall but that paid off when he was able to blast past Hinchcliffe and Rossi on the restart before getting Wickens with just four laps remaining to take his first win of his title defence.

A surprisingly low amount of cautions, despite numerous incidents, meant that once cars were lapped, that was pretty much it for them. This was the case for all the new teams, Carlin, Harding and Juncos, who all struggled for pace at their first oval and all ended up at least a lap behind the leaders. It wasn’t just the rookie teams who struggled, all the rookie drivers, other than the incredible Wickens, were off the pace, with some even ending in the wall. Pietro Fittipaldi and Kyle Kaiser both got too close to the wall while Matheus Leist’s race was ruined when he left the pit box with one wheel not attached.

This race was a large improvement on Phoenix last year for Honda who took positions two through to sixth however, it was still a Chevrolet that took the win, meaning that Penske’s Newgarden now leads the championship, five points ahead of Rossi.

Phoenix marked the first of three races in a row with IndyCar now heading to the streets of Long Beach before going to Barber Motorsports Park in two weeks’ time. IndyCar will not return to an oval until the 102nd running of the Indy 500 at the end of May so it’s street courses all the way until then.


Full race results:

1.      Josef Newgarden

2.      Robert Wickens (R)

3.      Alexander Rossi

4.      Scott Dixon

5.      Ryan Hunter-Reay

6.      James Hinchcliffe

7.      Ed Carpenter

8.      Tony Kanaan

9.      Graham Rahal

10.  Simon Pagenaud

11.  Takuma Sato

12.  Marco Andretti

13.  Sebastien Bourdais

14.  Spencer Pigot

15.  Gabby Chaves

16.  Zach Veach (R)

17.  Charlie Kimball

18.  Max Chilton

19.  Matheus Leist (R)

DNF – Ed Jones, Kyle Kasier (R), Will Power, Pietro Fittipaldi (R)

Heartbreak for Wickens as Bourdais repeats history: IndyCar St Petersburg Report

IndyCar returned in the most IndyCar way possible on the streets of St Petersburg, with eight cautions, multiple lead changes and a lot of crashes! Robert Wickens so nearly took what would’ve been a remarkable win on his debut but a tangle with Alexander Rossi left Sebastien Bourdais to come through and take his first victory since this time last year.

Up until the race, it had been the weekend for the rookies; Wickens, Jordan King and Matheus Leist all made it into the Firestone Fast Six, with Wickens snatching pole from Will Power in the dying moments of qualifying.

As series veteran Helio Castroneves gave the drivers the command to start their engines, the tension was tangible, could a rookie win in their first race or would the old guard put him in his place? After 110 laps, we would have an answer…

Wickens, despite all the pressure, kept his head at the race start and led; Power had started second but he spun in the opening corners – giving Wickens a decent lead by virtue of everyone having to avoid his Penske. The Canadian also survived his first restart, courtesy of Charlie Kimball spinning and stalling, and successfully negotiated his first IndyCar pit stop.

While Wickens seemed to have it all his own way at the front, Bourdais had already been in the wars. The Frenchman had picked up a puncture on the first lap and had to pit, dropping him down the order and putting him off-strategy.

When caution number two, brought out by Spencer Pigot, came to an end, it was Bourdais who was in the lead, albeit on much older tyres than the chasing pack. Bourdais continued to lead through the next two cautions and restarts, brought out by Leist and Sato respectively, but soon the older tyres came back to bite him. Wickens dived down the inside at Turn 1 to reclaim a lead which he held through the next caution and restart, this time caused by Jack Harvey.

Once the pit stops had cycled out, a new contender emerged in the shape of Andretti’s Rossi who’d been quietly going about his business up until then. Wickens led with Rossi in hot pursuit while Bourdais was all but out of it, now eight seconds back on the leading pair.

Wickens and Rossi traded fastest laps but it was clear that Rossi was catching the Canadian rookie – it was game on for the 2016 Indy 500 winner. However, when the pair caught traffic, Rossi ran too hot into Turn 4 and went wide; this mistake dropped the American nearly three seconds back from Wickens who now looked comfortable in the lead.

There was to be another twist to the tail though; Rene Binder was struggling with endurance because of the length of the race and subsequently hit the barriers, bringing out caution number six. This was a godsend for both Rossi and Bourdais who’d since lost touch with Wickens – the race was back on.

Wickens led off the restart with Rossi too busy sliding on his worn tyres to even think of a challenge. Just as Wickens looked to have it in the bag, Max Chilton put his Carlin in the wall to bring out the seventh caution of the race. On the restart, Wickens was slower than Rossi and the latter looked to take advantage of that into Turn 1 however, Rossi was struggling on his tyres, the overtake attempt soon turned into a crash. Wickens was spun around and put in the wall while Rossi was able to continue but it had done its damage to both their races because now, out of the blue, Bourdais was leading.

Wickens’ spin had brought out the eighth and final caution of the race which meant that it ended under yellows so it was a very emotional Bourdais who took an unchallenged victory from Graham Rahal and Rossi.

After the hectic nature of this weekend, all bets are off for the championship as the series heads to Phoenix in just under a month’s time.

IndyCar Season Preview (Part 1)

The new IndyCar season is just a matter of weeks away and, with testing in full swing, here’s a look at what to expect in the season ahead.

Before we get onto 2018, let’s take a quick look back at 2017.

Four drivers dominated while Penske reigned supreme once more on the team’s front. Those four drivers were Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves (all Penske) and Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi) with the former being crowned champion after an edgy duel at the season finale at Sonoma.

The other Penske, Will Power, had horrendous bad luck all season long with bad result after bad result ruling him out of any chance of a performance to resemble 2016.

Elsewhere, IndyCar veteran Sebastien Bourdais started with a season that was almost too good to be true and, unfortunately for both the Frenchman and team Dale Coyne, it was. A monster crash at the Indy 500 left Bourdais with a fractured pelvis, all but ending his season.

Speaking of the Indy 500, a certain Fernando Alonso made a headline appearance only for his Honda machinery to let him down once more while it was ex-F1 driver Takuma Sato who took the victory.

Let’s have a look ahead at what the season has in store…


Team Penske

Penske come into 2018 as the team to beat after an incredibly successful past couple of years. Back-to-back titles with first Pagenaud in 2016 and then Newgarden in 2017 means that Penske have some living up to if they’re to top that.

For Newgarden, the golden boy of IndyCar, anything short of a title challenge will be considered a disappointment, following his remarkable 2017 season. Few would ever doubt Newgarden’s talents, he’s a driver who’s been looked at by multiple F1 teams and is widely considered to be one of the best on the IndyCar grid. However, very few people expected him to triumph in his first year at Penske; sure, he’d won a race at Ed Carpenter Racing the year previous but even so, a year of learning was expected from Newgarden. No one seemed to tell him that though as the young American gave his much more experienced teammates a proper wake-up call.

2016 champion Pagenaud will be looking to act upon that wake-up from Newgarden in 2018. Many expected the Frenchman to put a very strong fight for his title and maybe even retain it however, we expected him to be fighting against Power, Dixon, Castroneves and Graham Rahal – in other words, the old guard. Yet no, Pagenaud had to attempt to fend off attack after attack from his new teammate as well as all the older drivers. This accumulated to a blow out at Gateway where Newgarden infuriated Pagenaud by passing in very close quarters through Turn 3. Keeping his head wasn’t one of Pagenaud’s strong points in 2017 so that’ll defiantly be something he’ll want to change for the upcoming season if he’s to put Penske’s youngster back in his place.

Will Power was often forgotten during 2017; after a matter of races he became irrelevant to the championship following a streak of incidents and failures. After taking Pagenaud right down to the wire in 2016, this came as a massive disappointment to both Power and Penske but, given his clear talent, it’s a season that everyone expects him to come back stronger from. They call those tough seasons “character building” and they are needed every once in a while, to keep a driver in check – Power will be hoping that all that is consigned to the history books as he bids for his second title.

Penske is just three-man team in 2018 after Castroneves, as they did with Juan Pablo Montoya last year, was transferred to Penske’s sports car campaign. It was felt that Castroneves’ time in IndyCar was up and, unfortunately, the Brazilian leaves the series having never won a championship.


Chip Ganassi Racing

Ganassi has a fresh look to it for 2018 after Max Chilton, Tony Kannan and Charlie Kimball all parted ways with owner Chip following multiple high-profile fall outs. Their star driver, Dixon, however, is staying on for another year with Chip and his team. The title is very much on their agenda while the full support of the team is expected to be but behind Dixon, rather than Ed Jones.

Dixon comes off the back of a mixed but mostly successful season; his huge, aerial crash at the Indy 500 and subsequent ankle injury hampered his outings at Detroit and Texas – damaging his titles hopes as a result. Despite this, he found himself leading the championship for six races during the mid-season before being eventually passed by Newgarden. He’ll be hoping to keep his feet, well car, firmly on the ground this season while putting in a strong challenge for the title. The 37-year old is still looking for his record-breaking fifth title.

Alongside the vastly experienced Dixon will be 2017’s rookie of the year, Jones. 2017 should’ve been the year that Jones learnt his craft in IndyCar alongside Bourdais at Daye Coyne however, that all went a bit wrong, what with the Frenchman’s Indy 500 crash. Suddenly, Jones found himself having to lead a team with the merry-go-round of drivers in the #18 car; a hard ask for anyone, let alone a rookie. Nonetheless, Jones showed immense maturity and skill, delivering some very impressive results and landing himself a seat at Ganassi. 2018 should be a continuation of the learning with Dixon clearly the teams number 1 driver.


Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL)

The once solo affair of RLL is expanding to two full-time cars for 2018 with long-time driver Rahal (his father Bobby Rahal co-owns the team, if you were wondering) being partnered by the 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato.

Rahal is a very respected figure in the paddock and it’s a wonder how he still doesn’t have a title to his name. He put in a relatively strong showing for 2017 with his only two wins coming at Detroit, a track that he’s dominated at for as long as anyone can remember. The car was just never quite there and Rahal got into a few incidents that he need of not. With another car to draw data from, the hope is that RLL will be much more competitive in 2018.

Alongside Rahal will be Sato who jumped ship from Andretti after the owners dithered around as to whether they were going to stay with Honda or not. Sato’s highlight of 2017 was by far and away his unexpected win at the Indy 500 over Castroneves. He’s expected to back up and maybe challenge Rahal for 2018, providing valuable data and track time for the team in the meantime.


Andretti Autosport

Andretti, if I’m being honest, were a bit of a disappointment last year; yes, they won the Indy 500 and yes, they ran Alonso but their highest placed driver in the championship was only seventh. Clearly, improvement is needed at Andretti if they’re to restore their place as title challengers, if not winners.

Alexander Rossi finally secured his second win in IndyCar in 2017 at Watkins Glen to go along with his rather fluky 2016 Indy 500 win. This was an important milestone for Rossi because it proved the doubters wrong, he showed that he could win a race purely on ability, rather than clever strategy and luck. This and more is expected of the ex-F1 driver as he looks to spearhead Andretti’s title challenge.

Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti will line up alongside Rossi again with both drivers hoping to keep Rossi in order, reminding the world that Andretti isn’t just a one-man band.

The RLL bound Sato has been replaced by IndyCar rookie Zach Veach who makes the step up after three seasons in Indy Lights. It’s expected to be a learning year for the young American and, with three experienced teammates alongside him, that should be easier for him than some.


Keep an eye out for part two with the second half of the teams…

Indycar Thrills and Spills in the Wild West!


Australian Will Power triumphed in an action packed race at the Texas Motor Speedway. This was his 31st overall victory in the Indycar series and his second in Texas, although he is more known for his road and street course skills. He led 180 of the 248 laps, which may show that it was a breeze for the Penske driver but it was far from it.

Everyone sees Indianapolis as the pinnacle of the Indycar season, but Texas is often overlooked, as it is a 600 mile race from dusk into the night on a smaller 1.44 mile high banked oval, resulting in 248 laps compared to 200 at Indy.

Charlie Kimball looked strong, securing pole after a lengthened delay due to bad weather, unlike Indy the race begins in a two by two formation, alongside him was his team mate Scott Dixon. Tristan Vautier was filling in for Sebastian Bourdais, the third driver since the Frenchman’s horrific crash at Indianapolis. His first Indycar race in two years, he secured fifth place. It was a relatively clean start, the top five kept mixing between themselves but Kimball was in control. Penske drivers Will Power and Josef Newgarden towards the end of the first stint began to make their moves. Lap 29 Vautier managed to past Kimball for the lead, and he began to tumble down the field. Alexander Rossi who qualified third, has been very impressive this season, but today was not his day, he got the wrong side of Kanaan and lost control going up high on Lap 37.

The pit lane opened and Newgarden won the race off pit road ahead of the field ahead of Power. Hinchcliffe exiting the pits lost control, hindering the exits of Indy 500 winner Sato and runner up Castroneves. They all managed to continue, during the period early-leader Kimball suffered technical issues and had to retire. Various penalties were given out to new race leader Newgarden for speeding in the pits and Hinchcliffe for the collision he caused. This resulted in the restart with Will Power in the lead when they went green on lap 47.
Will Power began to pull away, Vautier and Dixon hot on his heels, and the field began to mix and match going two/three wide on rare occasions, still a bit dirty on the edge of the oval. Late 60’s reigning championship Simon Pagenaud, not known for his ovals, began to make a move and catch Power. Pagenaud moved to second to push pressure onto Power, but towards the end of the race the field began to struggle with blistering on tyres. These came to further fruition when Castroneves front tyre failed resulting in an accident at Turn 2 on lap 91. Power won the race off pit lane, and due to the caution the likes of Sato and Newgarden managed to return onto the lead lap. The race went back off well, but Ed Carpenter who is known for his oval skills as he tends to only race them in the season made contact with Vautier resulting in the third caution of the day.

The caution period was very short, and near enough instantaneously went back to green flag, Power continued to lead, whilst the top five behind chasing him would always mix and match every other lap or so. Pagenaud, expert Tony Kanaan and very impressive Vautier were amongst the battle for the podium positions behind Power. He was dominating the event, always having a few lengths over the competition. On lap 139 the fourth caution came out for the day, this time for debris off one of the cars, this allowed a chance for everyone to pit, just over half distance. Max Chilton tried to mix things up, and was the sole person not to pit, resulting in himself taking the lead from Power. We went green 10 laps later, and with a lighter car Chilton began to gap himself to Power, but the fresh rubber Chilton lost ground with Power passing back into the lead.

The biggest event of the night happened on lap 152, resulting in a massive collision wiping out the majority of the field, Tony Kanaan being the catalyst for the 8 car pile up. Vautier’s return ended in the crash, an impressive showing for his first race in two years, the likes of Hildebrand, previous champion Hunter-Reay and rookie Ed Jones were also part of the eight retirements. Ed Carpenter and Hildebrand managed to slowly get back to the pits, and rejoin albeit considerable laps behind the leader. Huge amount of debris on the track resulted in a red flag, a 30 minute period whilst they cleaned up the track, Kanaan in that time was dealt with a 20 second stop and go penalty from the result. Kanaan as a result went two laps down upon the restart. The tyres were also reviewed, and the amount of blistering the Firestone tyres received for safety reason they elected if green for 30 laps we would have mandatory pit stops.

We went green on lap 159, and 30 laps later onto lap 189 we went to the caution for pits, Kanaan managed as a result regain one of his laps he fell behind because of his penalty. Hildebrand was struggling massively and had to pit prior to the period, and went laps down just like Kanaan. Scott Dixon managed to beat Power off the pit lane, a new race leader was placed, but Power was in Dixon’s shadow ready to pounce. Pagenaud and Sato behind him, with Graham Rahal managing to move himself up the field, albeit due to previous crashes, we had half the field racing. After the period near enough Power managed went around Dixon to retake the lead, he was unbeatable tonight. Newgarden tried to move over, he had great pace, going three wide, but the track out wide in certain areas had still very little grip, resulting in him hitting the wall with caution issued. Only a few laps after the previous caution no one decided to pit. Kanaan managed to return to the lead lap with this caution.

Racing continued following the clean up on lap 210, Power continued to lead, the likes of Pagenaud and Sato continued to battle over the final podium positions. Kanaan now on the lead lap begun to make himself up the field. On lap 229 we had the last tyre change which Firestone agreed due to the blister scenario on the tyres. The top five remained the same, no changes amongst the pit lane, Power winning off the pits, unlike the previous. We went green for the last time, Dixon seemed to have better pace towards the end, and managed to overtake Power. It seemed Dixon timed the pass brilliantly as we head towards the last 10% of the race. Power was having none of it, and they traded the lead for multiple laps, Kanaan had moved up and Indy champion Sato were closing in on the two. Sato tried to pass Dixon on the front straight, but Texas isn’t like Indianapolis a slight dogleg on the start/finish straight, he clipped the grass losing his car into the side of Dixon. Chilton who was amongst the battle for top five had nowhere to go, ending his race, with only five laps to go.

The race was agreed to end under yellow flag, Power took the line first, for victory. Remarkably Kanaan who was two laps down at lap 209 managed to take the line second, with Pagenaud in third. Only six drivers finished on the lead lap, but only eight

Photo courtesy of Eric Barnes

were technically still running, albeit Ed Carpenter being so many laps down, the likes of Chilton, Kanaan and Dixon were classified ahead of him. Dixon continued to lead the championship, Pagenaud moved back up to second, increasing his chances of retaining the championship, whilst Power moved up to fifth.

A truly amazing action packed race, we return to a road track next time out, the legendary Road America in a fortnight’s time, expect to see the likes of Dixon, Power and Pagenaud strong, more race/street experts than ovals.

Chris Lord


14 June 2016

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