Outside contenders at the IndyCar Bommarito Automotive 500

Following the dramatic conclusion of the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar relentlessly ploughs on with frightening momentum into a double header weekend at the World-Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Illinois.

Now two-time Indy 500 champion Takuma Sato brings massive confidence to the Bommarito Automotive Group 500, a race he won last year after holding off a late-charging Ed Carpenter in the closing stages to win by a narrow lead of 0.0339 seconds. It was the closest finish in IndyCar history.

He will get the opportunity not once, but twice to win at Gateway again. It is a sight we have almost become accustomed to, with doubleheaders at Iowa, Road America and of course over in Formula 1 with double-headers at Austria and Silverstone.

Looking at the championship standings it is a grim picture for anyone who is not Scott Dixon. The New Zealander holds a commanding lead of 84 points over his next closest rival, Josef Newgarden. It paints a clearer picture of how dominant the five-time world champion has been this season when noticing third placed Patricio O’Ward is a further 33 points behind Newgarden. Can anyone stop the brilliance of Scott Dixon?

Frankly, outside Newgarden, O’Ward and Sato, you may think the chances are slim.

But alas, there are many other drivers looking to prove themselves at the famous ‘egg-shaped’ circuit. Here are my surprise candidates to achieve a good result this weekend:

James Black / IndyCar Media

Santino Ferrucci

However infamous this young driver may be, you can’t argue with the results he has been putting in this season.

A pair of sixth place finishes in the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America road course doubleheader was certainly a standout. More recently, a fantastic fourth at the Indianapolis 500 following a late charge which saw him finish three tenths behind leader Takuma Sato and within touching distance of podium finisher Graham Rahal.

In three out of the last five races he has finished in the top six. You could therefore argue that the young gun is finding his feet comfortably in IndyCar, vehemently charged to change his reputation in global motorsport.

While the likes of VeeKay, Palou, Askew and O’Ward may be stealing most of the headlines, Santino will be looking to upset the status-quo. You only have to look back a year when he finished fourth at Gateway after leading almost one hundred laps of the famous egg-shaped circuit.

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media

Conor Daly

Weeks have elapsed since a hilarious prank war between Conor Daly and Alexander Rossi, where the Andretti driver awoke to find his golf cart dismantled and relieved of its wheels. Since then, you could say Daly would have gladly swapped that same golf cart in place of his actual IndyCar over the last few races.

He has not finished in the top ten since the first race at Iowa and will be looking to bounce back in spectacular fashion.

Luckily for Conor, it seems he has a knack at Gateway. In his two race starts at the Bommarito 500 he has never finished outside the top six, a statistic that may give him confidence going into the weekend.

Bouncing between Carlin and Ed Carpenter Racing this year certainly will not have helped to form any sort of consistency needed for a title challenge. However, out of all his teammates he is currently tied with the most points alongside hotshot rookie Rinus VeeKay. If you were looking for a dramatic teammate battle, this one would be the one to watch.

Chris Owens / IndyCar Media

Colton Herta

The young American has had something of a roller-coaster of a season. While he is win-less this year, a seventh, fourth and a pair of fifths in the opening four rounds of the campaign proves he has consistency as well as raw speed. He comes radiating confidence after finishing a tremendous eight at the Brickyard.

What has been most impressive this year has been his qualifying form. Since the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway his qualifying results have been as follows: Indianapolis (3rd), Road America Race 1 (7th), Road America Race 2 (2nd), Iowa Speedway Race 1 (4th), Iowa Speedway Race 2 (5th). He only barely missed out on the ‘Fast Nine’ shootout at the Indy500. In such a competitive field, such consistent qualifying pace is a solid indicator that Colton has the speed to match anyone in the series. I expect a similar solid qualifying run to occur, and with that, a potential for a good result.

If you need any more evidence, the Californian has made two Indy Lights starts at Worldwide Technology Raceway leading 69 of 75 laps in 2018 before settling for second. Herta finished one spot lower in his first race at the 1.25-mile oval.

Three conclusions we can take from IndyCar’s opening six races

Can Anyone Stop Scott Dixon?

To some, the incredible form of Scott Dixon is nothing of a surprise. After winning at Texas, Indianapolis, and Road America he sealed his 49th career win, three behind IndyCar and Formula 1 legend Mario Andretti who stands at second on the all-time list. This will be his 18th consecutive season in American open-wheel racing with a win on his quest to achieve his sixth championship title.

Dixon proved his class on the restart of the season, finishing 4.411 seconds clear of rival Simon Pagenaud at Texas Motor Speedway where he led 157 of the 200 laps. What immediately followed was another dominant win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning by over 20 seconds over Graham Rahal. Finally, a win at Road America gave him his third consecutive win, with seemingly no let-up in sight.

Chris Jones / IndyCar Media

Since then, we have had three more races: one other at Road America, and two at Iowa Speedway. Despite starting 17th in both races, Dixon rose to an incredible second and fifth place to solidify his lead at the top of the standings

How has Dixon done this? A mixture of raw pace, consistency, experience, and well-executed strategy calls. Interestingly, despite not starting anywhere higher than the third row of the grid five of the last six races he has finished on the podium four times, a testament to how good his race strategy and decision-making skills are.

However, all three Penske drivers are firmly in the hunt. Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden will be looking to stop Scott Dixon’s momentum heading into the second half of the season.

Dixon says that he is in impeccable form, in an interview he states:

“For me right now, I’m physically stronger,” he said. “Mentally, I’m in a better place than ever.”

Bad news for his competitors, but great news for race fans.

 

Safety is Key

A significant moment in IndyCar history was the implementation of the Aeroscreen, designed by RedBull Advanced Technologies. The engineering consultancy of the championship-winning Formula 1 team proposed the concept in 2016 only to be rejected for the Halo device.

The device improves the design of the Halo in a significant way. The polycarbonate ballistic windscreen protects the driver from any debris that would otherwise bypass the titanium frame. Additionally, the windscreen can withstand a hit from a 2lb (0.9kg) object at a speed of 220 mph (354kmh). Thus, pieces of a car, that for any reason, rise to meet the cockpit of a competitor are very unlikely to reach the driver inside, and we now have evidence to back this up.

During lap 144 at the Iowa Speedway, a botched pitstop left Will Power’s car with a loose left front wheel. Subsequently on lap 157 Power understeered into the wall, breaking the front suspension, and sending one of his tyres over the car itself. Luckily, the tyre deflected off the windscreen and away from the driver. Power heaped praise on the effectiveness of the Aeroscreen following the race:

“Man, I can’t thank IndyCar enough for everything they’ve done safety-wise with the Aeroscreen and halo inside the Aeroscreen,” he said. “You just saw Colton Herta go over the top of someone, and they’ve just done a tremendous job. It’s better than any other series that have invented something like it. Just a very good job,”

The crash he was referring to involved Colton Herta on lap 157. Due to a confusion during an aborted restart he accelerated into the back of Rinus Veekay. Horrifically, Herta can be seen being thrown into the air above Veekay. Luckily, the Aeroscreen kept the Dutchman safe as Herta’s car lands on top of him.

Without the Aeroscreen it is highly likely that both these incidents could have resulted in serious injuries for all the drivers involved.

The Aeroscreen, while still criticised for things such as overheating the drivers in the cockpits, is a positive contribution to safety in motorsport and certainly here to stay.

 

McLaren’s Rise to Prominence

Chris Jones / IndyCar Media

Two years ago, McLaren were struggling in Formula One with a series of reliability issues with their Honda powertrain and a car that did not meet the team’s expectations. A disastrous campaign resulted in them losing two-time champion Fernando Alonso. However, it forced them to embark on a fundamental restructuring process that would lead them back to the front of motorsport.

Since then, it has been a remarkable turnaround for the team, with two podiums and two fastest laps to its name in Formula One this year.  McLaren also have been racing in IndyCar alongside Schmidt Arrow Peterson, rebranded as Arrow McLaren SP. This seems to have been a partnership made in heaven with a serious of impressive drives from both Patricio O’Ward and Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew.

An impressive race at Road America saw Patricio O’Ward score his first pole position, but unfortunately lose the win to Chip Ganassi star Felix Rosenqvist on the final lap of the race. Not too long after at Iowa Speedway both Arrow McLaren Chevrolets were among the fastest cars in the field even if the results for both cars did not reflect their outright pace.

Rookie Oliver Askew impressed with his first podium in Race 1 and an impressive sixth after a late stint on fresher tyres. Meanwhile, it was a case of what might have been for O’Ward.

After making some impressive overtakes using the high line he gained five positions, eventually hunting down race leader Josef Newgarden for the win. Unfortunately, a slow pitstop cost O’Ward the lead lap and ultimately the race win. He finished in 12th, arguably an undeserved result for such an impressive drive.

Oliver Askew now sits at the top of the Rookie of the Year standings (115 points) while his teammate is firmly in the championship hunt, sitting in fourth (162 points). Though, after narrowly losing two race wins, O’Ward may feel that he should be sitting in second place only below Scott Dixon in the standings had results gone his way. Pato remains cautiously optimistic about the team’s chances this year:

“We want to win races, be a contender in the championship,” he says. “Everyone is pushing the same way as I am, with the same amount of energy and motivation. We have a great group of engineers and the car has felt good everywhere we’ve been.

 

[Featured image – Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media]

Fernando Alonso named as McLaren Racing ambassador

McLaren have announced the continuation of their relationship with double world champion Fernando Alonso, naming the Spaniard as a McLaren Racing ambassador.

They also revealed that Alonso will drive alongside Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris in selected tests over the course of the 2019 season to aid in the development of this year’s car, and also of the 2020 design.

“Becoming a McLaren ambassador is a true honour,” Alonso said. “It is a special team, and despite the challenges we have endured recently, it remains so. I said before I stopped racing in Formula 1 last year that I see myself with McLaren for a long time to come, so I am delighted at this new role and the ability to stay closely involved with the team I feel is my spiritual home.”

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, in the pit lane | LAT/McLaren

Speaking of the announcement, McLaren Chief Executive Zak Brown said, “For any race team, having someone of Fernando’s class on hand to provide support through his experience is of huge value. His insights and perspective will be welcomed by both our drivers and engineers alike, while his stature and character remain highly appealing to our partners and fans.”

Alonso retired from F1 at the end of last year with two titles and 32 race wins to his name, four of which came during his first stint at McLaren in 2007. He rejoined the team in 2015, where an underwhelming Honda power unit put a stop to any hopes of adding to his tally.

As part of his pursuit of motorsport’s Triple Crown, Alonso will make his second Indy 500 appearance later this year, having first competed at the event with McLaren in 2017.

“We have the Indianapolis 500 in May of course, which I am looking forward to immensely,” Alonso said, “but this is just the beginning of many things we can do together. I am particularly passionate about nurturing young talent, whether that’s with my own team or helping the new generation of Formula 1 drivers at McLaren unlock their true potential. This is important to both the team and myself, so will be an especially rewarding part of my role.”

 

[Featured image – Steven Tee/McLaren]

McLaren abandon IndyCar 2019 plans but leave door open for Indy 500

McLaren team principal Zak Brown has admitted that the team have been forced to put their plans for a full-time IndyCar entry on hold after engine negotiations stalled. The failure of the deal is a partial legacy from the explosive McLaren-Honda relationship in F1, with Honda reluctant to supply the team that criticised them so heavily during those turbulent years.

Admittedly, it was all getting a bit late in the day for a new entry anyway, given that there are only a few months until the new season gets underway in March next year. If McLaren were serious about being in IndyCar full-time, a deal would have been sorted out months ago. They have, instead, made the decision to focus on their F1 project, which certainly needs some sorting out!

Earlier in the year, it was said that the McLaren shareholders were less than keen on the team entering IndyCar for 2019, again based on the fact that they need to get their F1 performances back to a respectable level before they allow themselves to get distracted by IndyCar.

Even with all of McLaren’s internal problems, the biggest issue for them was always going to be engine supply. IndyCar has just two engine suppliers: Honda and Chevrolet. The dawn of the universal aero kits has brought the two closer together than ever before, but Honda have rather stolen a march on their American counterparts, taking the drivers championship and nearly locking out the top ten with only Penske getting a nose in for Chevrolet.

This means that, in an ideal world, McLaren would want to team up with Honda, especially given that they are the suppliers of Andretti, who McLaren were looking to do some sort of partnership with. However, all the aforementioned F1 shenanigans has made that nigh on impossible. A Chevrolet deal hasn’t proven any easier, because the only team that realistically has enough resources to accommodate McLaren is Penske, and they’ve said that they’re not interested in such a partnership.

That has left McLaren in a tight spot and, despite some rumblings about a potential Harding link-up or even buyout, they’ve been forced to put their IndyCar aspirations on the shelf, at least for now.

Zak Brown has, however, not ruled out the potential for an Indy 500-only entry for Fernando Alonso, presumably in association with Andretti again. This would be no mean feat for the Spaniard though. It will not be as easy for him as it was in 2017 because of the universal aero kits which have closed the field up and made it much more difficult to jump in and be fast straight away.

Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada
Sunday 10 June 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _1ST0758

To win the mystical ‘Triple Crown’ Alonso would realistically have to look at a full season of IndyCar, and even that holds no guarantees of Indy 500 success, something that any IndyCar driver would agree with.

All of this really begs the question of just what Alonso will do in 2019. He’s yet to make any announcement or even drop a cryptic clue on Twitter about it, leaving everyone guessing. If he is to do IndyCar it won’t be with McLaren, but surely McLaren wouldn’t be talking about doing an Indy 500 entry if they knew Alonso was going to another team. Maybe he isn’t going to do a full IndyCar season after all?

If it’s not IndyCar, then the sky’s the limit for Alonso. It really is anyone’s guess as to what he’ll do next season, but it’ll probably be more than one series, given that he’d race every weekend if he could!

Anyway, while 2019 may be off the table for McLaren, they have reiterated the fact that they do want to do IndyCar at some point in the future. The time just isn’t right for them yet, but hopefully it will be soon.

Opinion: Why Fernando Alonso’s charm is wearing thin

Fernando Alonso has never been the humblest of drivers, nor the most understated. He’s also infamous for his fairly horrendous career choices that have left him frustrated in underperforming cars, which is exactly where he finds himself now. His angered, but often humorous, radio messages during his time at McLaren have turned the Spaniard into the ‘meme-king’ of F1, but his off-the-cuff comments are, to some at least, starting to become repetitive and tiresome.

If you had a pound for every time Alonso’s called himself the “best in the world” or a performance the “best of his life” you would be very, very rich. These comments come seemingly every race weekend with the two-time champion desperate to remind everyone just how good he is… even when he’s often knocked out in Q1.

This weekend at Japan he called his qualifying lap “one of the best laps of my life,” saying he didn’t leave anything out on the challenging Suzuka track. That statement is more than credible when taken out of context, but when you add in the fact that he qualified eighteenth and that it’s definitely not the first time he has said that this season… well, this is where I’m coming from.

Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary. .
Sunday 30 July 2017.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _R3I4275

You get the sense that part of Alonso’s reasoning for saying these kinds of things is to tell the world “look how good I am. I’m not bad, the car is”. The Spaniard is well-known for his harsh criticism of underperforming machinery, as Honda found out during their three-year partnership with McLaren. However, these actions, most memorably of which was him shouting “GP2 engine!” over the radio, have already come back to bite him with Honda reportedly denying him an IndyCar drive with a Honda-powered team, not wanting to restart their ever-so-fractious relationship.

If you turn back the clocks to Alonso’s Ferrari years, he often came across as a bit grumpy and generally anything but humorous. He seems to have mellowed somewhat in his challenging years at McLaren, with stunts like the deckchair and rather questionable camera-work in consecutive years at Brazil increasing his popularity.

This was furthered by his trip to the Indy 500 last year where he proved he could fight with the best IndyCar has to offer, though it’s tough to say what would’ve happened had his Honda engine hung on until the end of the 200 laps.

Race driver Fernando Alonso of Spain pulls out of the pit area as he practiced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Wednesday, May 3, Alonso plans to miss the Monaco Grand Prix this year to drive in the Indianapolis 500. 2017. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy) ORG XMIT: OTKMC103

His antics have gained him countless fans, loving his outbreaks of personality in amongst the supposedly cold, media-trained youth, but you can’t really say it’s helped him in the matter of trying to get a decent drive. Red Bull said they didn’t want him for his trouble-making tendencies and teams like Mercedes have shied away from him for his potential volatile temperament, not wanting to upset intra-team harmony.

This has left Alonso in the massively underperforming McLaren-Renault that, despite a relatively strong start to the season, has promised much and delivered little. Undoubtedly, Alonso has grown frustrated with this situation and is therefore branching out to find ever more ways to remind everyone of his talent, be it WEC, IndyCar or kart races around his own track. You can’t blame the man for trying!

The problem is, the world hasn’t forgotten how good Alonso is, and it certainly doesn’t need constant reminders by the man himself to know that. Many drivers and teams would say that they like to do their talking on the track but with a lacklustre package, that’s not really an option for Alonso, hence the situation he has found himself in.

Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary.
Saturday 28 July 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren, puts on his helmet in the garage.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _2ST0511

In truth, words can only get you so far, if you are all talk and no trousers, people are going to start taking what you say with more than just a pinch of salt.

His charm is wearing thin on quite a few F1 fans, but it hasn’t worn through and maybe the change of scene next year (wherever that’ll be) will be what Alonso needs, effectively pressing the reset button and, hopefully at least, getting him back to being competitive.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the late great Juan Manuel Fangio that perhaps Alonso should’ve heeded long ago:

“You must always strive to be the best, but you must never believe that you are.”

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:

Friday

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

Saturday

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

Sunday

Race – 11:30pm

(All times BST)

Canadian GP Driver Ratings

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of the greats on the calendar. The last time Ferrari won in Canada was in 2004. Ferrari’s last pole in was 2001, but Vettel changed that.

Sebastian Vettel – 9.5

Faultless, the German had it covered all weekend. Pole position on Saturday and lights to flag victory on Sunday. Ferrari sand bagged like they do on Friday and just gathered information on the lower power settings. Vettel is a driver that likes his figures and stats, maybe a little annoyed he didn’t get the hat-trick of pole, win and the fastest lap though. Ricciardo set that on his final tour. He retakes the lead as we head back into Europe. 50 wins and counting.

Valtteri Bottas – 8

Not many would have expected for Bottas to come away with the bigger points haul for the Silver Arrows, let alone out qualify his team mate. A strong weekend for Bottas and retakes third in the driver’s championship. He showed a bit more resilience at the start keeping Verstappen behind something in previous races he lacked. Drove a great race, pretty boring for him though as wasn’t challenged throughout.

Max Verstappen. Image Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen – 8

Proved some doubters wrong this weekend, so hopefully no headbutting happens. Under fire for a string of mistakes the Dutchman had something to prove, which he did. He put that anger into the wheel of his Red Bull with a superb third in qualifying and race. Got close at the start but no collision with anyone. Held the pressure in the early stages and placed it late on. Very much a confidence booster for himself, Red Bull and indeed his fans.

Daniel Ricciardo – 7

Was a tenth or so behind his team mate all weekend. He missed out on quite a bit of action on Friday with an engine problem not related to his failure in Monaco. He tends to not run well around Canada on Saturday and was out qualified again by his team mate. A better Sunday as he finished two places higher than he started thanks to some great tyre management. Still a great win in Monaco but must look forward now as we re-enter Europe. 

Lewis Hamilton – 6

For a track where Hamilton took his maiden win in 2007, and has 6 wins at he was very off colour. Could only manage P4 on Saturday and with problems in the race resulted him finishing P5. A poor race from a man who has such high standards of himself. Has the excuse of a 6 race old engine whilst others had upgrades but Bottas was in the same situation.

Kimi Raikkonen – 6

Another weekend where in qualifying he blew it, when he ran wide at turn 2, flashback to Baku earlier in the season. The car had the pace to win as it did in Vettels hands. The Finn with fresher tyres after making the stop later than the others around him looked strong for a podium, but he never challenged. He faded to finish a lonely P6. 

Nico Hulkenburg – 8

144 races and counting for Nico and his quest for a podium. They should maybe create a space for the best of the rest after Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull as more often than not this has been the German. Qualified in P7 and finished P7. Not much else he can do really as his car restricts him to move higher up the field.

Carlos Sainz – 7

A solid haul of points for Carlos as Renault strengthen their claim as the best of the rest. Besides the collision at the restart with Perez he had a fairly quiet race. Did well to overcut Ocon at the pit stops.

Esteban Ocon – 7

Ocon had a great weekend considering his team made a mistake in the pits on raceday. The Frenchman battled back but it seems like most suffered from following a car.

Charles Leclerc – 9

This kid has talent, true talent. Charles bounced back from another disapointing home race where his brakes failed to score more points for Sauber. Had a great battle with Alonso and for a while kept him at bay. We are seeing a future Ferrari driver in him, it is only when now they decide, could it be next race, or 2019? 

Pierre Gasly – 8

A good recovery drive from Pierre as Honda’s power looks strong albeit still a little bit worrying with reliability. The Frenchman has used the most components out of the entire field. Was hampered in qualifying with the old engine at a power based track. Due to penalties he started on the back row of the grid. Avoided first lap and restart collisions to finish P11. 

Romain Grosjean – 8

The Groundhog’s revenge, Romain qualifying lasted seconds as his engine let go after exiting his pitbox. A poor groundhog was collected by the Frenchman on Friday. Romain started last but with a great stint on the ultrasoft tyre put him back amongst it all and finished ahead of his team mate. No points but did so well considering, good Sunday, needs a good weekend though, home Grand Prix up next.

Sergio Perez – 6

A great effort from Sergio to make Q3 on a track that suits the Force India better than Monaco. Overall though was off the pace on his team mate by 0.6 in the final session. An erratic restart caused him to collide with a Renault. Damage was never made clear but never recovered from it.

Kevin Magnussen – 6

Started in one of the best places on the grid P11, one up on his team mate due to his troubles but Sunday was a shocker. He was never at it, and finished a woeful P14.

Marcus Ericcson – 5

Leclerc is making Ericsson look a little bit silly now. Ericsson scored points in Bahrain but hasn’t seen any yet. He exited FP3 early after a collision with the wall, and never recovered from that.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 4

Wheres Stoffel? A quiet weekend once more for the Belgian. He was out qualified by his team mate and was nowhere on Sunday. The pressure continues to rise. I feel his future is dependant on Alonso’s decision.

Sergey Sirotkin – 5

Another lacklustre display as he finishes last of the cars to take the flag. A mistake in practice, he never got to grips with a track he’d never raced at. Kubica continues to look on in the background.

Fernando Alonso – 7

His 300th Grand Prix weekend and one in his collection to forget. A man who is in a fork on the in his career. He out qualified his team mate and was running well in the race to be best of the rest before the exhaust failure mid-race. Le Mans is next on the agenda which he hopes to win for the second stage of ‘The Triple Crown.’ Think the result there will give us a bigger idea of where the F1 great will be next year.

Lance Stroll – 5

The Canadian had a weekend in his home country to forget. The Williams is a bit of a dog this year. He hit the wall in practice and then exited again in Q1. Sunday didn’t last long after losing the rear and hitting Hartley. Claire Williams pinned the sole blame on Hartley. Looking at various camera angles and public opinion the blame swings back to Stroll. 91% of people blamed Stroll on our twitter poll. (@PitCrew_Online)

Brendan Hartley – 6

One of his best Saturday’s in the car, the Kiwi qualified ahead of both Mclaren drivers and wasn’t far away from the Q3. It was a shame that Sunday ended so early, going into the end of sector 1 he was outwide on the marbles alongside Stroll. He collected the Williams and lost control of his car. Poor placement you could say from Hartley, but unlucky at the same time.

Final Thoughts

Mercedes have an excuse with their engine not being ready but certainly did not expect Hamilton to finish as low as fifth at one of his favourite tracks and lose the lead. Vettel takes the smallest of leads to the next race.

F1 returns to Europe next time as we have a triple header! We return to France for the first time since 2008 at a track that hasn’t seen competitive action since 1990. The Paul Ricard circuit is a favourite for some to test at. It followed by Austria and then Britain the following week.

Will Mercedes have their engine ready for France? Do Ferrari have the better car again with their new bargeboard improvement?

Featured image courtesy of Ferrari.

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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Halo Vs. AeroScreen – Max Verstappen, Daniel Ricciardo & Scott Dixon On F1 Cockpit Safety | Mobil 1 The Grid

Check out the newest video from Mobil 1 The Grid in which Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo give their thoughts on what they call an ‘ugly’ Halo design, and the reasons behind its full-scale introduction, while Scott Dixon comments on IndyCar’s Aeroscreen alternative, which has been inspired by jet fighter canopies.

Max Verstappen on the Halo: “The car is very ugly with it. I’ll keep saying that for the rest of the season, because I really don’t like it. It’s a shame really for Formula 1. It’s a bit safer, but at the end of the day, you can never make it 100% safe anyway.”

Photographer Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Daniel Ricciardo on the Halo: “It’s visually not the most pretty thing, but it’s fine. I think people will just get used to it. It’s there for a reason; it’s there for those freak accidents and for head injuries. What the fans and viewers need to not get confused or get misled by is that it doesn’t change anything what we do… racing, attacking, defending, how much you’re willing to put the car on the limit – the Halo doesn’t change any of that. Is it attractive? No. But were the F1 cars in 2009 attractive when they went to the big front wings and skinny rear wings? No, they thought they were ugly as hell. But after a few races your eyes just get used to looking at them. Yeah, they’re ugly, but they’re not as ugly as they were a few months ago. If there’s a crash and a part comes flying in the air, if it is going to land in front of you, it could save a death, that’s really all it is.”

Scott Dixon on the Aeroscreen: “The Halo wasn’t something that was feasible for us [in IndyCar], mostly because of the ovals sight-line. You’re in a looking up position, so you’d be looking directly at it. I think the Aeroscreen, with the backing of PPG [Industries], with what they’ve done in the past with fighter-jets, they’d already had a good concept and a good idea of what works and what doesn’t work.”

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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)