Formula 1 drivers moving to IndyCar elevate the whole series

image courtesy of IndyCar/ Matt Fravor

Alexander Rossi, Marcus Ericsson, Fernando Alonso, Romain Grosjean, and most recently Kevin Magnussen (and potentially Alex Albon).

Marcus Ericsson Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix by Chris Jones

All these drivers have at least one thing in common: they used to be Formula 1 drivers who moved to the IndyCar series in the past few years.

It is by no means the first time that we see this pattern: drivers from Formula 1 have consistenly looked outside Europe for their future endeavors, and IndyCAR (or CART for a brief period of time) was an attractive option. Nigel Mansell and Emerson Fittipaldi did the same, and they became CART champions and, in the case of Emmo, an Indy 500 champion.

However, in recent years, a lot of proper talent has been left with no F1 seat –  these drivers have to find an alternative, a way to move forward with their careers.

Excluding Alexander Rossi, who is an American and had always the opportunity to jump ship, should he need to, every other F1 driver who raced or is currently competing in IndyCar, is not from the US, nor has any firm connections with the other side of the pond.

This is especially telling of the appeal IndyCar has these days to a lot of drivers, like Ericsson or Grosjean, who came from F1 and are podium finishers and winners of their own in the series.

McLaren’s commitment is also a significant step into making IndyCar a prime opportunity for drivers, young or not, to get their names heard and their abilities shown to a broad audience. Colton Herta, for example, has become a household name in Europe, even though he is an American, driving in an American racing series, for an American team, just because so many European drivers have moved there and brought attention to the sport.

Fernando Alonso’s Indy 500 participations, although not successful, inspired other drivers try this route, see where it leads them.

Even before Romain Grosjean was out of F1, he was contacted by Coyne Racing to drive for them in 2021. A Swiss-born Frenchman did the unthinkable – or so it was a couple of years ago – and went on to become an IndyCar driver, and a podium finisher with solid chances to win his first race in the series this year. He is so impressed and enthousiastic about the championship, he even considers racing in ovals in 2022, despite denying such a proposition after his horrific accident at Sakhir last November.

Couple that with the TV deals to broadcast IndyCar in Europe (namely the Sky Sports one in the UK and the DAZN one in other countries in the continent), and you have a solely-American championship going international, at least in its appeal and recognition.

And believe me when I say it is important for IndyCar and the whole organisation that Roger Penske presides over, to find global recognition. That is, because even though the recent Music City GP was watched by 1.212 million viewers on NBCSN, the NASCAR races have consistently more viewers, topping to 2-2,6 million viewers on average. But, NASCAR has next to zero international audience – IndyCar must take advantage of that.

It is a paradox. IndyCar prouds itself to be an all-American single-seater series, yet it has a broad international (mostly European) audience, with an ever growing European grid. NASCAR will hold the US market, maybe until F1 takes over in the next years (if we take into account its current trajectory).

And let’s not forget that former F1 drivers joining IndyCar make the series more competitive, less predictable. Big names, such as Will Power, Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden have taken over the championship for the past few years, and they are all great drivers, don’t get me wrong on that one. However, they do not possess the kind of talent that Grosjean or Magnussen (who’s considering a move there), or even Lundgaard (who did an one-off appearance last Sunday at IMS, despite him having a food poisoning the night before) have. They are staples of the grid, they are champions, record-holders, winners. But, they are not the ones that will move Indy forward, let’s be honest.

IndyCar is in a prime position to get to the next level, attract new names, maybe new manufacturers, become global, get the respect it deserves, win over even the most skeptic motorsport fan out there – just because the current F1 grid is so saturated, it can’t afford to give every talent a racing seat.

Drivers know that, IndyCar knows that, Penske does too.

Is the Indianapolis 500 *ACTUALLY* the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ ?

The Indianapolis 500 has become one of the most famous racing events over the past century, combining scintillating speed and unmitigated bravery that is quite unparalleled in motorsport.

With speeds topping over 220mph, drivers are at full throttle for approximately 3 hours, experiencing forces of (4G) across an incredible 200-lap distance.

But with speed comes danger, and hero can turn to zero in a heartbeat. The sport is recognised as one of the most dangerous with over 40 deaths occurring at The Brickyard.

Fox and Cheever 1995 Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of IndyCar.

While there has not been a death at the Indy 500 in almost a decade, serious injuries are still a reality for many. During practice for the Indy 500 in 2015, James Hinchcliffe famously flipped his No.5 Honda after touching the barriers, resulting in a burning inferno and a piece of the car’s suspension piercing his left thigh as he hit the wall. The Canadian driver would survive this incident but missed the rest of the IndyCar season as a result.

The Indianapolis 500 is a race like no other, with incredible technology and deep traditions which make it an event like no other.

But is it *REALLY* the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’?

WHAT IS THE COMPETITION?

The Monaco F1 Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24 Hours can be considered its closest competitors. To win all three is what is known as the ‘Triple Crown’ – suggesting they all share qualities as the toughest races in the world. All of these races present unique challenges, and with that, different audiences.

Monaco is widely seen as the jewel in the crown of motorsport. Since its inception in 1929, the most richest and famous grace the presence of ‘The Principality’ for a week of festivities, boat parties, and galas. If there’s anything that epitomises the socioeconomic legacy of Formula 1 – its Monaco.

No other race can compare to Monaco in terms of the beauty of its surroundings. Wedged between the natural beauty of the Mediterranean Sea and the Maritime Alps, the Circuit de Monaco winds through the tight streets of the principality.

The race presents its own challenges. Like the Indy 500, one mistake can mean the end of your race.  The tight, windy streets produce one of the most exciting qualifying sessions in motorsport. It tests every inch of a driver’s concentration and skill to perfect, which is why only the very best see repeated success.

However, they also make it very difficult to overtake which detracts from the overall entertainment of the event. Many people comment on the “dullness” of Monaco and the lack of racing that occurs.

Likewise, you could make a case for the Le Mans 24 Hours, staged at the semi-permanent race course: The Circuit de la Sarthe since the very first race in 1923.

The 38-turn, 8.5-mile track takes around 3min 25sec to complete for LMP1 cars. It’s unbelievably quick and challenging, with tricky corners like the Porsche Curves and plenty of long straights.

Each team is pushed to its technological and physical limits to race through the day and into the night. Machine and humans alike withstand incredible attrition and exhaustion if they want to win this star-studded race.

Moreover, the vast number of cars on track make it an incredible spectacle to watch with: Hypercars, LMP2 Prototypes, and GT cars racing side by side. The sheer variety of teams, drivers, nationalities, and races on show is unmatched.

Now, throw in the likes of the Isle of Man TT and The Dakar Rally – Indy has some stiff competition.

COMPETITIVENESS 

While it is a misnomer that IndyCar is a ‘spec-series’, it certainly would fool you to think it was.

It is common for drivers to fight through the field from lowly positions, sometimes even fighting for the win.

Not only did Louis Meyer charge through the pack in the 1936 Indy 500, moving from a starting position of 28th to a final position of first, but he also led 96 laps while capturing his third Indy 500 win.

Moreover, three out of the last six races have seen some of the closest finishes in racing, 15′, 17′, and 19′ all with winning margins of less than 0.25s.

Anything can happen at the 500′ as can be seen this year with Penske’s Will Power nearly failing to qualify, a fate that was all-too-real for two-time Formula 1 Champion Fernando Alonso in 2019.

This unpredictability adds to the entertainment of the event and speaks volumes of the challenges facing teams who are all competing at a very similar level.

TRADITIONS

The first Indianapolis 500 race took place in 1911 (Older than *both* the Monaco GP and 24 Hours Le Mans). Since then, numerous traditions have been created.  For many fans, these traditions are an important part of the race experience that they look forward to every year.

Harroun wins the first ever 1911 Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of IndyCar.

But perhaps one of the strangest traditions of the race is the winner chugging a bottle of chilled milk in victory lane.

It’s a unique tradition that has appeared in every race since 1956 and has become a snapshot moment defining the elation of victory after winning one of the world’s most iconic races.

Likewise, the presenting of the Indy 500 rings is a special moment for all drivers who compete, a momento that only a few can say they have received

There are many traditions that may seem odd to those unfamiliar with the event, but they only add an endearing quality to it. You can tell how much this race means to drivers, teams, and fans alike by the way they celebrate and look forward to these moments. It adds richness, built upon years of hard work, achievement, failure, and redemption. This history is personified in these moments which make it hard to resist.

VIEWERSHIP/MARKETS/TV

While comparisons are difficult to make, there is certainly a gulf in global viewership between its nearest competitors.

While a 2018 report by NBC shows figures of around 5 to 6 million average viewers for its domestic audience, this puts it well short of other US events such as the Super Bowl. In other words, that is around 1.6% – 1.8% of the US population.

How does that stack up against other domestic sports events? Well, if you compare this to 3.5 million UK viewers who tuned in for the British Grand Prix – that is approximately 5% of the UK population!

Moreover, according to a report by Nielson Sports in 2017, the Monaco Grand Prix reported saw a 10% rise to 110 million viewers.

While they are no solid sources estimating the worldwide ratings for the Indianapolis 500, they all fall short of the Monaco Grand Prix’s global reach.

It is without question that the reach of ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ dwarfs that of Formula 1. There really is no competition.

GET INVOLVED

But what do *YOU* think?

We want to know whether you think the Indianapolis 500 is ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’. And if so, why?

Let us know in the comments section below or interact with us on Twitter!

 

 

 

Scott Dixon Snatches Indianapolis 500 Pole from Colton Herta. Will Power and de Silvestro Narrowly Qualify.

Scott Dixon keeps his remarkable momentum going with a fourth pole position at the Indianapolis 500. His four-lap average of 231.685 mph topped the Fast Nine Shootout and will start on the front-row alongside Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta and Ed Carpenter Racing’s Rinus VeeKay.

Colton Herta initially set a blistering four-lap average of 231.655 mph to take provisional pole, but Dixon had other ideas. Dixon was the last to run, and when he landed a 232.757 on his opening lap it was clear that Ganassi’s six-time IndyCar champion had the potential to earn his fourth pole. His drop-off was around 1.1mph across the four laps, so his final margin over Herta was only 0.03mph – after 10 miles of flat-out driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – but the job was done.

The next closest threat came from Rinus VeeKay, one of two drivers for Ed Carpenter Racing in the Fast Nine Shootout in what was a remarkable day for the team. Despite a small wiggle coming out of Turn 1 on his fourth lap, the Dutchman’s 231.511 was enough to start ahead of teammate Ed Carpenter (231.504 mph). They made up the only Chevrolet cars in an afternoon that was dominated by Honda.

Tony Kanaan (231.032 mph) starts ahead of his Spanish teammate Alex Palou (231.032 mph) to round out the second-row. For the Brazilian to out-qualify two of his full-time counterparts is nothing short of sensational.

The third-row will be shared between Ryan Hunter-Reay (230.499 mph), Helio Castroneves (230.355 mph), and Marcus Ericsson (230.318 mph). Meyer Shank Racing will be incredibly happy with Castroneves’s performance to pip the final Chip Ganassi driver in the session.

This afternoon also saw the final-row shootout for those who failed to make the Top 30 in yesterday’s qualifying. Will Power, Simona de Silvestro, Sage Karam, Charlie Kimball, and RC Enerson were all at risk of not qualifying for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

de Silvestro qualifies for the Indy 500. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

It was Karam, Power, and de Silvestro who eventually qualified for the final-row in what was a significant milestone in the history of The Brickyard. de Silvestro and Paretta Autosport become the first female driver and all female-led team to qualify for ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Motorsport’.

Team Owner Beth Paretta was full of elation and had this to say on their achievement: “This is just the beginning!”

Consequentially, that means both Kimball and Enerson fail to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

Some other shock performances in Saturday qualifying came from Penske’s Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud. Newgarden made multiple qualifying attempts but was forced to settle with a 230.071 mph four-lap average, good enough only for 21st. Likewise, Simon Pagenaud closed the day in 26th after setting an average of 229.778 mph in what was a difficult day for Chevrolet-powered teams.

Defending Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato will start from 15th. The last to win the 500′ after starting outside the Top 10 was Alexander Rossi in 2016. Incidentally, Rossi just missed out on the Fast Nine Shootout and starts 10th.

With the grid now set, teams have two more practice sessions before the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500, which will take place next Sunday 30 May at  17:00 (BST.)

FULL CLASSIFICATION:

  1. Dixon
  2. Herta
  3. VeeKay
  4. Carpenter
  5. Kanaan
  6. Palou
  7. Hunter-reay
  8. Castroneves
  9. Ericsson
  10. Rossi
  11. Jones
  12. O’Ward
  13. Fittipaldi
  14. Rosenqvist
  15. Sato
  16. Hinchcliffe
  17. McLaughlin
  18. Rahal
  19. Daly
  20. Harvey
  21. Newgarden
  22. Hildebrand
  23. Ferrucci
  24. Montoya
  25. Andretti
  26. Pagenayd
  27. Bourdais
  28.  Wilson
  29. Chilton
  30. Kellet
  31. Karam
  32. Power
  33. de Silvestro

The Greatest Spectacle in Racing: The Indianapolis 500 Preview

It’s here. The ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ is just around the corner as the eyes of the world descend on Indianapolis. A race that is etched into motorsport folklore with unbridled, full-throttle, commitment, and speed. We are, of course, talking about the Indy 500!

May is an incredible month of racing with the Monaco GP on May 23 before Indy 500 on May 30, although the latter is more like a two-week event as practice and qualifying start the week before the intense 500-mile, 200-lap race.

In fact, qualifying is set to take place across both Saturday and Sunday, beginning with the general shootout with the ‘Fast Six’ on the final day.

We also return to some form of normality, with the Indy 500 returning to its rightful place at the end of May – following last year’s postponed event that took place in the middle of August. Unlike last year, we will also have spectators with 135,000 in attendance, a whopping 40% capacity!

DRIVERS! DRIVERS EVERYWHERE!

This season truly has been one to remember. The 2021 campaign has had five race winners in five races with three of those being first-time winners in Alex Palou, Patricio O’Ward, and Rinus VeeKay.

Current championship leader Scott Dixon and Colton Herta won the other two races and the six-time champion will indeed be pushing for his second Indy 500 win having last achieved it in 2008.

The last seven winners are all present this year including Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud, Juan Pablo Montoya, and defending 500′ winner Takuma Sato. Both Sato and Montoya head into this race seeking an incredible third win which would put them tied fourth on the all-time winners list alongside the likes of Bobby Unser and Dario Franchetti.

Three-time winner Helio Castroneves also returns to the Brickyard. A win would put him tied first on the all-time list alongside A.J.Foyt, Al Unser Jr, and Rick Mears.

While the veterans of the sport all bring swathes of experience to the event, it’s the younger drivers who will certainly share the spotlight.

Rinus VeeKay won last time out at the IMS in a spectacular display of racecraft, cutting his way through the field to beat pole-sitter, Romain Grosjean, to the chequered flag. Last year, the Dutchman qualified inside the ‘Fast Six’ on his first attempt at the Brickyard, setting one of the fastest speeds ever seen at the 500′ in the process.

Scott Dixon followed by Alex Palou. 500 Practice. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

Alongside him in last year’s Fast Six’ was Alex Palou, who likely caught the attention of his current outfit Chip Ganassi with his performance that weekend. Heading into this weekend second in the championship, Palou has an incredible opportunity to capitalise on the double points on offer.

Graham Rahal was one of the fastest in the pre-season test at the Brickyard and showed a similar pace in this week’s practice. The American driver has shown some incredible pace this year putting in two top-five finishes at the double-header in Texas.

There really are contenders everywhere you look. With Patricio O’Ward. Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Josef Newgarden, Jack Harvey, Conor Daly, and Scott McLaughlin also looking incredibly sharp coming into qualifying.

FRESH FACES

As ever, we welcome a host of fresh faces to the 500′. Among these are rookies Pietro Fittipaldi and RC Enerson and veterans Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Santino Ferucci, Stefan Wilson, Ed Carpenter, and JR Hildebrand.

Marco Andretti returns with Andretti. He was last year’s pole-sitter and will be looking to repeat that feat this weekend.

Simona De Silvestro. Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens.

Simona De Silvestro also makes her Indy 500 comeback with the all-female Paretta Autosport outfit. This marks De Silvestro’s first run since the 2015 edition of the race.  The Swiss driver has made hints that she could make further IndyCar outings with Paretta in the future.

Both Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson will not be taking part this weekend with both set to return at the Detriot GP.

HONDA VS CHEVY?

So far in practice, there doesn’t seem to be an overall advantage in what is set to be an incredibly competitive battle. Will Power with Penske Chevrolet topped Tuesday practice while Scott Dixon’s Chip Ganassi Honda topped Wednesday.

Honda, and Chevy have three wins apiece in six attempts. While the only oval comparison we can make this year at Texas was slightly skewed due to qualifying being canceled with the championship standings used to set the grid for the race. Both races were one by an Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet and Chip Ganassi Honda.

This race truly could be anyones for the taking.

YOU DO NOT WANT TO MISS THIS.

Thursday, May 20
5-11pm (BST): Indy 500 Practice

Friday, May 21
5-11:00pm (BST): Indy 500 Practice

Saturday, May 22
6-7:00pm (BST): Indy 500 Qualifying

Sunday, May 23
6-7.30pm (BST): Last Chance Qualifying
7.30-9.30pm (BST): Fast Nine Qualifying

Friday, May 28                                                                                                                                       3-5:00pm (BST): Final indy 500 Practice

Sunday, May 30                                                                                                                      4:30/4:45 (BST): Indy 500 Race Start

 

 

 

 

 

 

Romain Grosjean defies the odds to take first career IndyCar pole at IMS

Romain Grosjean defied all odds to take his first career IndyCar pole position at the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The rookie edged out two-time champion Josef Newgarden in only his third weekend with Dayle Coyne Racing. This marks the Frenchman’s first single-seater pole since his GP2 days in 2011.

It is also the first pole position for Dayle Coyne Racing since 2018, when compatriot Sebastian Bourdais topped qualifying in Pheonix.

Penske’s Newgarden lost out by only 0.128s but starts in a promising position for the race tomorrow.  Seven out of the last eight here have been won by Penske, will they add to that tally?

GMR Grand Prix, Scott McLaughlin. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski.

Scott McLaughlin was arguably just as impressive, sneaking into the Fast Six for the first time in his career and starting in fifth position after his incredible weekend at Texas Motor Speedway behind Meyer Shank’s Jack Harvey in third and Chip Ganassi’s Alex Palou in fourth. Ed Carpenter’s Conor Daly rounded out the Fast Six.

Grosjean only just barely made it through Round two, following a surprise exit from Indianapolis Road Course expert Will Power. The Australian spun on the penultimate corner and was prevented from restarting with a clutch issue. He had previously made it into the Fast Six on eight of the last nine attempts at this circuit. The four-time IMS winner will have some work to do starting tomorrow’s race in twelfth.

Colton Herta, who today signed a new multi-year contract extension with Andretti Autosport, missed out on the Fast Six in seventh, while Rinus VeeKay starts just behind in eighth.

Ed Jones made it two Dayle Coyne Racing cars in the Top Ten, outpacing Penske’s Simon Pagenaud in tenth, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Graham Rahal eleventh.

GMR Grand Prix. O’Ward. Photo Courtesy of Joe Skibinski,

Free Practice pace-setter Alexander Rossi will start fourteenth after just missing out on Round Two, ahead of reigning champion Scott Dixon, who starts two places further back in a disappointing sixteenth. Second-place driver in the championship, Pato O’Ward starts a further two places back 18th.

Jimmie Johnson was slowest in his qualifying group but will start twenty-third ahead of Dalton Kellett and IndyCar returnee Arrow McLaren SP’s Juan Pablo Montoya, who had his two quickest laps deleted for holding up  Alex Palou.

STARTING GRID:

  1. Grosjean
  2. Newgarden
  3. Harvey
  4. Palou
  5. McLaughlin
  6. Daly
  7. Herta
  8. VeeKay
  9. Jones
  10. Pagenaud
  11. Rahal
  12. Power
  13. Rosenqvist
  14. Rossi
  15. Ericsson
  16. Dixon
  17. Sato
  18. O’Ward
  19. Hunter-Reau
  20. Bourdais
  21. Kimball
  22. Hinchcliffe
  23. Johnson
  24. Kellett
  25. Montoya

O’Ward Seizes Long-Overdue First IndyCar Win at the Texas XPEL 375

Sunday saw Arrow McLaren SP’s Patricio O’Ward clinch victory at the Texas Motor Speedway, his first IndyCar win – and with it, a chance to drive at the F1 Young Drivers Test in Abu Dhabi.

O’Ward had been in incredible form all weekend, coming off the back of a podium at the Genesys300. With 50 laps to go, O’Ward looked set to take the lead of the race when teammate Felix Rosenqvist brought out the final caution following a pitstop in which his right rear tyre failed to attach.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. Josef Newgarden. Texas.

However, Josef Newgarden could not have timed the undercut better. He was in pit-road as the caution was brought out and emerged ahead of  Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, and O’Ward who had been battling all evening.

On the restart, Newgarden made it past Takuma Sato who was still yet to pit, however so too did his nearest rivals. Behind them, O’Ward made quick work of Graham Rahal to move up to second.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. O’Ward. Texas.

Newgarden failed to pull away from the attacking group and came under relentless pressure but it was with 20 Laps to go where the race was won. O’Ward, with steely determination, kept the accelerator planted into Turn 3 and seized the lead of the race.

O’Ward, who prior to this had come second on three occasions, finally broke the duck as he charged on to take the chequered flag, 1.5s ahead of Josef Newgarden.

Pato becomes the first Mexican to win in the American series since Adrian Fernandez at the Auto Club Speedway, 2004. Additionally, this marks McLaren’s first win since their return to IndyCar and the first since Johnny Rutherford at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, 1979.

As an extra reward, McLaren CEO Zak Brown will give O’Ward an opportunity to drive for the McLaren F1 Team at the post-season, Abu Dhabi Young Drivers Test.

Graham Rahal had been in the mix all race pulling off some audacious moves and benefitting massively during the earlier caution brought on by Meyer Shank driver Jack Harvey. Havey had been running in the top five, even overtaking IndyCar champion Will Power in the process until a wheel-bearing failure forced the car into the pits – leaving oil all over the road.

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. Dixon leads Power, Rahal. Texas,

Rahal and Power, who had pitted earlier were able to jump a number of cars – including Newgarden – as the field collectively pitted under yellow.  The Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver found himself in fifth. Despite both drivers being taken by O’Ward on the restart, Rahal fought bravely against Scott Dixon who had led from pole.

During the final pit stop and caution which was brought out by Felix Rosenqvist, Dixon held on to his advantage over Rahal. But back on track Rahal eventually cleared the Genesys300 winner to take his first podium of the season.

Colton Herta had a brilliant race – starting way down the field after an unfortunate brake issue forced him to retire from the Genesys300. Herta made great use of the undercut pulling off a great move on Simon Pagenaud to take fifth.

Alex Palou, who had started on the front row lost a lot of position after Jack Harvey’s caution. Like yesterday, the Spaniard never looked like he was going to trouble his six-time champion teammate. Despite finishing in seventh, it rounds off a decent weekend for the Barber Motorsport Park winner who finished inside the top ten in both races.

Scott McLaughlin followed up his maiden podium with an eighth-place, well ahead of Rinus VeeKay and Ryan Hunter-Reay, who rounded out the top-10.

Power had been in the battle at the front, but having dropped back slightly by the time of the final restart, but came off worst in the three-wide battle as Herta passed Pagenaud.

The Australian was pushed wide onto the high side and crucially – into the slippery ‘PJ1’ section. The Penske driver veered uncontrollably wide, hitting the barrier and finished down in 13th behind Ed Carpenter and Marcus Ericsson.

Takuma Sato, who decided to try the overcut came up short. After briefly leading after the final pit stops he eventually would eventually fall down to 14th

Photo Courtesy of Chris Owens. First Lap Crash. Texas.

However, the most dramatic moment of the race came during Lap 1 in the form of a horrendous seven-car pile-up. As the field concertinaed, Pietro Fittipaldi was caught out by the late braking of AJ Foyt’s Sebastien Bourdais. His Dayle Coyne entry sent both drivers into a spin collecting: Ed Jones, Alexander Rossi,  Dalton Kellett, Tony Kanaan, and Conor Daly in the process. Daly found himself upside down in a scary moment for the Carlin driver but was left relatively unscathed.

Scott Dixon leaves Texas with the lead of the championship while Patricio O’Ward sits 22 points behind. Alex Palou has slipped to third while Newgarden continues his relentless charge up to fourth.

IndyCar gets back underway at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the 15th May for the GMR Grand Prix.

 

 

 

 

 

Grosjean joins Dale Coyne Racing for the 2021 IndyCar season

Romain Grosjean is to join Dale Coyne Racing for the 2021 IndyCar season. The French driver will make his debut with the Rick Ware entry and will race in all 13 road and street races.

This heralds a remarkable comeback narrative after being dropped from the Haas F1 team alongside teammate Kevin Magnussen. There were question marks looming as to whether Grosjean may altogether retire from racing after a near-fatal high-speed accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix left him with multiple degree burns, broken ribs and a dented confidence.

“It was never an option,” Grosjean said, concerning any doubts following the Bahrain accident. “I felt like I wanted to go back racing.”

The soon-to-be rookie has no qualms about returning to top tier racing, excited about the prospect of a return to competitiveness.

“What I want is to be happy and enjoy my time in racing,” Grosjean said during his Twitch stream, suggesting there is a pathway to longevity in the American single seater series: “And if I do, I would stay longer for sure. And if things don’t go to plan, I would come back to Europe but I think its going to be great.”

During Dale Coyne Racing’s official press conference Romain stated he had been in early contact with the American outfit: “I got in touch with Dale last year before Imola and I really felt that they were enthusiastic about getting me on board. I’ve been watching the races, the series looks super competitive, the cars look fun to drive.”

Romain Grosjean, Haas (Joao Filipe, DPPI / Haas F1 Media)

Santino Ferrucci, who drove the #18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, left the series for the NASCAR Xfinity Series to compete for Sam Hunt Racing, and Alex Palou, who drove the #55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda, left the team to replace Felix Rosenqvist at Chip Ganassi Racing. Grosjean will be teammates with Ed Jones who will replace Ferrucci in the #18 Vasser-Sullivan Honda.

Grosjean will join Alexander Rossi, Marcus Ericsson, Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais as the ex-Formula 1 drivers on the 2021 grid.

Achieving a respectable 10 podiums, 391 career points and a fastest lap in his time in F1, he will be looking to add to his list of achievements, aiming to get up to speed as soon as possible.

On the subject of his injuries Grosjean was in optimistic spirits: “It’s going okay. My left hand is still quite marked but it’s uglier than it is bad I will say. It’s all working well, the left-hand ligament was pulled away so I’ve had surgery.”

He will get his first test in his new machinery on the 22nd February at Barber Motorsport Park. There are reservations whether he will be fully fit by that point but he iterated it is not long away.

“The first test is the 22nd of February. I may not be 100% but [I will be] good enough to do well. By race one I am going to be ready and I’m not going to worry about it. I have been in the gym. It was a difficult call for the doctor but we knew there were more risks of delaying the healing. With the season postponed a little bit it all played into my hand, if I can use the play on words.”

French racing drivers have had a good open wheel record in the United States. Sebastien Bourdais holds the most consecutive IndyCar championships 2004-2007 (4) while Simon Pagenaud is the last European to win the championship in 2016.

With a sporting comeback story such as this, this will hopefully give fans who were still reluctant to follow the IndyCar series more reason than not.

IndyCar Harvest GP Race 2: Will Power wins from pole, survives pressure from Herta

Penske’s Will Power fended off a charging Colton Herta to claim his 39th career IndyCar win from pole position at the Harvest GP, now tied 5th on the all-time IndyCar wins list with the legendary Al Unser. Further down the order, Josef Newgarden finished in 4th to cut the championship deficit to Scott Dixon to just 32 points.

Power pulled a healthy 5-second gap from the rest of the field at the start before pitting from the sticker reds onto the slower, but more durable sticker black tyres.

Alexander Rossi was able to reel Power in during the second stint, coming out just two seconds behind the Australian on the blacks while Power had switched back to the reds.

Rossi slowly caught up to the back of Will Power only to be caught up by Colton Herta – also on the sticker reds – who made short work of his Andretti teammate round the outside of turn 1.

Herta, having never finished second or third, was chasing his fourth IndyCar win, staying within a second of Will Power for the last 10 laps. Unfortunately for Herta, Power was able to use his ‘Push to Pass’ effectively to get a good run out of the final corner. That, alongside having a healthy slipstream from a few backmarkers, was enough to make sure Colton could not have a good enough opportunity into turn 1. This gifted Power his second win of the season and moved him into 4th position in the championship standings.

Alexander Rossi rounded out the top three, taking his 24th career podium, ending in style what has been a miserable season for the most part.

Defending champion Josef Newgarden fell from 9th to 11th on the opening laps, only one spot ahead of his championship rival Scott Dixon. However, he was able to make short work of Ryan Hunter-Reay in front and proceeded to work his way up the grid. He made it up to 5th before the first pit stops, and then was able to undercut the Arrow McLaren SP driver Patricio O’Ward for 4th.

Unfortunately for Newgarden, 4th was where he stayed, unable to make any ground on Alexander Rossi, who remained 10 seconds ahead during the final stages of the race.

His 4th place cuts the deficit to Scott Dixon for the 5th race in a row. What was a 117-point lead leaving race 1 of Gateway has now crumbled to just a 32-point lead going to St Petersburg in 3 weeks’ time. It is staggering to think that in just 5 races Newgarden has carved 85 points out of the points lead, an average of 17 points per pace.

With 54 points on offer, Scott Dixon must finish in 9th place (excluding bonus points) at St Petersburg to secure his 6th championship title.

Scott Dixon is inches away from his 6th IndyCar title – Courtesy of IndyCar Media

Pato O’Ward took 4th ahead of Jack Harvey, he and his Meyer Shank Racing team an ever-present challenger at this circuit and buoyed by the recent investment of Formula 1 owner Liberty Media in its squad.

Behind Harvey, Graham Rahal turned a 10th-placed start into seventh, ahead of a typically methodical if not rapid drive from Dixon.

Making up places in the early phases of the race, he came up short against Ryan Hunter-Reay who contacted the Kiwi going into turn 1, putting a hole into the right-side underwing of his car.

Seemingly unphased by this damage, Dixon claimed 9th by passing Santino Ferrucci and by benefitting from positions gained during the first pit stops.

He ran eighth for the last stint but was unable to overturn Rahal.

Rookie Alex Palou of Dale Coyne and 19th-place starter Simon Pagenaud rounded out the top 10.

The final race of the season at the Firestone Grand Prix of St.Petersburg will crown another champion in either Dixon or Newgarden on October 25.

RACE CLASSIFICATION

1 Will Power Team Penske
2 Colton Herta Andretti Harding
3 Alexander Rossi Andretti Autosport
4 Josef Newgarden Team Penske
5 Patricio O’Ward Arrow McLaren SP
6 Jack Harvey Meyer Shank Racing
7 Graham Rahal Rahal Letterman Lanigan
8 Scott Dixon Chip Ganassi Racing
9 Alex Palou Dale Coyne Racing
10 Simon Pagenaud Team Penske
11 Felix Rosenqvist Chip Ganassi Racing
12 Santino Ferrucci Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan
13 James Hinchcliffe Andretti Autosport
14 Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan
15 Marcus Ericsson Chip Ganassi Racing
16 Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Autosport
17 Rinus Van Kalmthout Ed Carpenter Racing
18 Sebastien Bourdais A.J. Foyt Enterprises
19 Max Chilton Carlin
20 Conor Daly Ed Carpenter Racing
21 Helio Castroneves Arrow McLaren SP
22 Marco Andretti Andretti Autosport
23 Charlie Kimball A.J. Foyt Enterprises
24 Sage Karam Dreyer & Reinbold
25 Dalton Kellett A.J. Foyt Enterprises

Feature Image Courtesy of IndyCar Media

IndyCar Mid-Ohio Preview

The NTT IndyCar Series returns this weekend for its fourth doubleheader with the Honda Indy 200 at Lexington’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The undulating twists and turns of the thirteen-corner, 2.2-mile road course has seen the circuit become one of the favourite locations on the calendar for drivers and fans alike.

What’s more, with just five races remaining, it’s up to the few remaining title challengers to step up this weekend if they wish to keep the championship alive.

Scott Dixon heads into this weekend on 416 points, a 96-point advantage over Josef Newgarden, with Patricio O’Ward and Takuma Sato realistically the remaining two contenders, albeit around 150 points behind.

Scott Dixon (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

Looking Back to 2019 Mid-Ohio and beyond.

The 2019 running was won by current championship leader Dixon in spectacular fashion. The New Zealander had rookie Felix Rosenqvist charging in the closing laps. In the final pass through turn two they had wheel contact. Both cars bobbled, but the drivers kept them straight, which led to a thrilling run to the chequered flag as Dixon drove with tires that had lost their effectiveness.

The margin of victory was 0.0934 seconds, the closest IndyCar finish at Mid-Ohio and third closest on a road course in IndyCar history.

Dixon and Chip Ganassi have proved a dominant force at Mid-Ohio in recent years. ‘Mr Mid-Ohio’ has a staggering six wins at the Sports Car Course, likewise Ganassi have won there 11 times, giving them a vast amount of confidence heading into the weekend.

Other drivers who have enjoyed success at the circuit have been Newgarden, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud with a win apiece. Alongside them, look out for likes of O’Ward, Jack Harvey, Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay who have all had relative success at the track in the junior categories.

Pato O’Ward (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

What should I look out for this weekend?

Dixon is the bookies favourite to win the IndyCar championship due to his commanding lead. However, the focus on this race will continue to be on his realistic championship rivals to see whether they can make a dent in that points deficit. Out of those only Newgarden has won here before, and he may be the most obvious challenge to the Kiwi.

O’Ward will be coming into the weekend following some magnificent but bittersweet performances having narrowly missed out on a handful of wins this season. The Mexican has been a consistent qualifier and regularly puts himself in the frame to challenge for the win. It’s often been strategic calls that have stripped those opportunities away. He’ll be looking to rectify that here to claim his maiden IndyCar win.

Sato, perhaps coming down from his second Indy 500 win, was in the fight arguably in both races last time out at Gateway. He’s somehow found a run of form that’s put him in his highest championship spot in his career. Although challenging Dixon in the standings is a tough order, to compete well against the likes of two-time champion Newgarden and up-and-coming superstar O’Ward will be all the incentive Sato needs to prove that experience sometimes trumps youth.

Another driver with something to prove this weekend will be Andretti’s Rossi. His crushing performance in the 2018 running race saw him and the team take a dominant victory from pole with an incredible tyre strategy. Rossi has demonstrated that he has the speed and his team have the strategies to come out on top in Mid-Ohio and he’ll be determined to do so again to try and draw himself closer to the top five in the championship, after a season plagued by bad luck.

Rinus VeeKay (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

In terms of the battle for the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title, VeeKay currently leads that fight, 13th in the standings on 181 points. His closest rivals are Alex Palou on 160 and Askew on 155. All three drivers have enjoyed a mixed bag of success and rotten luck, showing promising qualifying and race pace. VeeKay certainly has the momentum coming into the weekend and will be looking to replicate the win he had at the circuit during his time in the Pro Mazda Championship.

Just a mention about Colton Herta. What a season he’s been having. I wrote about his incredible qualifying performances during my preview for Gateway and touted him as someone to watch out for. He then went on to finish in fourth and sixth across both races of the doubleheader putting him in fifth place in the championship on 250 points. In only his sophomore year in IndyCar he’s certainly proved that he’s a superstar in the making, and now has the consistency to mount a title challenge in the future. I wouldn’t put it past Herta to do something similarly impressive this weekend to try and break into the top four.

Dale Coyne Racing‘s Santino Ferrucci is also on an impressive run of form. A fellow sophomore and a young American ‘hot-shot’, he is easily, like-for-like Colton Herta’s closest rival. After an amazing fourth at the Indy 500, followed by a top ten finish last time out at Gateway, Ferrucci is making somewhat of a name for himself. It wasn’t too long ago that he enjoyed a run of three top ten finishes between IMS and Iowa. He’ll be hoping to draw on his prior experience of racing single-seaters in Europe to try and get a similarly strong result on the Mid-Ohio road course this weekend so that he can impress further.

Finally, keep an eye on Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey, aiming to continue what has so far been relatively strong season so far for the British driver. He’s shown glimpses of brilliances with three consecutive top ten finishes (IOWA 1, IOWA 2, INDY) and a strong showing at Gateway before an unfortunate timing with the caution ruined a race where he’d been running in the top 5. He’s currently 14th in the standings, which is by far the highest he has ever been during his time in IndyCar. This weekend he has an opportunity to push for 11th in the standings as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marcus Ericsson, VeeKay and Harvey are all separated by just 3 points.

IndyCar at Mid-Ohio will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 with qualifying set for 7:30pm (GMT) on Saturday followed by the race at around 8:30pm (GMT) on Sunday.

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.