After nearly a month off track, it’s finally time for another IndyCar race, this time at the most famous track on the calendar. The Indianapolis GP acts as a prelude to the rather more famous Indy 500, with the circuit race being the first major event of the Month of May.
It seems like a long time ago, but the winner last time out was Alexander Rossi who dominated Long Beach for the second year running to take Andretti Autosport’s 200th IndyCar win. His win never looked in danger with no one else even close to challenging him however, it is not Rossi who comes into this round leading the championship.
That honour goes to Long Beach runner-up Josef Newgarden, who has been the most consistent driver in the first four races of the season with one win and two podiums. Each of the first four races have been won by different drivers with Newgarden taking the glory at St Petersburg followed by Colton Herta at the Circuit of the Americas, Takuma Sato at Barber Motorsports Park and, most recently, Rossi at Long Beach.
Coming into the Indy GP, Newgarden and Rossi are the ones who should be in with a good chance of becoming the first repeat winner of the season, but there are plenty of other drivers in the field who will be doing everything they can to stop that from happening.
Included in that is defending Indy GP winner Will Power, who would be delighted if he could have the same fortunes this May as he did last year. Penske were the ones getting their 200th win at the Indy GP in 2018 after Power broke a pretty awful run of form to take the win first at the GP and then at the 500.
Whoever finds themselves in Victory Lane this year will be hoping to emulate Power’s double-win, because there’s no race they want to win more than the Indy 500!
The form book does look to be swaying in Power’s favour; the Penske driver has won the Indy GP three times in the past four years while Penske themselves have won the race four years in a row. Power has also had a similarly dreadful start to the season as he did in 2018, however, there’s no saying that history will repeat itself and there are plenty of other contenders in the mix.
Defending champion Scott Dixon is in the hunt for his first win of the season while Penske’s third driver, Simon Pagenaud, is after his first podium since Toronto 2018, while his future at the team is being continually called into question.
Unlike in previous years, there is only one addition to the grid for this race. Helio Castroneves returns to IndyCar in the build-up to what could be his final attempt at the Indy 500 after it all ended in the barriers last season. He will be piloting the #3 Penske, bringing their total back up to four cars for the next two races.
The Indy GP if often an unpredictable one but the stakes are obviously higher than in most races as all the drivers know how important it is to get their Month of May off to the best possible start.
All three series of the Road to Indy are also back in action this weekend after around two months off track. One thing to note about this weekend is that it is a two-day event with the race held on Saturday afternoon, rather than Sunday. The timings for this weekend are as follows:
Practice 1 – 9:10am (EDT) / 2:10pm (BST)
Practice 2 – 12:30pm / 5:30pm
Qualifying – 4:35pm / 9:35pm
Next up on the IndyCar calendar is the scenic street track of Long Beach, California, a track which no one has managed to dominate over the last few years. With just under 2 miles of streets and 12 turns, Long Beach has lots of overtaking opportunities, making the races here very interesting and often chaotic.
Takuma Sato and Rahal Letterman Lanigan will be heading into this weekend on a high after their win at Barber Motorsports Park. RLL will want a good result all round at Long Beach, rather than just on one side of the garage, as was the case last weekend. Graham Rahal suffered an issue with his Honda engine that left him stranded on the track. This amounted to the sixth Honda-related failure in just three races, compared to just one Chevrolet issue, meaning Honda has still got some reliability issues to see to.
Despite this, Honda has won two of the three races so far this season with Sato and Colton Herta both taking victories. Chevrolet holds the championship lead, though, with Josef Newgarden sitting 27 points clear at the top of the standings, having won at St Petersburg and finished second and fifth in the following rounds. Scott Dixon is second in the championship and Sato’s victory at Barber has elevated him to third, while COTA-winner Herta has dropped to fifth after suffering from reliability issues at Barber.
Barber itself was almost entirely dominated by Sato, who led for 74 of the 90 laps. He made a mistake towards the end of the race and ran off track, giving Dixon a chance at the win but the reigning champion could not capitalise on the mistake, settling for second for the sixth time at Barber.
This means Dixon is yet to win a race in 2019 but this is hardly anything to worry about given he didn’t take his first win in 2018 until the seventh race, and that didn’t exactly stop him going onto win the championship!
Unlike other tracks, Long Beach has not had any single driver or team dominating in recent years. Alexander Rossi won last year’s race from pole – the first driver to do so since 2007. The race was incident-filled with four caution periods, but Rossi held firm throughout the 85 laps and to take one of his most convincing wins to date.
The last four races at Long Beach have been split between Honda and Chevrolet, with neither manufacturer having a clear advantage – adding to the excitement of this track. This is the second street race of the season and will follow the same weekend format as all the races so far with the two-group qualifying eventually ending in the Fast Six.
The grid is back down to 23-cars for Round 4 as Ben Hanley and DragonSpeed are not competing again until the Indy 500. Other than that, everything is the same as it was at Barber.
As Long Beach is back-to-back with Barber, it’s unlikely that Honda has found many solutions to the problems experienced last weekend, meaning Honda unreliability could again be a factor this weekend. Dixon, Rossi and Will Power are all after their first wins of the season, with Rossi coming in as the defending Long Beach champion. Rossi is, in fact, looking for his first podium of the season as the highest placed driver in the championship without one, something that he will want to set straight in the next few races, especially with the Indy 500 on the horizon.
None of the Road to Indy programme are at Long Beach, as was the case in Barber, so it is just IndyCar again, though this time IMSA are also in town with a 100-minute shootout, taking place after IndyCar’s qualifying. The clash means none of the IndyCar drivers that normally compete in IMSA will be doing so this weekend, with each team made up of only two drivers, compared to the usual three or four. The timings for this weekend are as follows:
Practice 1 – 10:00am (PDT) / 6:00pm (BST)
Practice 2 – 2:00pm / 10:00pm
Practice 3 – 9:00am / 5:00pm
Qualifying – 12:10pm / 8:10pm IMSA Race – 2:00pm / 10:00pm
Barber Motorsports Park is the venue for the third round of the 2019 IndyCar season, with Josef Newgarden heading into the weekend at the top of the championship. The 2.38-mile road course is in Alabama and has been Penske territory for the past few years.
Newgarden’s lead in the championship at this stage is not an unexpected one, but the driver in second is not someone who anyone expected to be anything like a championship contender. After his remarkable first win last time out at the Circuit of the Americas, Colton Herta sits in second place in the championship, 18 points shy of Newgarden but with the same margin over third place Scott Dixon.
IndyCar’s first time out at COTA was certainly drama-filled, as was the last time IndyCar came to Barber, though for rather different reasons. Last year, the race at Barber ended up taking place primarily on the Monday, the day after the race was due to run. This was because of torrential rain that caused dangerous levels of aquaplaning, meaning the race had to be stopped after just over 20 laps and then continued as a timed race the following day.
This didn’t stop Newgarden taking the victory, while his Penske teammates, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud, had horrendous races, a trait that seems to have started to play into this season as well. This year, some showers are predicted throughout the weekend but, if the forecast is to be believed, there shouldn’t be anything like the downpours of 2018.
Barber is the third road course of the season, with the usual road qualifying and race formatting in place, as it has been for the last two races, meaning qualifying will again be the two groups of twelve halving until we reach the Fast Six.
Like COTA, there will be a 24-car grid for Barber, with only two changes since the last race. Kyle Kaiser and Juncos will not be present, and it is not known when either will be returning to the series. Ben Hanley and DragonSpeed are back on the grid after making their debut at St Petersburg, before they take a two-race break, returning for the Indy 500. Other than that, everyone else is where they were at COTA, with very few changes scheduled from now until the Indy 500.
As mentioned earlier, Penske has always been strong at Barber, winning every race here since 2016 and taking every pole since 2015. In that time, the pole-sitter has taken the win in two out of the four races, though last year was a bit of an anomaly. As for this year, one of the Penske drivers desperately needs a return to form; this is, as it has been for most of the last year, Pagenaud, who’s seat is looking more and more at risk with each disappointing race.
Elsewhere, Dixon and Alexander Rossi could both do with wins, or at least podiums, to really state their respective intentions to challenge for this championship, or they will run the risk of Newgarden getting a more comfortable gap at the front. Herta will be looking to carry on his momentum from COTA however, he is not really expected to be in the fight for the win or even the podium, but, then again, he wasn’t expected to be at COTA either.
None of the Road to Indy programme will at racing at Barber, meaning it’s just IndyCar for this weekend. NBC and Sky Sports F1 will be showing qualifying and the race as usual in the US and UK respectively, and all the timings you need for the weekend are as follows…
Practice 1 – 12:15pm (EDT) / 5:15pm (BST)
Practice 2 – 3:50pm / 8:50pm
Practice 3 – 11:45am / 4:45pm
Qualifying – 4:00pm / 9:00pm
For round two of the IndyCar season, the series is heading to Austin, Texas for their only completely new track of the year. This new addition is F1 and MotoGP venue the Circuit of the Americas (COTA), a track on which only a handful drivers on the current IndyCar grid have raced at.
Josef Newgarden leads the championship going into the second round of the season by virtue of winning the first race at St Petersburg. The 2017 champion’s win was a relatively straight-forward one, with Newgarden dominating the race after the second round of pit stops. Reigning champion Scott Dixon could only manage second place, as he embarks on a challenge to defend his title for the first time in his IndyCar career.
Ed Jones has been cleared to race at COTA despite breaking his finger in a crash with Matheus Leist at St Pete, with the latter uninjured and also racing in Austin.
Since St Pete, Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais and Colton Herta have all been out to Sebring, racing in the IMSA 12-hour race at the famous venue, though only Bourdais managed to bring home a trophy.
The first IndyCar race at COTA is an exciting event for all involved, and it has been highly anticipated for a number of years, even before it was officially confirmed to be on the 2019 calendar. Road course rules apply to COTA so qualifying will be the same as it was in St Pete with the grid split into two groups of twelve, based on practice times, and the fastest six from each then fighting for places in the Fast Six.
The driver with the most experience around COTA is by far and away Marcus Ericsson who, despite being one of the newest drivers to IndyCar, has competed at the track for the last five years in F1. Rossi also raced at COTA back in 2015 during his very brief spell in F1 and a selection of the other drivers have competed in an IMSA race or two at the track. Generally speaking, it is not a track that a lot of drivers have much experience on, meaning it should be a fairly level playing field throughout.
The grid is broadly the same as it was at St Pete with only three notable differences. Reigning Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward takes over from Charlie Kimball in the #23 Carlin for his first race of the season, after his Harding deal fell through earlier in the year. Kyle Kaiser and Juncos are making their first appearance for 2019 in what is their only confirmed race for this season, so far at least. The only other change is the omission of Ben Hanley and DragonSpeed, who will return to the grid next round at Barber Motorsports Park.
There is no form book for this track, so any predictions on who will go well here are merely educated guesses. At St Pete, Honda clearly had some reliability issues and they’ve been very quiet about them since, with no notion as to whether they’ve actually found what the problems were. Based on the form of one race, Chevrolet seems to have the upper hand, but that could all change at COTA. All drivers will be hoping for a good race in Austin, but only time will tell who will shine and who will struggle.
NBC is broadcasting the race in the US while in the UK it will be on Sky Sports F1 again, though this time hopefully with fewer coverage breakups and adverts! Indy Lights are the only of the three Road to Indy series racing at COTA with their two races held on Saturday and Sunday. The times you’ll need to watch the action this weekend are as follows…
Practice 1 – 11:15am (EDT) / 3:15pm (GMT)
Practice 2 – 3:05pm / 7:05pm
Practice Warmup – 4:10pm / 8:10pm
Practice 3 – 11:00am / 3:00pm
Qualifying – 3:00pm / 7:00pm
After a long off-season, the start of the 2019 IndyCar season is just a few days away. 2019 holds huge potential for great racing and a very close title fight, with numerous contenders all looking to topple the defending champion, Scott Dixon. Since the end of last season, there have been some significant changes, affecting action both on and off the track, so here’s a run through of them.
2019 will see the same number of races as 2018, seventeen, but there have been a few switches and substitutions. Phoenix and Sonoma have both left the calendar, with both experiencing financial difficulties and drops in attendance over recent years. With Phoenix gone from its slot in second on the calendar, the first oval race will now be the Indy 500, which is certainly a change from years past.
Replacing Phoenix is the Circuit of the Americas, which has been an F1 venue since 2012. This is an addition that has been expected for some time, and it has finally materialised for this season. Similarly, Laguna Seca is making its long-awaited return to the IndyCar calendar, taking over from Sonoma as the season finale.
The only other changes are relatively minor; Long Beach and Barber are switching around so that Barber is now third and Long Beach fourth and Iowa and Toronto have done the same, with Toronto now eleventh and Iowa twelfth.
Some more major changes have taken place off the track, with regards to how fans will be watching the series this year. Last season, ABC aired its last IndyCar race at Detroit, handing over exclusive rights in the US to NBCSN, who will show all races in 2019. Outside the US, it’s all change with IndyCar taking international coverage in-house, rather than going through ESPN as they have done in the past.
This means that UK coverage switches from BT Sport to Sky Sports, who will be showing all qualifying sessions and races live on their Sky Sports F1 channel. While it’s far from free-to-air, Sky is slightly more accessible than BT and it means that viewers can get F1 and IndyCar on the same channel, making the cost a bit more acceptable.
Fernando Alonso was reported to have taken over IndyCar rights in Spain near the end of last year, but that was never officially confirmed. Meanwhile, Canada’s TV coverage remains somewhat up in the air, with some races available on NBC, but not all, and no clear provider announced, which isn’t exactly great for one of IndyCar’s biggest audiences.
Back on track, there have been some alterations to what is the biggest IndyCar race of the year – the Indy 500. These changes mainly revolve around qualifying and bumping, after James Hinchcliffe was infamously bumped out of the race last year. With 33 entries already confirmed, and more expected, bumping will be taking place this year, but with a difference…
This year, the Saturday session will lock-in starting positions 10 through to 30 – leaving the order of the Fast Nine and the last three entrants to be decided on the Sunday, in two separate sessions.
Many are citing this as a way of avoiding any shock bumpings, meaning that all the full-time drivers should qualify for the race, as should Alonso who makes his Indy 500 return after a year away.
Another new addition to the Indy 500 will be the Advanced Frontal Protection system, which is scheduled to make its race debut at the 500 before being used in all races thereafter.
For the season as a whole, there’s a wide range of drivers that could be in the mix for both race wins and the championship. The usual suspects of Scott Dixon, Will Power, Josef Newgarden, Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay should all be in contention, but the likes of Hinchcliffe, Sebastien Bourdais, and even some of the rookies like Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson, could also be strong challengers.
The season kicks off at St Petersburg on March 10th, with the race starting at 12:30pm ET, 5:30pm GMT. The full schedule and entry list for St Pete are as follows:
Practice 1 – 10:45am (ET) / 3:45pm (GMT)
Practice 2 – 2:20pm / 7:20pm
Practice 3 – 10:25am / 3:25pm
Qualifying – 2:30pm / 7:30pm
10th March – St. Petersburg (S)
24th March – Circuit of the Americas (R)
7th April – Barber Motorsports Park (R)
14th April – Long Beach (S)
11th May – Indianapolis GP (R)
26th May – 103rd Indy 500 (O)
1st June – Detroit Race 1 (S)
2nd June – Detroit Race 2 (S)
8th June – Texas Motor Speedway (O)
23rd June – Road America (R)
14th July – Toronto (S)
20th July – Iowa Speedway (O)
28th July – Mid-Ohio (R)
18th August – Pocono Raceway (O)
24th August – Gateway Motorsports Park (O)
1st September – Portland (R)
22nd September – Laguna Seca (R)
The 2019 IndyCar season is almost upon us with a grid packed full of talent from across the world, each with varying amounts of experience in the series. Five rookies join the grid this season, accompanying the seven champions and plethora of race winners. Here’s a run-down of the twelve main teams and their respective drivers for 2019…
Reigning champions Chip Ganassi Racing have retained Scott Dixon, with their partnership entering into its seventeenth year, while a different driver steps into the #10 entry for the third year running. After Ed Jones’ fall from grace with Ganassi, Swede Felix Rosenqvist will be hoping for better fortunes in his rookie season. The ex-just-about-everything driver makes his IndyCar debut this season, after running in Indy Lights in 2016 and walking away from a top Formula E drive to take up the Ganassi vacancy. He, like all Dixon’s previous teammates, will have his work cut out trying to match ‘The Iceman’, but he’ll be learning from the best and has good potential for the season ahead. For Dixon, the aim’s the same as it always is; to win the championship – and you’d be brave to bet against him doing just that.
Andretti Autosport are keeping their four-car line up for 2019, with the same drivers as they had last season. Alexander Rossi leads the charge after just missing out on the title in 2018, while Ryan Hunter-Reay will be looking to regain his once established position as team leader. Zach Veach lines up with a year of experience under his belt after a tough but promising rookie season, with the youngster looking to take the fight to his teammates on a more regular basis. Attention is starting to turn to whether Marco Andretti really deserves his drive at the team after he extended his losing streak to 126 races in 2018; his future is in doubt if he doesn’t put that right soon. Andretti are planning to run five cars at the Indy 500 with Conor Daly joining the team in the #25.
Like Andretti, Team Penske are sporting an unchanged line up for 2019 with their three drivers all crowned champion in the last five years. Will Power was the main one flying the flag for Penske last season and will be aiming to continue to do so heading into this season. Josef Newgarden’s hopes of championship retention came crashing down during 2018, and he will not want to be left behind by Power again in 2019. Simon Pagenaud’s career seems to be on the rocks at Penske, with him edging ever nearer to the same IMSA fate of Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya – he needs a good season to stand a chance of staying at Penske. Castroneves will join the team for the Indianapolis GP and the Indy 500, as he did last season.
Dale Coyne Racing have kept hold of four-time CART champion Sebastien Bourdais, who will have the job of leading the team and coaching yet another rookie through their first season of IndyCar. This time, it’s F2-reject Santino Ferrucci who has had to turn his back on his F1 dreams to instead chase a career in the States, after his high-profile departure from F2 last season. Ferrucci’s pace was promising at the four races he competed in during 2018, and you’d expect Dale Coyne to benefit from the consistency of having a single driver in the #19, a far cry from the car sharing shenanigans of 2018.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing are the third of four teams to have an unchanged line up for 2019. Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato will once again be fielding the two RLL cars for the full season, while Jordan King will be joining them for the Indy 500. After Sato took the team’s only win last season, all involved will be hoping for a more fruitful 2019 and a rise up the grid, after years of inconsistencies.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have a new title sponsor in Arrow Electronics, after being a personal sponsor of James Hinchcliffe for a number of years. Hinchcliffe is staying put at SPM, but he welcomes a new teammate for the third year running. Marcus Ericsson joins SPM after five years in relatively back-marker teams in F1. Having another new driver was not the intention of SPM, but after Robert Wickens was seriously injured at Pocono last season, they had to bring another driver in. Wickens continues to recover and the #6 SPM remains open to him ‘when he wants to and is able to return’. Jack Harvey will also run with the team in partnership with Meyer Shank Racing for ten races, up from the six he competed in last season.
Ed Carpenter Racing have kept on two of their three drivers from last season with Jordan King leaving and Ed Jones replacing him in the shared #20 drive. Spencer Pigot will once again be in the #21 car for the full season while team owner Ed Carpenter and Jones share the #20 – with Carpenter in on the ovals and Jones in for the road courses, as per the usual arrangement. The only difference this season is that Jones will be entering the Indy 500 in a one-off #64 entry, taking his race total up to thirteen for 2019.
Despite a fairly dismal 2018, AJ Foyt Racing haven’t been tempted to shake things up with their drivers, keeping their all-Brazilian line up of Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist. At 44 years old, it’s widely accepted that Kanaan is nearing the end of his IndyCar tenure, while teammate Leist is only just getting started. They worked well together last season and will intend to do so again in 2019 in an attempt to drag AJ Foyt Racing back up the grid.
After initially expecting to have a three-car lineup, Carlin have ended up only entering two cars, with some doubt over whether the second will be running as a full-time entry or not. Max Chilton will be in the #59 full-time, as he was last season, and he’s once again joined by Charlie Kimball however, the American has only be confirmed for five races in the #23. RC Enerson, who has previously run in IndyCar, albeit briefly, has been announced as another driver of the #23, but his races are yet to be confirmed and there is some speculation that there could be a third driver in the #23.
Harding Steinbrenner Racing are another team who promised more entries than they have delivered. Indy Lights runner-up Colton Herta will be in the only full-time entry for the team while the #8 car is expected to run in the Indy 500, though a driver has yet to be announced. Previously, Indy Lights champion Pato O’Ward was signed for Harding, but after it emerged that they had failed to get an engine lease for the #8 to run for the full season, he walked away and is yet to find a new drive.
Juncos Racing also have a bit of a cloud over their heads with the team only confirmed for one race, Texas, with Kyle Kaiser. They’re expected to run in more with another driver, but nothing more has been announced.
DragonSpeed are the only new entrant to IndyCar in 2019 to be running in more than just the Indy 500. Ben Hanley makes his IndyCar debut with the team after racing with them in IMSA, WEC and ELMS over the past few seasons. Hanley’s been confirmed for five races in the #85, including the Indy 500.
That’s a wrap for the 2019 IndyCar grid! Stay tuned for more previews for both IndyCar and the Road to Indy in the run-up to the first race at St Petersburg on March 10th.
Formula E is set to kick off for a fifth season this week with the brand new Gen 2 car waiting in the wings to take the electric series into the next phase of development. Season 4 was certainly as interesting as the preceding seasons, with another new champion in the form of Jean-Eric Vergne and Audi finally overturning Renault to become the top dog of the manufacturer’s battle. But what can we expect from season 5? The series has a new car that is able to last the entire race distance, different circuits in brand-new locations and the arrival of BMW permanently into the sport and HWA, a precursor to the Mercedes outfit expected in season 6. Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler
Audi arguably had the most energy-efficient powertrain last season and despite a few minor issues with reliability, they fought back to finally claim the manufacturer’s title, one which had proven elusive in the first few seasons. Audi are certainly looking to start the new season on a high. They have continued to develop the powertrain and for the first time, will provide customer engines to British outfit Virgin Racing. Audi have chosen to retain their line up of the past four seasons, a wise decision on their part. The solid partnership of season 3 champion Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt will work in their favour as the pair are familiar with the team and how the sport has developed since its infancy. Both drivers have proven over the course of their time in the German outfit that they are capable of producing results. Abt, in particularly, enjoyed a successful previous season, finally picking up his first win in Mexico City and finishing a respectable fifth in the championship. Di Grassi too had an insurgence towards the latter end of the season which enabled him to join in the championship duel between Vergne and Sam Bird. Allan McNish delivered everything he was supposed to in his and Audi’s first year in the electric series – the title they so longed for. He also managed to placate his two drivers throughout the course of the season, showcasing that he is able to make tough decisions if necessary and will surely take forward his experience into the new season. Expect Audi to be favourites to snatch the title once again. DS Techeetah
The Chinese outfit came close to the coveted manufacturers title last year, impressive considering their customer team status. However, this season, they have chosen to partner with DS Automobiles, who have a proven track record in Formula E after working with Virgin since the series debut. By moving away from their customer status, the team will be afforded more testing time and more development of their own powertrain – something that held them back to an extent last year. They have chosen to retain champion Jean-Eric Vergne and Andre Lotterer as their line-up which is no surprise. Vergne had an incredible season, showered with many moments of mastery such as taking pole backwards in the first round at Hong Kong to dominating the streets of his home eprix at Paris. Lotterer too has begun to bed in and become more acquainted with the style of driving in Formula E and has been rewarded with a string of podiums. It still remains to be seen if Techeetah will continue where they left off, but it’s certain that they won’t be quiet next season. Envision Virgin Racing
Virgin had a stellar season – they almost handed Sam Bird his first ever Formula E championship title last year. The car too had zero reliability issues, certainly on Bird’s side of the garage which will be a comfort to new partner Techeetah. However, after Alex Lynn’s strong start in the British team at the latter end of season 3 in which the Brit took pole in his first ever qualifying session, he struggled immensely within the car with a string of retirements and placed no higher than sixth. It was to nobody’s surprise that Virgin announced once again that Bird would lead the charge for his fifth season in the sport. However, change is on the horizon as Virgin are to be Audi’s first customer team and with such an arrangement, comes the arrival of Robin Frijns. Forced out from Andretti due to his Audi commitments last season, the Dutchman will provide a worthy teammate for Bird – one who knows the sport and will be warmly welcomed back to settle unfinished business. The Audi customer status has not limited Virgin’s testing hours with Bird and Frijns revealing that the supplier gave up some of their testing time to the British outfit. Lack of testing time did not hinder Techeetah last year from almost walking away the team title, and the team will have arguably the best powertrain on the grid. The British team will certainly be one to upset the party. Mahindra Racing
Mahindra’s pre-season was shaping up to be as dull as the latter half of their last season. After a strong start in Marrakesh with Felix Rosenqvist claiming the top step, the Indian team seemed to tail off and even their prized asset Rosenqvist struggled to impress. They suffered a double blow early in pre-season with Nick Heidfeld is stepping down into a development role and losing Rosenqvist to Indycar. However, the Indian outfit seized Jerome D’Ambrosio’s frustrations at an uncompetitive Dragon team and swooped in for the electric racing stalwart.
His attachment to the team was no surprise as he had tested the car in pre-season. A driver with a wealth of experience in the sport, it is an excellent career move for the Belgian to move away from the struggling American outfit. Pascal Wehrlein, now free of the ties of Mercedes, will fill the second seat. He has tested the car and uniting both experience and new blood has worked for Mahindra in the past. We could see a revival of their good fortune in the past few seasons – certainly if they provide D’Ambrosio with the car he deserves. Nissan e.dams
Renault are gone but Nissan will fill the void left by the sport’s first ever constructor champions. After choosing to focus solely on their Formula One programme, the French team has handed over the reins to the Japanese outfit. They had a season to forget last year, with even the reliable Buemi failing to score a single win. He came close in Marrakesh but the Renault of season 4 seemed to lack the bite of previous seasons. Misery was added to the French outfit in that their customer team Techeetah scored four wins through eventual champion Jean-Eric Vergne. However, Nissan are looking forward. They have retained Buemi – a smart move as they are new to Formula E and how it operates. The Swiss is a proven winner and capable of extracting everything he can from the machinery. They were dealt a further blow when they lost their rookie driver Alexander Albon to Formula One, just one day into their pre-season testing. However, the Japanese team recently announced the arrival of Oliver Rowland. The British driver is no stranger to the sport, having filled in for Nick Heidfeld at Mahindra when the German was ruled out with a hand injury. Rowland also has a proven track record in junior categories, and as talent such as Mitch Evans and Felix Rosenqvist have proven, Rowland could be a diamond in the rough. However, one question remains unanswered. Have Nissan let Audi and Techeetah take the upper hand in terms of development? Only time will tell. Panasonic Jaguar
Jaguar have gone from strength to strength this year with Mitch Evans taking the team’s first ever pole and even claimed a podium in the early stages of the season. The Kiwi driver finished a respectable seventh in the championship and showcased some excellent drives, particularly in Hong Kong and Punta del Este. Jaguar are a far cry from the team of two seasons ago and development of their powertrain coupled with retaining their strong driver line up has only aided them in their success. It is expected that Jaguar will continue to grow stronger going into season 5 – as the British outfit have chosen to retain previous champion Piquet and Evans. This is crucial as both drivers know the car and how the team operate, so they were able to focus purely on race data and the configurations for the car during testing. The car’s reliability is still a cause for concern, certainly on Piquet’s side of the garage, but it is certain that this will improve. Jaguar are viewed as dark horses, and it would be foolish to write them off this season. It’s certain that they will be looking to improve on last year’s results.
Venturi benefited last year from Edo Mortara’s extensive Macau knowledge which allowed him to navigate the tight streets and take the team’s only podium. However, with Mortara tied to a DTM drive with Mercedes for the majority of the season, they missed out on crucial opportunities to gain points and for him to have a solid standing in the championship. At times, his inexperience showed – for example, when he lost the lead in Hong Kong with three laps to go, after becoming overly-confident in the win. However, he showcased that the talent and speed were there. Equally, his teammate Maro Engel quietly scooped up a number of points paying positions, including a fourth place in Paris. The Monegasque team seem rejuvenated, however, as we approach season 4. They have become a customer team to HWA, Mercedes’ early entry into FE. Retaining Mortara will have its advantages as he wasn’t able to fulfil his full potential within his debut season and he can commit fully to the programme as Mercedes have ceased their DTM programme. The biggest change to the team, however, comes in the form of ex F1 star Felipe Massa and Susie Wolff coming into the team as driver and team principal respectively. Massa will surely lend a hand in ensuring that interest in the sport remains high whilst showcasing that retirement is the last thing on his mind, whilst Wolff certainly props up the Mercedes link but will enter into the team to provide new and innovative ideas to ensure their success. Venturi will be one to watch. HWA Racelab
As a new team and Mercedes’ precursor into Formula E, it’s unsure as to how the German outfit will fare in their maiden season. Will they do as Jaguar did in their first season? It certainly would not be a surprise if this were the case – the team enter the series just as the car has developed past the initial spec. However, having Venturi powertrains ensures that they don’t walk into Formula E completely blind. They also possess an excellent line-up in ex-McLaren man Stoffel Vandoorne, who could use a boost of self-esteem and an opportunity to get out of Fernando Alonso’s shadow, and seasoned DTM driver Gary Paffett who came close to claiming the title last year. NIO
Once again, a season to forget for the British based outfit. Retaining the reliable Oliver Turvey was their bright light in season 4, with the British born driver consistently finishing in the points. However, Luca Filippi wasn’t as strong and lagged behind Turvey for the entire season. It’s no surprise that Filippi has been quietly released by the team as they fight to find a replacement to the Piquet shaped hole from two seasons ago. Retaining their key asset Turvey was a must for the British team, and he will be expected to continue his reliability into the new season. He is joined this season by season regular Tom Dillmann, previously a driver of Venturi. He has also has a solid record of points scoring within his sporadic involvement in Formula E, with a personal best of P4 in New York last year. If NIO can deliver an excellent and reliable car, NIO could potentially have a solid season, particularly with two drivers who are able to score points consistently. GEOX Dragon
Dragon are a team in trouble. After looking bright for the first two seasons, the shine wore off and even a few podiums from the talented Jerome D’Ambrosio couldn’t stop the decline. The loss of Porsche WEC driver Neel Jani early in the season was a major blow as he certainly could have delivered within the car, given the chance. Their misfortune seemed to continue as they lost their star asset D’Ambrosio to Mahindra after lack of success. It is certainly a shame for the American outfit as the experienced Belgian driver was always able to extract more out of the machinery than most could, but on the other hand, it would be excellent to see D’Ambrosio in a competitive car once more. Lopez on the other hand, is to be retained and this is a good choice. Despite some of his inexperience, he was given a second chance by the American team after a torrid team in his maiden season at Virgin and managed to deliver some decent results. If reliability was improved, it’s certain that Lopez could achieve more. Partnering the Argentinian is rookie driver, Maximilian Gunther. Before participating in the rookie test in Marrakesh, he had previous experience in junior categories, finishing in third place in Formula 3 last year, and also contested Macau, which will be good practise for the street circuits. It still remains to be seen what will happen at Dragon this year, but if they can be competitive, it’s certain that they could cause an upset like they have in the past. BMW i Andretti
If there were an award for the team with the worst luck last year, Andretti would take top honours. A revolving door policy on their second driver and lack of development from BMW hurt the team last season, resulting in them picking up the unfortunate honour of being the only outfit not to achieve a podium. Tom Blomqvist never seemed to have a chance to prove himself, forced out in the first round to satisfy sponsors, and eventually left quietly after six rounds. However, even seasoned Formula E driver Stephane Sarrazin failed to get results. This season, now fully under BMW control, they retain Antonio Felix Da Costa for the third season, an excellent choice who knows the car and how the team operate. The Portuguese driver certainly could be seen as one of the German teams assets, having been in the electric series since its inception. They also welcome Alexander Sims, who lost out to the seat last year. Having being the development driver in season 3 and having an avid interest in electric cars, he has some knowledge of the series and of the car. He also performed well at last year’s testing in the season 4 car. BMW’s involvement and retaining the driver lineup throughout the season will be crucial for BMW Andretti’s success going into season 5.
The first round of season 5 of Formula E begins on December 15th in Riyadh.
The Formula One circus will soon begin its busiest period of the year, with the prospect of four races in five weeks looming on the horizon, kick-started this weekend by the Canadian Grand Prix.
On the face of it, it would seem that there is no greater contrast on the calendar than the jump from Monte Carlo to Montreal. The former is known for its slow speeds where downforce is king, whereas the latter boasts one of the highest average speeds of any race on the calendar, with 45% of the lap spent at full throttle. There are, however, more similarities than you might think. Like Monaco, Canada has areas where there is virtually no run-off with the walls only a whisker away. Controlled aggression is the name of the game, and any small mistake could prove extremely costly.
Red Bull arrive at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve off the back of a strong showing in Monaco. Yes, Max Verstappen may have binned it in FP3 but he was the source of the most overtakes during the race, and you could not fault Ricciardo for his race-winning performance up front.
Unfortunately, it is likely that the Australian will be receiving a grid penalty after his MGU-K failure during that race. Each driver is only allowed two MGU-Ks per season, and Ricciardo has already used up both of his. Using a third merits an automatic ten-place grid penalty. Furthermore, he has also used up his allowance of batteries and control electronics, which would mean an additional five-place penalty for each should they have to be changed as well.
Red Bull have in recent years gone better in Canada than perhaps would have been expected of them, given their Renault power unit’s deficiency to both Mercedes and Ferrari. Last year, for instance, Ricciardo finished P3 ahead of both Ferraris and both Force Indias, and Canada is of course the place where he scored his first F1 victory back in 2014.
It is arguable that this is a must-win race for Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton has a fourteen-point gap to Sebastian Vettel in the championship, and the next few races are probably more suited to the Silver Arrows than the Scuderia. Ferrari haven’t taken the top step of the podium since Bahrain back in early April, and it was at this point in the season last year that things began to slip away from them.
A single podium, in 2016 courtesy of Sebastian Vettel, is the highlight of the team’s trips to Canada in the hybrid era – surprisingly, even Red Bull have more podium finishes than that – although it is worth noting that in 2017 Vettel managed to recover to P4 after dropping to the back of the grid when contact with Verstappen on lap one broke his front wing.
If there has been one constant in Canada in recent years, it’s that this is Mercedes’ race to lose. There has only been one Canadian Grand Prix since the hybrid era began – the aforementioned race in 2014 – that Mercedes have failed to win. This is one of Lewis Hamilton’s best tracks on the calendar – he won the race in 2010, 2012, and every year between 2015 and 2017 inclusive – and it was here last year that he matched Ayrton Senna’s record for the number of pole positions claimed.
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas also has good history with the track. He finished on the podium twice when he was racing for Williams, and also last year in his first year with Mercedes. He also qualified an amazing P3 in his rookie year in 2013, in a car that only finished in the points once in the entire year.
Further down the grid, Toro Rosso will be hoping for a better showing than last year, when both Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz retired. Brendon Hartley in particular needs to put in a good performance, with questions about the safety of his seat continuing to be asked.
Williams have gone well in Canada recently. As mentioned, Valtteri Bottas finished on the podium twice during his stint driving for them, and in 2017 it was one of home favourite Lance Stroll’s best races. They struggled around Monaco, but they will be crossing their fingers that the long straights of Canada will better suit the design of their car and enable them to add to their meagre haul of points so far this year.
Force India will also be expecting good things – Sergio Perez scored a podium back in 2012, and Esteban Ocon will be keen to keep up the momentum from his P6 finish in Monaco.
Haas have claimed to have solved the braking problems that have plagued them seemingly since they joined the sport in 2016 and for that they will certainly be grateful, as a lot of time can be found around the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve just through having confidence on the brakes. They only have one points finish to their name in Canada so far, but there is a fair chance they will be able to add to that this weekend.
Renault are another team who have been on the bubble of being able to score points in Canada in the past. According to Cyril Abiteboul they are scheduled to introduce the next stage of their power unit development along with some aero upgrades, but with Canada’s long straights there will be no place to hide if those updates don’t prove fruitful.
McLaren – who will also be receiving updates from Renault – will be hoping that won’t be the case, but they are nonetheless bracing themselves for a difficult weekend.. Sunday’s race will be Fernando Alonso’s 300th in F1, but the track will not be one of McLaren’s best with its slow corners and long blasts at full throttle.
Finally, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc will be keen to bounce back from the brake failure he suffered in Monaco, and he believes Canada will be one of the best races of the year for himself and team-mate Marcus Ericsson, with both believing that the worst races are over and done with.
Für McLaren-Honda könnte der Ungarn GP sportlich eine der größten Chancen der gesamten Saison werden. Doch neben der Performance auf der Strecke steht weiterhin die Frage im Fokus, ob die leidgeprüfte Britisch-Japanische Allianz auch 2018 zusammen an den Start gehen wird.
Das anstehende Wochenende in Ungarn wird auch in diesem Jahr wieder eine der größten Hoffnungen auf Punkte für McLaren werden. Nicht umsonst rechnen sich die Verantwortlichen nur in Monaco und Singapur ähnliche Chancen aus. Bereits in den letzten beiden Jahren konnte man auf dem Hungaroring, einer Strecke auf der ein gutes Chassis deutlich besser zur Geltung kommt, als bei den meisten anderen Rennen im Kalender, die besten Saisonergebnisse erzielen.
Die Statistik gibt ihnen Recht:
Während Fernando Alonso und Jenson Button im Katastrophenjahr 2015 hier mit den Plätzen 5 und 9 glänzten, schafften es beim letztjährigen GP beide McLaren-Fahrer erstmals seit 2014 in den dritten Qualifikationsabschnitt.
Auch dass der MCL32 der wohl vom Chassis her beste McLaren in den letzten Jahren ist und man in Silverstone deutliche Fortschritte von der Pace sehen konnte, spricht für eine gute Chance an diesem Wochenende.
Alonso muss an diesem Wochenende ausnahmsweise auch nach jetzigen Stand noch nicht über eine Startplatzstrafe bangen: Dieser Umstand ist der Tatsache geschuldet, dass man bereits in Silverstone sämtliche Teile an der Powerunit des Wagens mit der Startnummer 14 wechselte, um sich in Ungarn nicht um eine gute Chance zu bringen.
Zu der Hoffnung des guten Chassis und der wohl gewohnt einwandfreien Leistung von Alonso, gesellt sich jedoch auch Mut auf der anderen Seite der Garage. Stoffel Vandoorne konnte bei den letzten Rennen ein klaren Aufwärtstrend verzeichnen, zuletzt sogar seinen Teamkollegen zum ersten Mal in dieser Saison ausqualifizieren.
“Auch wenn wir etwas Pech hatten, fühle ich, dass meine Performance sich von Rennen zu Rennen steigert. Ich arbeite hart mit den Ingenieuren und fühle mich nun wohl im Auto. Meine Rennwochenenden laufen nun deutlich besser als im ersten Teil der Saison und wir machen als Team jedes Wochenende Fortschritte. Wir haben die Geduld, arbeiten hart und hoffen dass sich unser Einsatz lohnen wird.”
Das Team weiß: Es gibt in dieser Saison nicht mehr solche großen Chancen wie in Ungarn, Punkte zu holen. Und die hat man auch bitter nötig, denn selbst 2015 hatte man zum aktuellen Zeitpunkt mehr Punkte als jetzt. Mit zwei Punkten hängt das einstige Siegerteam weiterhin auf dem letzten Platz der Konstrukteursweltmeisterschaft.
Doch ebenso gibt es berechtigte Sorge, dass aus einem guten Punkteresultat erneut nichts werden könnte: Und da wären wir bereits beim Thema Honda angelangt. Während die Japaner die Antriebseinheit nach der letzten Ausbaustufe zumindest leistungsmäßig etwas nach vorne bringen konnten, wird man weiterhin von Zuverlässigkeitsproblemen heimgesucht. Zuletzt traf es Alonso beim Rennen in Silverstone, als der Spanier sein McLaren wiedermal mit den Worten “No power” in die Box schleppen musste. Grund genug für den Starpiloten sich Gedanken zu machen:
“Das Wichtigste ist für uns wie immer die Zuverlässigkeit. Selbst wenn unser Auto in Ungarn konkurrenzfähiger sein wird, brauchen wir ein Problemfreies Wochenende um jede Chance auf Punkte nutzen zu können. ” – Fernando Alonso
Hierbei sei eine aktuelle Statistik von den Kollegen bei Speedweek.com erwähnenswert: Diese zogen die Ausfallquote von Alonso aus den Jahren 2005 bis 2014 zum Vergleich mit der von 2015 bis Mitte 2017 heran. Das Ergebnis: Während Alonso in den ersten genannten Jahren eine Ausfallquote von weniger als 10% vorzuweisen hatte, schied der Spanier in den letzten drei Jahren in 40% (!) aller Rennen aus.
In Bezug auf die Konkurrenzfähigkeit des Motors drängte sich in den letzten Wochen immer mehr die Frage auf, wie es mit der einst so glohrreichen Partnerschaft McLaren-Honda weitergehen könnte. Wenn es nach einigen Medienberichten ginge, würde McLaren 2018 wohl mit vier verschiedenen Motoren an den Start gehen. Vom sicher erzählten Mercedes-Comeback, über ein Alfa Romeo-Ferrari Motor und zuletzt die Möglichkeit Renault. Fakt ist: McLaren und Honda haben ein bestehenden Vertrag und Honda-Motorsport-Chef Masashi Yamamoto stellt klar:
“Wir haben einen Vertrag mit McLaren. Und der sieht nicht vor, dass McLaren mit einem anderen Partner arbeiten kann, auch nicht übergangsmässig. Für uns käme das ohnehin nicht in Betracht. Einen Rückzug aus der Formel 1 wird es nicht geben. Ich rede ständig mit Firmenpräsident Takahiro Hachigo. Es gibt keine Absicht, die Formel 1 zu verlassen.”
Auch die Worte von McLaren-Boss Zak Brown klingen mittlerweile deutlich zahmer als noch vor einigen Wochen. Mercedes und Ferrari scheinen nicht zu wollen und ob man das Risiko “Renault” eingeht, ist ebenfalls fraglich. Die Wahrscheinlichkeit McLaren und Honda 2018 gemeinsam am Start zu sehen, wird immer höher.
Was auch immer am Ende bei diesem Motorentheater rauskommen wird, eine Entscheidung ist wohl in den nächsten Wochen nicht in Sicht. So bleibt den Verantwortlichen aus Woking und auch den McLaren-Fans nichts anderes übrig, als das Beste aus der Situation zu machen und an diesem Wochenende erneut auf eine ähnliche Sensation wie in Silverstone zu hoffen, als mit dem kurzfristigen Schachzug auf abtrocknender Strecke auf Slicks zu wechseln, am Ende von Q1 mit tosenden Applaus das Erste Mal seit Indien 2013 ein McLaren auf Platz 1 in einer offiziellen Session stand.
The last round of the Formula 2 season before the summer break takes place at the Hungaroring circuit just outside of Budapest, a track which traces its history back to 1986. We are now past the halfway point in the championship, with Charles Leclerc storming ahead at the top of the driver standings after another strong showing in the two back to back race weekends at Spielberg and Silverstone. But it’s all change in the standings below him, with Russian Time’s Artem Markelov moving into second place, and DAM’s Oliver Rowland falling to third, just three points separating the two drivers. Their respective teammates; Luca Ghiotto and Nicholas Latifi, could very easily come into contention as the season progresses, as they trail not far behind. But if Leclerc continues his prodigious form, then his fellow competitors will have to dig deep to threaten him.
Prema showed impressive form in Budapest last year, with eventual champion Pierre Gasly taking pole and the win in the feature race, and Antonio Giovinazzi coming in second to give the Italian team a double podium. If Charles Leclerc can score his seventh successive pole on Friday, then he will set a new record for the most consecutive pole positions in GP2/F2, inheriting that title from Stoffel Vandoorne. And a good weekend in Hungary would set the young Monegasque driver up well, not only for the month off, but also for the day of testing he will do for Ferrari next week, also at the Hungaroring. While his Prema teammate, fellow Ferrari junior driver, Antonio Fuoco, looked like he had made positive steps forward in Austria, scoring his first podium of the season, another pointless weekend in Silverstone showed he is still a long way off his teammate. Prema have retaken first place in the team standings, but only by three points.
DAMS occupy second in the team standings, with Russian Time just a single point behind them in third. With two of the strongest driver pairings on the grid, it will be a tough fight until the end of the season to see who comes out on top, particularly with their sets of drivers so close together. If Nicholas Latifi had started his season as well as he is performing now, then he may have been up there with his teammate Rowland, but there is still plenty of time for him to close the gap. Meanwhile Russian Time’s Ghiotto is still in search of that race win, but has been stringing together a series of consistent results, perhaps leading many to overlook and underestimate the Italian driver. All four drivers from these teams have certainly proved that they are capable of performing, but it is qualifying that is the area where they are still looking for that perfect result.
After fielding three different drivers in one seat so far this season, Trident announced that Haas development and current GP3 driver Santino Ferucci will race in the number 17 car in Hungary alongside Nabil Jeffri. While the last two drivers to fill that spot; Raffaele Marciello and Callum Ilott were only drafted in for a single round, there is no indication as to whether Ferucci is a permanent addition to the team. The young American driver will be forced to miss this weekend’s GP3 round, but the call up does offer a better opportunity to impress those who have eyes on him in the Formula 1 paddock.
French team ART have the potential to pull off a good weekend in Hungary. GP3 graduate Alexander Albon secured victory at the track last year, and despite his overall weaker season in 2016, Nobuharu Matsushita qualified well at the Hungaroring, and managed to score points in one of his best finishes of the season. Albon will be looking to make up lost ground, his points tally still suffering from missing the round in Baku and a disappointing weekend in Silverstone.
Since moving to Rapax ahead of the Austrian round, junior formula veteran Sergio Canamasas has amassed enough points to move the Italian team into fifth place in the team standings. The Spanish driver scored his best results of the season at the British round of the Formula 2 season, a fifth and a fourth place (helped along a little by Oliver Rowland’s time penalty), and will hope to carry that momentum with him to Hungary. His teammate, Nyck de Vries, however, needs to bounce back from the previous round; one he walked away from almost empty handed. Despite his failure to start the feature race at Silverstone, due to a power problem, his impressive drive on Sunday from the back of the grid to score a pair of points proves that he might already have recovered from a spell of misfortune.
Since their race win back in Baku, Pertamina Arden have improved considerably compared their early season performances. Norman Nato’s podium in Silverstone, and Sean Gelael’s drive from eighteenth to ninth, indicate that this is one team on an upward curve. Nato performed well at the Hungaroring last year, scoring points in both races, and a podium in the sprint race – the kind of results he will want to replicate this weekend.
Down the bottom of the standings, MP Motorsport, Campos Racing and Racing Engineering have floundered in recent rounds, struggling to score more than a few points for the most part. Admittedly, MP Motorsport’s Jordan King has only failed to score points in races from which he has retired or been disqualified, but the handful he has secured is not enough to give his season any momentum. His combined struggles with the team have made for a disappointing season for the Brit, who lined up in Bahrain hoping that 2017 would be his year.
The underperforming is perhaps most disappointing for Racing Engineering, who came second in the team standings in 2016. Despite flashes of form in the early rounds, they have faded to the back of the field. The Spanish team achieved a double podium in the sprint race in Hungary last year and though that kind of result seems highly unlikely, the team could do with replicating some semblance of the form they had last year.
For those in the title battle, the Formula 2 season has very much turned into a game of catch up between Charles Leclerc and the rest of the front runners. But with two races each round, and points for pole positions and fastest laps, the season is deceptively long, and if Leclerc’s form was to slip, especially going into the summer break this weekend, then there is no shortage of drivers snapping at his heels.