McLaren stung as Lowe follows Hamilton to Mercedes

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Mercedes’s appetite for signing up staff from rival teams seems not to have been satisfied yet.

In the past two years the Silver Arrows have hired Aldo Costa (ex-Ferrari), Geoff Willis (HRT and previously Honda), Bob Bell (Renault) and Toto Wolff (Williams).

Their top-heavy management structure also includes Niki Lauda who was hired last September. And it is set to be further bolstered by the anticipated arrival of Paddy Lowe from McLaren.

McLaren confirmed on Monday that Lowe will leave them at the end of the year. The move that looked likely following his absence from the launch of the team’s 2013 F1 contender, the MP4-28.

Lowe is widely expected to follow ex-McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton to the Brackley-based team. Mercedes’ vision is fixed firmly on preparing for next year’s new regulations.

The move raises three questions. First, does this confirm that Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn is being moved out of the picture? Mercedes have already jettisoned long-serving vice-president Norbert Haug during the off-season after scoring just one win in the last three years.

Second, what are the consequences for McLaren? In six months they’ve lost their protege and one of their top designers to Mercedes.

Having once been Mercedes’ only Formula One team their status has been diminished to the role of engine customer. Martin Whitmarsh must rue the assistance he gave Brawn in landing a supply of Mercedes engines when Honda quit the sport at the end of 2008.

And third, who will McLaren hire to replace their lost technical director? Suspicion has already fallen on Lotus technical director James Allison, though earlier this month he said he has a “long contract” with the team and “intends to honour” it.

According to McLaren, a “telephone number salary” was used to lure Lowe away. Are they prepared to do the same to replace him?

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic. Follow F1 Fanatic on Twitter.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. A dream start occurred for Sebastien Bourdais and the Dale Coyne Racing team upon their reunion, followed by a nightmare in Indianapolis with a huge crash in qualifying, and ended with a rapid recovery to build confidence for 2018.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: 14th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 24 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 11.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 21st Place (8 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 74 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 11.0 Avg. Finish

The 2017 campaign for Sebastien Bourdais upon his return to Dale Coyne Racing will forever be known as both a year of “what could have been” and a year of “what a comeback it was.”

The abnormal season for Bourdais stretched eight races with a three-month break in the middle owing to his own mistake qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fracture to his right hip. His car was a rocket ship; but after two laps at 231 mph, Bourdais appeared to over-correct and destroyed the wall at Turn 2 in Indy in a massive 127G impact. It was a horrific looking accident, but one that also saw Bourdais rather lucky to have not been injured worse.

It set forth in motion an incredible recovery that saw Bourdais back testing the Monday after Mid-Ohio, just over two months since the accident, then in race action just over three months later at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval, and because Bourdais is a regulation badass, he finished in the top-10 straight out of the box. He worked as hard as he did to return earlier than anticipated to avoid an offseason of questions asking if he’d come back and if he’d be strong enough to do so.

The recovery was a welcome story to end the year after the agony at Indy that stopped a potential title run or certainly top-five in points finish in its tracks. A classic Coyne strategy special vaulted Bourdais from last to first and a popular win in his U.S. hometown of St. Petersburg to kick off the year. A second place at Long Beach backed it up and eighth at Barber kept him atop the standings.

But Indy was shaping up to be an important bounce back weekend after Bourdais got taken out in Phoenix, then incurred an engine failure in the IMS road course race. And then, of course, his loud and violent accident qualifying for the ‘500 changed the course of the season.

After three “almost there” but largely unfulfilling years at KV Racing Technology, Bourdais embraced the family atmosphere back at Coyne along with longtime engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson, determined to continue punching above the team’s weight. He crafted a remarkable story all season and will be keen to fulfill it over the course of a proper full campaign in 2018.