Vautier settles in at Schmidt

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The only confirmed rookie for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series, Tristan Vautier, tested at Sebring International Raceway last week with less pressure than his first IndyCar outing.

The 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion made his IndyCar test debut in December also at Sebring, in what was an audition for several teams.

Since that point, Vautier raced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car race in a Mazda6 and got his IndyCar contract signed, sealed and delivered with the renamed Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Vautier’s teammate is his French countryman and 2012 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year, Simon Pagenaud.

“It’s a good start, but I have a lot to improve,” Vautier told RACER.com after the test. “There are many new factors once you get to the races. It’s two good tests at one track, so you have to be careful to think it has a bigger meaning.”

Vautier is the second straight Indy Lights champion to advance into IndyCar the next year after Josef Newgarden, and fourth in the last five years (Raphael Matos in 2009, and JR Hildebrand made his debut in 2010).

The expectations shouldn’t be too high for Vautier this season, as he gathers experience and laps. But he’s already proven quick out of the gate in his formative years in the American open-wheel ladder system, and has championships in back-to-back years.

No rookie has won an IndyCar Series race since Justin Wilson at Detroit in 2008. That’s a technicality as Wilson was classified as a rookie in the merged IndyCar series due to minimal oval experience, but he had four prior years in the Champ Car series.

Robert Doornbos (Champ Car, 2007) and Marco Andretti (IndyCar, 2006) were the last first-year drivers to win a race in their rookie seasons.

Verstappen picks illegal Raikkonen pass as favorite F1 2017 overtake

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Max Verstappen has picked his illegal pass on Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap of the United States Grand Prix as his favorite overtake of the Formula 1 season.

Verstappen was one of F1’s most prolific passers through 2017, making 22 overtaking moves as per Pirelli’s end of year data.

When asked to pick out his favorite in a post-season interview on his official website, Verstappen picked his bold move on Raikkonen at the Circuit of The Americas that sparked controversy when he was penalized for completing the overtake off-track.

The Red Bull driver had charged from 16th on the grid to cross the line third, only for a five-second time penalty to deny him a podium and drop him to fourth in a snap call made before the post-race ceremony.

“Of course, at first your initial reaction is something like: ‘Why? It was a great move.’ But when you look at the rules, it was not correct,” Verstappen said.

“Nothing was by the book that whole weekend. Drivers were getting off track without being penalized for it. But you always need to focus on the positives: it was still a nice race and everyone enjoyed the excitement all the way down to the final lap.

“It’s always nice to be on the podium, but to finish fourth after having started sixteenth, is still a great result.

“It wasn’t as painful as most people thought it was. In the end I made my peace with it.”

Asked if it was his best move of the year, Verstappen said: “Yes, because this year I actually didn’t have that many overtakes.

“With this car you are actually only able to overtake on the straights, which is really not that satisfying compared to last year.”