Barbieri reflects on his final race for Firestone

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Joe Barbieri’s tenure of more than 40 years with Firestone, and in his tenth as manager of motorsports for the company, comes to an end this weekend in St. Petersburg.

Long regarded as one of the two faces of Bridgestone and Firestone’s motorsports efforts in North America along with executive director Al Speyer, Barbieri has his last race this weekend.

“It really is hard to describe,” he told MotorSports Talk on Friday. “I have mixed emotions. I’m looking forward to all the plans in the future, but I’m really going to miss this place. I believe I have one of the best jobs in this business. People say I’m crazy to give it up, but it’s been a great ride.”

Barbieri recalled some of his favorite moments from his racing career, beginning when Firestone re-entered North American open-wheel racing and the PPG IndyCar Series in 1995.

“I guess one of the best, or worst, was the first year we came in 1995 when we almost won the Indianapolis 500,” said Barbieri, who was a project supervisor at that time. “We still won two races (oval races at Michigan and Loudon, N.H. with Scott Pruett and Andre Ribeiro, respectively). Then in 1996 and ’97, to come back and win the Indianapolis 500 was absolutely wonderful.”

An Akron, Ohio native, Barbieri began his career with the company in 1972. He has been involved in the Bridgestone Motorsport and Firestone Racing programs since 1987 and has served as a project supervisor since 1994.

Barbieri’s role as manager, motorsports for Bridgestone Americas will be taken by Rodreich Von Stotsenburg, or Rod for short.

IndyCar will hold a reception for Barbieri Saturday evening in the paddock.

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.