I’ll take the blame if this turns into a jinx, but I’m expecting big things from Marco Andretti at Barber Motorsports Park this weekend.
Andretti’s consistently been the thorn in the Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing side at the three prior IndyCar races at Barber, even if his final results haven’t shown it.
He led a race-high 58 laps at Barber in 2010 and was unlucky to only finish fifth after qualifying fourth. He followed that with a ninth-to-fourth run in 2011, and was on pace for another top five finish a year ago before his tires faded in the final stint and he dropped to an unrepresentative 11th-place finish.
Andretti has altered his driving style for road and street courses this year to be less aggressive, and not over-driving the corners, but still able to save the tires early enough in a stint to save them toward the end.
It paid dividends at St. Petersburg as Andretti pounced in the final stages to secure a podium finish in third place once Simona de Silvestro’s tires fell off in the dying laps.
“It’s all confidence, confidence with your engineers, but also confidence, your guys need to have that in you,” Andretti said after the race. “Obviously I finished better than wherever the heck I was last year. Hopefully we can be part of this snowball effect that people speak of and we can just keep clicking off a lot of great results.
“Obviously I’ve made my improvements where I need to improve, but sometimes you don’t know why they come. You just got to keep working hard and hopefully it can snowball.”
Andretti did not make a single Firestone Fast Six in 2012, but if the pace is similar to what he has produced at Barber in the past, and as quick as the Andretti Autosport contingent was at St. Petersburg, I think he’ll break through this Saturday. A second straight podium or perhaps his first win on a road or street course since his first at Sonoma in 2006 would not totally surprise, either.
Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.
Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.
However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.
Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.
This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.
“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.
“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.
“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.
“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”
Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.
Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen has heaped praise upon Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen, supporting his decision to ignore team orders during last month’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Verstappen only turned 18 on Wednesday, but has already made a big impression on the F1 world during his first 14 races with his aggressive driving style and mature approach to racing.
In Singapore, Verstappen was told by Toro Rosso to let faster teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. go past, but refused to give up his position and eventually beat the Spaniard to finish eighth.
Writing in his Hermes blog, Hakkinen backed Verstappen’s decision to stay ahead and praised the Dutchman for his performances so far this season.
“A driver must be alert and keep track of what is happening around him at all times,” Hakkinen wrote. “That’s what Verstappen is. He does not simply let anyone pass if it’s not for the world championship, but only a few championship points.
“Verstappen is 18 years old, but the guy’s already a real pro. Young people are developing incredibly fast nowadays, and by that I don’t mean just drivers.”
Despite having more than half a season of F1 racing under his belt, Verstappen only gained his road driver’s license on his 18th birthday, having previously been under the age limit to drive a regular car in public.