Carlos Munoz ready for Indy 500 Rookie Orientation

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Carlos Munoz may not have the biggest name out of this year’s crop of Indianapolis 500 rookies, but that hasn’t dampened his confidence as he prepares to embark on his first “month of May” experience. The Colombian will attempt to make the field in a fifth Chevrolet-powered Andretti Autosport car (the No. 26, backed by Unistraw) and he gets started this weekend with the Rookie Orientation Program at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Munoz, who is also the current points leader in Firestone Indy Lights and will compete in that series’ Freedom 100 at IMS on May 24, tested back in March at Texas Motor Speedway to get acclimated to high-speed ovals. He believes that the test session will prove useful for him.

“[At Texas], it was a really competitive car and that helped my confidence a lot,” he told IndyCar.com. “For sure, Indianapolis will be much different from everything. It’s a long race, so it’s good to have the rookie orientation. Also, I will begin step by step as I did in Texas and gain all the information I can.”

Compared to his fellow rookies — A.J. Allmendinger of Team Penske, Tristan Vautier of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and Conor Daly of A.J. Foyt Racing — Munoz would appear to have the least amount of star power. However, he has a wealth of veteran resources to guide him along. Team owner Michael Andretti, strategist John Tzouanakis, and the four regular Andretti Autosport drivers (Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti and E.J. Viso) all certainly know a few things about the Brickyard.

There’s also something equally important that is steering Munoz: A childhood memory. He was just 10 years old when fellow Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya buried the field in the 2000 Indy 500 and he remembers the reaction that came afterwards in his hometown of Bogota, Colombia’s capital.

“I remember the cars with the flags in the streets when he won,” Munoz said. “It was quite a sight. Everyone was so proud.”

He’d certainly like to set off another euphoric celebration back in Bogota at the end of this month.

Lauda labels Verstappen USGP penalty ‘the worst I’ve ever seen’

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Mercedes Formula 1 non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has called the FIA stewards’ decision to penalize Max Verstappen for his last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix as “the worst I’ve ever seen”.

Verstappen charged from 16th on the grid to take third place from Raikkonen on the last lap after a stunning fight through the field, completing the fightback with a bold pass in the final sector.

However, the stewards stripped Verstappen of P3 after he appeared to put all four wheels off the circuit when riding the kerb to pass Raikkonen, causing outcry in the F1 community.

Speaking to reporters after the race in Austin, Lauda condemned the stewards’ decision, slamming them for interfering in the late fight.

“We had meetings at the start of the year to see how far stewards should go in decisions during a race because it always says ‘under investigation’,” Lauda said, as quoted by Crash.net.

“So we complained about that and we agreed all together that the stewards would not interfere – very simple.

“If the driver goes over another and upside down, only then would they weigh in. That was at the beginning of last year.

“For six months it was OK, but this decision was the worst I’ve ever seen. He did nothing wrong.”

Lauda said F1 team bosses would discuss stewarding at the next Strategy Group meeting, which is due to be held in the next two weeks.

“These are racing drivers. We are not on the normal roads and it is ridiculous to destroy the sport with these kind of decisions,” Lauda said.

“At the next strategy meeting, we will put it back on the agenda and start all over again, because we cannot do that.

“They go too far and interfere and there was nothing to interfere with. It was normal overtaking.”