Marco Andretti led a tightly bunched first practice session for this weekend’s Milwaukee IndyFest (Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network), the ninth of 19 races in the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule – and the unofficial halfway point of the year as it’s the eighth of 16 race weekends.
The top 22 of 24 cars were separated by less than half a second (0.4698), with the last two a further two tenths back.
Andretti was one of two in the Andretti Autosport stable to lap the Milwaukee Mile in under 22 seconds, at a best speed of 166.684 mph. Teammate and defending race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was next up.
Josef Newgarden and Tristan Vautier were best of the Hondas in third and fourth, with Will Power’s Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet completing the top five.
E.J. Viso, Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, Simona de Silvestro and James Hinchcliffe rounded out the top 10. Hinchcliffe had the session’s only incident when he made light contact with the Turn 2 wall, but without sustaining any major damage.
Series returnees Ana Beatriz (Dale Coyne Racing) and Ryan Briscoe (Panther Racing) were 11th and 15th, respectively. Beatriz ran the most laps in the one-hour session (73), with Hinchcliffe running just 17 prior to his contact.
The second practice session is at 1 p.m. CT with qualifying at 4:15 p.m. CT (5:15 p.m. ET). See qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.
Cue the jokes about how Texas Motor Speedway’s new Verizon IndyCar Series race title sponsor, Rainguard Water Sealers, was a year late, as track drying delays from rain helped postpone this year’s race from June to August.
But the new title sponsor is on board for the next three years, through whatever weather exists at TMS. Which is a good thing, because it confirms both the race and the sponsor through 2019.
“We extremely pleased to have Texas Motor Speedway and ‘America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race’ serve as the initial sponsorship venture into motorsports and sports in general for Rainguard Water Sealers,” Eddie Gossage, Texas Motor Speedway president, said in a release. “We look forward to providing Rainguard with an exceptional first experience as an entitlement sponsor and help the company attain their goals through this sponsorship agreement.”
Firestone has been the race’s title sponsor of what is now the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 since 2010. Prior to that, Bombardier Learjet sponsored the race from 2005 to 2009, when Texas dropped from having two races on the annual IndyCar calendar down to one.
Rainguard was founded in 1969 as a manufacturer of architectural grade coatings used in the construction industry, and developed speciality sealer products starting in 2010.
After a decade off the Formula 1 calendar, the French Grand Prix has been formally confirmed to return in 2018. The race was confirmed at a press conference in France on Monday, after reports emerged late last week it was coming back.
The race, which was at Circuit de Nevers in Magny-Cours from the 1990s through to the most recent race there in 2008, will be held at Circuit Paul Ricard (Le Castellet) instead. Paul Ricard though was the site host for 14 races between 1971 and 1990.
Christian Estrosi, the president of the regional authority of Provence and the Cote d’Azur, announced the deal for the race which is likely to be held in late July. That time frame had featured the German Grand Prix along withe Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 2017 calendar was only just confirmed following the latest meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council last week, with a drop to 20 races following the German race’s departure.
With the French Grand Prix back on, that would kick the number of races back up to 21 for 2018 unless another shoe drops and another race falls back off the calendar instead.
More to follow…
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed their final Formula 1 run-outs of 2016 on Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, taking part in a special demonstration for the Ferrari Finali Mondiali.
The Finali Mondiali acts as the world final for the continental Ferrari Challenge series, bringing together competitors from the North America, Europe and Asia Pacific championships.
As part of the weekend’s running, Vettel and Raikkonen were on hand to complete demonstration laps behind the wheel of recent Ferrari F1 cars, with Vettel also completing some donuts in front of the main granstand at Daytona.
Here are some of the videos and pictures from the event.
Sebastian Vettel has brushed off suggestions that he could take Nico Rosberg’s vacant Formula 1 seat at Mercedes next year, saying his focus lies on working with Ferrari to improve on their 2016 season.
Rosberg sensationally announced on Friday that he would be retiring from F1 with immediate effect, just five days after winning his maiden World Championship.
Rosberg’s move has sent the driver market into a late flux, with Mercedes’ Niki Lauda claiming that half of the F1 grid has been in touch regarding the seat despite many of them having contracts.
Vettel has been named as a possible candidate for Rosberg’s seat despite having one year remaining on his Ferrari deal, but when speaking at the Finali Mondiali at Daytona International Speedway, the German stressed he is focused on his current commitments at Maranello.
“I think it’s no secret the fact that me and Kimi Raikkonen have a contract for next season,” Vettel is quoted as saying by La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Kimi and I are already committed. In 2017 we will be competitive.
“We have not reached the goal this year, but now it will be important to do the job at the factory in the next two months.
“I am confident that we will definitely present an improved package.”
Vettel signed off with a message to Rosberg, wishing the retiring champion “happy holidays!”
Vettel finished 2016 fourth in the drivers’ championship without a win to his name as Ferrari struggled to keep up with Mercedes and Red Bull in the pecking order.
Mercedes is set to begin its search for a replacement on Monday, with the other big-name driver besides Vettel linked to the seat being McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
Should Mercedes want to promote one of its junior drivers, Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon are both also available, although neither has more than a season of F1 experience.