Bits and pieces on the Milwaukee IndyFest

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Helio, Dario are the hard chargers: Three-time Indianapolis 500 winners Helio Castroneves and Dario Franchitti certainly earned their paychecks yesterday at Milwaukee, as each jumped 15 positions from where they started at the drop of the green. Castroneves came from 17th to a runner-up finish, while Dario Franchitti moved from 23rd to eighth at the finish.

Franchitti, a two-time winner on the Mile, overcame an engine penalty that had dropped him 10 spots on the grid from where he qualified on Friday. However, he complained of how tough it was to cut through traffic and wondered if INDYCAR officials needed to step in and possibly make some changes.

“The cars are so close, so the series might be a victim of their own success right now,” said Franchitti. “We need to start allowing something to differentiate when guys get it right and wrong.”

– Chevy dominates: At a flat one mile in length, Milwaukee isn’t necessarily a power track, instead putting the emphasis on handling and how you deal with lapped traffic. Nevertheless, Chevrolet can still crow a bit after securing its second consecutive sweep of the Top 5 positions with winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves, Will Power, E.J. Viso and James Hinchcliffe. The Bowtie Brigade also locked out the Top 5 one weekend ago at Texas Motor Speedway.

Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon led the Honda camp with a sixth-place showing despite having to deal with understeer issues.

– Off to Le Mans for Briscoe: The Milwaukee IndyFest started a very busy week for Ryan Briscoe, who made his third start of the season in the No. 4 Panther Racing Chevrolet. Briscoe, who finished 15th on Saturday, is a full-time American Le Mans Series driver for Level 5 Motorsports, and he’s competing with them in next weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

He took part in the official test day last weekend at Circuit de la Sarthe and then arrived in Milwaukee for his Panther duties on Thursday. Shortly after racing on Saturday, he was heading off back to France to continue preparing for his rookie run in the famous sports car race.

“The travel hasn’t been that bad,” Briscoe told IndyCar.com. “It’s not that big a time difference and the flight is about the same as going out to the West Coast…For me, this is a lot better than sitting home and watching, so I’m very appreciative of the opportunity I’ve got at Panther.”

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.

Mercedes F1 engine chief warns against underestimating Honda

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Mercedes Formula 1 engine chief Andy Cowell has warned against underestimating the threat of Honda despite its ongoing power unit struggles, tipping the Japanese manufacturer to bounce back in the near future.

Honda returned to F1 as a manufacturer in 2015, supplying V6 turbo power units to the McLaren team, but has struggled for either performance or reliability through that period.

The struggles have led McLaren – currently sat bottom of the constructors’ championship – to consider cutting ties for 2018 given how far adrift compared to the other three engine suppliers Honda has been.

Mercedes has been the benchmark for engine performance since the change in regulation for 2014, but Cowell feels that Honda could make up ground quickly, with the removal of the token system for 2017 helping performance to converge through the field.

“I think collectively we’ve helped with convergence in Formula 1 in the opening season, performance development through the year,” Cowell said.

“But then the opportunity to do a big change with Honda coming in, we all agreed that Honda could have that same opportunity to change everything in the first year and then the request came from manufacturers in addition to Honda saying ‘please can we take this crazy token table away because it’s bad for the sport?’

“It’s bad if somebody can’t train to get better and so we agreed, yeah, take the table away because it’s better for the sport because it means that you can innovate, you can introduce whatever you like.

“I think none of us should underestimate the technical prowess of Honda and of McLaren and I think my money is on that combination coming good and coming good pretty quickly. No pressure…”

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Nico Rosberg visits Stanford University, considering study options

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2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg is considering study options at Stanford University after visiting the college earlier this week as part of his tour around California.

Rosberg sensationally announced his retirement from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title last November, wanting to spend more time with his young family.

The German has been enjoying his retirement, recently embarking on a tour of Silicon Valley and California that saw him hold meetings with electric car giant Tesla, among other companies.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday, Rosberg spoke warmly about a visit to Stanford, revealing that he is considering some study options in the near future at the historic institution.

Rosberg was previously offered a scholarship to study engineering at Imperial College London when he was younger, only to turn it down in order to embark on a racing career. He also reportedly holds the highest ever score on Williams’ engineering aptitude test.

Should Nico sign up to a course at Stanford, we imagine he’d take things one class at a time…