MotorSportsTalk’s predictions: German GP

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The Nurburgring is nicknamed the ‘green hell’ as it pushes the drivers to the limit on top of the Eifel mountains, and it has become a firm fixture on the F1 calendar as it alternates hosting the German Grand Prix with Hockenheim. Having last hosted the race in 2011, there isn’t much of a form guide for the race, making the MST picks all the more difficult for this weekend…

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

Race winner: Mark Webber. Webber’s on good form at the moment and at a track where he scored his first Grand Prix win in 2009, he follows up his British GP podium comments and wins on his teammate’s home turf.

Surprising finish: Adrian Sutil. Of the Germans in the field, the Force India is the car that could punch above its proverbial weight and grab a result, and Sutil seems the guy to do it if he’s on the right tire strategy.

Most to prove: Romain Grosjean. Four straight races without scoring points; he needs a result, desperately.

Christopher Estrada (@estradawriting)

Race winner: Lewis Hamilton. Both he and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg should have an advantage with the Kevlar-belted tires at the Nurburgring, but it’s time for Hamilton to get on the board in 2013.

Surprising finish: Adrian Sutil. I keep waiting for Force India to get on the podium, and they’ve been very close this year. You have to think support from the home crowd can help Sutil, who has shown solid race pace during the season.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. Four crashes in the last three weeks is tough on anybody, but even more so for Massa, who could be causing Maranello to lose patience with him. However, he just needs to worry about his own confidence and getting that righted with a solid result.

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Race winner: Sebastian Vettel. Never won a race in July and never won his home GP – that ends here. Seb could pounce as the slightly softer compounds brought to the race by Pirelli play against Mercedes, giving him a slightly belated 26th birthday present.

Surprising finish: Felipe Massa. Massa has shown good pace at the Nurburgring before, coming 2nd in 2007 and scoring a podium in the final race before his accident in 2009. Ahead of the tire blowout, he was running 3rd at Silverstone, so the Brazilian driver could be onto something this weekend.

Most to prove: Fernando Alonso. Essentially, he has to prove whether or not Ferrari can still win the world championship. There is no denying his great ability to pull a dog of a car through the field, but Mercedes and Red Bull just look too quick right now.

Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine)

Race winner: Nico Rosberg. Whether by fair means or foul Mercedes are definitely getting into the swing of things at the moment. I reckon the more conservative tyres we’re going to see in the next few races will swing the pendulum further towards them.

Surprising finish: Paul di Resta. Will finally get through Saturday without some misfortune confining him to the back rows.

Most to prove: Felipe Massa. At the beginning of the season he seemed to be back at his best but he’s been a temperamental performer since then. Think of the pillorying a rookie driver would get if they crashed as many times as he has in the last three weekends.

IndyCar CEO: No safety changes for 2016 car, despite Wilson death

indycar ceo mark miles
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An investigation into the August accident that killed driver Justin Wilson has resulted in no recommendations for immediate safety changes in race cars, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said.

But changes could be in line by 2017, including some sort of canopy or enclosed cockpit or surrounding apron to protect drivers, Miles told USA Today.

The 37-year-old Wilson was struck in the head from a piece of debris that flew off Sage Karam’s wrecked car during a race at Pocono Raceway. Wilson died the following day in a Pennsylvania hospital.

“What the report provides is a lot of technical data about the energy involved and the forces and exactly what happened and all of that,” Miles told USA Today. “I don’t think there were any revelations. I think for everybody, with or without the report, all of us hope to be able to make progress in finding ways to make the cockpit safer and to reduce the risks.

“So for example, there may be some short-term measures like tethering some parts that weren’t this year, but could be. That’s a work in progress. But I don’t want to give the sense that was because of anything revealed in the accident investigation. What you think happened, happened there.”

One area that has received considerable discussion is the potential for enclosed cockpits or canopies in Indy cars. But the development of such a device will take time, prompting Miles to predict that if canopies or capsules are ultimately added as a safety precaution, it likely would not occur until at least the 2017 season.

“You’re not going to see a change to the car for next year in this regard just because I don’t think it’s possible,” Miles said. “… These are technical challenges and it’s hard to imagine that anything transformative will happen this year. At this point, I wouldn’t rule out 2017, but the research has to be done, the development has to be done to answer the questions as to what can be done by when.”

Addressing specifically the investigation of Wilson’s accident, Miles said, “It reinforces the risks, I think, of the open cockpit and further energizes efforts in motorsport to try to reduce those risks.”

But devising a cockpit or canopy – if either is adopted – will take considerable development and testing time. Miles said he’s had lengthy discussions with officials from groups such as NASA and the aerospace industry that provide cockpits for entities such as jet fighters.

He added that Formula 1 officials have also been studying enclosed cockpits for quite some time, particularly things such as ingress/egress from within the cockpit, as well as heat buildup inside.

“Obviously, the foundational point is whether there’s a solution which protects the driver and there may be no solution which provides complete protection if you get into a situation like in Las Vegas (where driver Dan Wheldon died as a result of head injuries when he stuck a catch fence support),” Miles said. “But it’s how much more safe can you make it while proving for not having unintended consequences.”

Miles said that in addition to canopies and enclosed cockpits, IndyCar is also looking at other variations and the potential risk vs. rewards of those as well.

“This is not necessarily about a completely closed cockpit,” Miles said. “It could be more of an apron. If something hits that … it’s possible (the object) could be propelled higher and further and an unintended consequence could be the risk of something going into the crowd.

“It doesn’t necessarily knock it down and put it on the track if something was coming at a car like that, especially something like a tire that has energy in it.

“What is clear to me is we’ve got an outside perspective as do our safety people, on the long list of things you have to address. … Hopefully something meaningful can happen.”

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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Luca Filippi

Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, in 2015. Luca Filippi ended 21st in the No. 20 car, running the road and street course races for CFH Racing.

Luca Filippi, No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 28th Place, 4 starts
  • 2015: 21st Place (10 starts), Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 13.9 Avg. Finish

After part-time runs with Bryan Herta Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2013 and 2014, likable Italian Luca Filippi finally got his first full part-time season as the road and street course replacement at CFH Racing, replacing Mike Conway. Having won twice last year, Conway left some decently big shoes to fill and Filippi did a fair job throughout the year more often than not.

Filippi had a slightly better grid position average than did Conway, 12.4 to 13, and was slightly better overall in the races. In 10 races (including one with double points), Filippi scored 182 points and four top-10 finishes (including one top-five). A year ago, Conway scored 252 points from 12 starts, but only two top-10 finishes (both were wins). Broken down, Conway averaged 21 points per race (about a 10th place result) and Filippi 18.2 (about 12th).

Thing was last year, Conway didn’t have a measuring stick as ECR was a single-car team. In the combined two-car CFH Racing organization, Filippi had Josef Newgarden as a teammate, and that provided a more accurate measuring stick. In their 10 races together, Newgarden finished ahead 7-3, and also qualified ahead 7-3.

Filippi felt more comfortable as the year progressed – keep in mind this was the first time he’d seen most of the tracks – and at places like Toronto and Mid-Ohio where had had past track experience, he shone brightest. It was no coincidence his lone Firestone Fast Six appearance and first career podium came at Toronto, and at Mid-Ohio he was also very quick but caught out by strategy in the race.

During the year, Filippi also had two other key moments of note, one personal and one professional. He became a dad prior to Mid-Ohio, and was embracing his newborn shortly after the race not long after. Professionally speaking, he made his oval test debut at Iowa, which was important to note in case CFH wants to continue on with him next year, as seems possible. It was a good year that planted the seed for further success in the future, provided he continues in North America.