Sebastien Bourdais and Dragon Racing needed this one.
Bourdais posted his best qualifying performance of the IZOD IndyCar Series season by a mile Friday in Toronto, with second place on the grid in his No. 7 TRUECar/McAfee Dragon Racing Chevrolet for the first race of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader. It’s his first front row start in American open-wheel racing since he started second at Mexico City in the 2007 Champ Car season finale, a race he won.
His previous best grid position was seventh in Brazil; that’s also been his only other top-10 start this year prior to Friday. And of the full-time drivers in the championship, Bourdais is the only one yet to score a top-10 finish through the first 11 races.
“It’s not the first time that Toronto would be the turnaround of our season. It’s happened the last two years,” Bourdais said, hoping to change his luck. “Hopefully we can carry on some momentum. We definitely have a pretty fast car. I’m pretty excited for the two races this weekend.”
Considering his resume and record, this is nothing short of a shock. Luckily, there’s been team changes that appear to have enhanced his performance in the last couple races. Chief among them is new engineer Tom Brown, replacing Neil Fife.
“It was pretty impressive the number of changes we did (just) in the one and a half hour practice session. I think we did like 40, something like that,” said the Frenchman. “He’s got a different view on the car obviously. I think what caught us off is we were so happy with the car last year that it was just tough to kind of put behind us what we thought we knew about the car with the new 2013 tires.
“We just could never overcome that. Tom coming with basically a fresh mindset, just was not afraid to do a lot of changes. We did. For the first time, we got a fast car. Still got a couple of changes to make to get it right, but it’s definitely the best we’ve had it so far.”
Things were less rosy for Sebastian Saavedra, Bourdais’ teammate, who starts 24th and last for race one. Saavedra has four top-10 starts in 2013.
2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.
Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.
The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.
“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.
“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.
“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”
Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.
Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.
Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.
“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.
The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.
Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.
Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.
Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.
Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.
“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.
Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.
“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.
“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”
Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.
NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.
Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.
Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.
In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.
Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.