Normal road/street schedule for IndyCar for first time since Long Beach

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So the IZOD IndyCar Series teams have something back at Mid-Ohio (the 14th of 19 races in 2013) this weekend for the first time since April: a normal schedule for a road or street course event.

It’s going to feel like a lot of track time before showtime for the 24 cars, because it is. The last two street course events, Detroit and Toronto, were doubleheader weekends. The series had only one 90-minute practice before qualifying on Friday, and a second session (12-minute qualifying) on Saturday morning before the first race on Saturday. At Brazil in May, the schedule was condensed into two days.

But at Mid-Ohio (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the series has been afforded a swath of track time. A full open test day was held Wednesday, and three 45-minute practice sessions (two Friday, one Saturday) will occur before qualifying Saturday afternoon. It marks the return of a traditional road and street course weekend schedule for the first time since Long Beach, the third race of 2013, back in April!

Firestone will provide the teams the same tire compound and construction as was offered at Barber, the second race of 2013. Mid-Ohio is the first race on a permanent road course since then, and second of three this season (Sonoma on August 25).

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

Photo: Getty Images
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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.