The important insights: Schmidt’s French drivers on Sonoma’s wines

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By this point in the IndyCar season, teams need to get creative when it comes to thinking of new story angles or leads for advance press releases. Sam Schmidt’s team – the Schmidt Hamilton HP entry for Simon Pagenaud and Schmidt Peterson entry for rookie Tristan Vautier – took full advantage of the fact they employ two Frenchmen and inquired about their wine preferences.

This is Sonoma, American Wine Country, after all.

For Pagenaud, Napa Valley wines compare favorably to French wines, even if they represent a night-and-day difference.

“I always have good wine, no matter where I am,” Pagenaud said. “France is famous for wine, but I don’t think it’s better one place or another. Because of the temperature, sun and rain here in Sonoma the wine is very colorful and rich in terms of taste. It’s much fruitier than what we have in France. They’re actually very different but both good.”

Vautier, who’s only 24, is at least of age but said the task at hand over the weekend trumps wine tasting.

“Driving on a race weekend and wine tasting don’t really fit together, and we’re flying home right after the race Sunday night,” Vautier said. “I can’t offer much wine insight but I hope all of our fans and sponsors get to enjoy themselves!”

Both are a big fan of the Sonoma circuit, with its elevation changes and fast rhythm. Pagenaud finished second last time out at Mid-Ohio and enters the race fifth in points, while Vautier, the lone full-time rookie in the championship, sits 20th with his last top-10 finish at Barber in April. Vautier made the Firestone Fast Six in his first two starts of the year.

Leclerc: No. 16 was third-choice for Formula 1 career

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2018 Formula 1 rookie Charles Leclerc has revealed No. 16 was his third-choice number to use through his grand prix career, with his preferred options having already been taken.

From 2014, drivers were given the chance to pick a number to use through their F1 careers instead of being assigned one depending on their team’s championship position.

Formula 2 champion and Ferrari junior Leclerc was announced in an Alfa Romeo Sauber race seat for 2018 earlier this month, picking No. 16 as his permanent number.

However, the Monegasque racer revealed last week that it was in fact his third choice, with both No. 7 and No. 10 already being taken by Kimi Raikkonen and Pierre Gasly respectively.

“It’s quite simple to be honest: I wanted number 7 first, but Kimi had it,” Leclerc said, as quoted by Crash.net.

“Then I chose 10, but Pierre came to F1 and chose number 10, so then I chose number 16.

“It’s just my date of birth and I could not find anything better. And 1 + 6 = 7, which is my favorite number.”

Leclerc will become the first driver hailing from Monaco to race in F1 since Olivier Beretta, who made nine grand prix starts in 1994 for Larrousse.