A winter series for IndyCar by 2015?

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From my perspective, one of the biggest strikes against the IZOD IndyCar Series in recent times has been its unbearably long off-season period. For a series that is having to battle for fans at every turn, it makes absolutely no sense to disappear from the public eye for six months after the end of the season.

By the time the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg rolled around this past March to open the 2013 campaign, the IndyCar faithful were as restless as all get-out to see their league go back to business.

Perhaps this is why INDYCAR president of competition Derrick Walker, as part of his plan to increase the sport’s global audience, has outlined a series of off-season events that could lead to an winter championship by 2015 – or perhaps, even an overseas start to the official IndyCar Series season in January or February.

According to Autosport’s Gary Watkins, Walker’s argument for such a proposal is simple: It keeps the teams more busy outside of limited off-season test days, and it fills their coffers at a time of year where they could use some extra money.

Furthermore, a European-based group known as World Series Operations has apparently put forward a proposal for a five-race schedule known as the “IndyCar Global Challenge,” which would start at the end of 2014.

Certainly, an international winter series sounds like a nice idea. It would give the fans something to look forward to, and for the teams, it gives them something to work on – and perhaps a means to try out prospective drivers for the season to come.

And, it bears noting that perhaps it would make it easier for INDYCAR to end their official year in time to get out of the way of the all-conquering National Football League.

But one could also argue that INDYCAR’s biggest problems remain here at home and that it needs to settle those issues first before taking on other, more “global” projects.

Then there’s the obvious question of why INDYCAR just can’t find some warm-weather spots here in the States and have those go off in January as part of the official championship? No exhibitions, a full-tilt run from January to Labor Day, and then, a well-earned flop on the couch to watch some pigskin.

What do you think, readers? Do you feel that a global off-season series can be a benefit for INDYCAR? Or do you believe that they should steer clear of it until they’re on relatively better footing?

Leave your thoughts below, just keep ’em clean.

Lewis Hamilton comes home to Mercedes factory after fourth title

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On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.

And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.

Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.

The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.

“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.

“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.

“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”

A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.