Baltimore marks return to the streets for IndyCar (VIDEO)

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In just a couple of seasons, the Grand Prix of Baltimore (Sun., 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) has made plenty of headlines for both good and bad reasons.

The races themselves have been entertaining thanks to a relatively wide circuit with multiple passing zones, but financial issues involving past race organizers have, at times, overshadowed the on-track action.

This recent article should give you a basic understanding of those latter problems, so we’ll move our focus to the Baltimore layout, which will play host this weekend to not only the IZOD IndyCar Series but also its main development league, Firestone Indy Lights, and the American Le Mans Series as well.

Winding along Baltimore’s famed Inner Harbor and past Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the circuit boasts two exceptional passing zones with the right-hander at Turn 1 off the main straight and another right-hander at the Turn 3 hairpin, which comes after a shorter stretch.

A potential trouble spot comes later on at the Turn 5-6-7 complex, which is situated near the entrance to pit road. This part of the course was tweaked (as was Turn 1) prior to last year’s race to increase passing, but it’s still a tough left/right/left section that can wind up causing problems.

Position of F1 start lights altered to compensate for safety halo

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The position of start lights will be altered on Formula One tracks this season, in a bid to ensure the drivers’ line of vision is not impeded by the controversial halo protection device.

The halo is a titanium structure introduced this year in a bid to ramp up driver safety, forming a ring around the cockpit top. It is designed to protect the drivers’ head from loose debris and offer better safety during eventual collisions.

Although drivers largely understand the need for it, very few like it. They are worried it impedes visibility, it looks ugly and also that fans will no longer be able to identify a driver properly from his race helmet. Drivers also take longer to climb in and out of their cars.

Formula One’s governing body has addressed concerns and asked every circuit “to make the lights at a standard height above the track,” FIA race director Charlie Whiting said.

“Pole position seems to be the worst case scenario with the halo,” Whiting added at the season-opening Australian GP. “Maybe the driver can’t quite see the lights, or see only half of them, and he might have to move his head too much.”

The new start lights were positioned lower for Friday’s first two practice sessions at Albert Park. Drivers were also allowed the rare chance to rehearse grid starts at the end of both sessions.

“We haven’t normally allowed practice starts on the grid here because it’s quite a tight timetable,” Whiting said. “What I thought would be a good idea was to give the driver sight of those lights, rather than for the first time on Sunday evening.”

A repeat set of lights has been moved from its usual position halfway up the grid to a more convenient position to the left.

“Those repeat lights were normally halfway up the grid, and they were fitted round about 2009, when the rear wings became higher on the cars,” Whiting said. “But now the wings have been lowered, there’s no need for those halfway up the grid.”