Graham Rahal on the IMS road course (IndyCar photo)

Rahal, Briscoe begin IMS road course test for IndyCar

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Graham Rahal and Ryan Briscoe, of Rahal Letterman Lanigan and Panther Racing, respectively, have run their first laps heading in the opposite direction at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The two are testing several different course configurations of the IMS road course to determine feasibility for an IndyCar race to be held there next year. Additionally, they’re testing different Firestone tire compounds.

Some quick quotes from Rahal to IndyCar’s PR department regarding the test: “The good things is it’s wide. There will be plenty of opportunity to pass. Really trying to figure out the configuration to run, the tire, what compound to run.”

The initial word that comes to my mind with IndyCar on the IMS road course is “weird” – although others have decried it as “blasphemous” or “against tradition.”

The “tradition” argument doesn’t hold up because there have been plenty of things done at IMS over the last 20 years that have gone against tradition. And I’ll also say that weird can be wonderful, and Indy has always been a place for trying new things, so for now at least I’ll keep an open mind.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.