Glare, bumps may pose issue for drivers at Fontana

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The IZOD IndyCar Series’ season finale next Saturday night, the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway, is the first night race for the series since Texas back in June.

The race is more than a month later than it was in 2012. Cooler temperatures are expected but potentially, the glare entering Turns 3 and 4 could pose an issue as drivers head down the backstraight.

“We had a test (Sept. 24) in Fontana.  We did face a similar issue.  I believe all the drivers agreed and exposed the situation, and I believe there is a scenario that might delay the race about 25 to 30 minutes,” Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves said Thursday on a teleconference. “I’m not sure about the time.  But I know about 5:50 or something is about when the sun is at a critical point in Turn 3 that we cannot see at all. So (INDYCAR president of competition and operations) Derrick Walker is already looking into it, and like I said, I believe they will make an adjustment in time so we won’t have that kind of issue.”

JR Hildebrand, who’s driving for Barracuda Racing next weekend, told me last weekend in Houston that going into Turn 3 in Fontana that you’re “nearly blinded” by the glare.

Some bumps in the corners – although the track is still fairly smooth, especially after the run of street courses – may also upset the handling of the cars. Penske took that to heart last year when Will Power washed up through Turns 1 and 2 over a bump in the turn; Castroneves explained Thursday it might be Turns 3 and 4 that could be a trouble spot this time around.

“The second thing about the bump and not only in 1 and 2 but in 3 and 4, the latest I heard is also they might do some touch‑up on those bumps so that we can prevent any kind of issues,” he said.

“But at this point the track is much different than Houston.  I’d say it’s much smoother, and I do believe it’s going to create a great excitement of several lines, people can go below, can go middle, can go high, so that can create a great kind of racing.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.