Fresh engine update issued prior to IndyCar at Fontana, and it’s complicated

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INDYCAR has issued a fresh engine update in advance of this weekend’s season finale, the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. (Saturday, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

And fair warning in advance: you’ll need a spreadsheet to comprehend how this will all work as it pertains to the five-engine maximum each car is allotted for the season without penalty.

There are 16 of the 25 cars entered that are on their fifth and final allotted engine before exceeding the max.

Those are:

  • Andretti Autosport: Ryan Hunter Reay (No. 1), E.J. Viso (No. 5), Marco Andretti (No. 25), James Hinchcliffe (No. 27)
  • Panther Racing: Oriol Servia (No. 4)
  • Dragon Racing: Sebastian Saavedra (No. 6), Sebastien Bourdais (No. 7)
  • KV Racing Technology: Tony Kanaan (No. 11), Simona de Silvestro (No. 78)
  • Team Penske: Will Power (No. 12)
  • Dale Coyne Racing: Justin Wilson (No. 19)
  • Ed Carpenter Racing: Ed Carpenter (No.. 20)
  • Schmidt Peterson/Hamilton Motorsports: Tristan Vautier (No. 55), Simon Pagenaud (No. 77)
  • Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing: Charlie Kimball (No. 83)

Assuming none of those 16 would need to change engines prior to the start of the race Saturday night, you could figure those would be the top 16 starters in whatever order. Add a 17th to that list too, with Team Penske’s third car, AJ Allmendinger, on only its third engine as a part-time entrant.

However, Saavedra’s change to his fifth came before the fourth engine was mileaged out. That means the Dragon Racing driver will join these five other drivers with guaranteed 10-spot grid penalties looming after their qualifying efforts on Friday:

  • Team Penske: Helio Castroneves (No. 3, sixth engine)
  • Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Scott Dixon (No. 9, sixth)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises: Takuma Sato (No. 14, sixth)
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: Graham Rahal (No. 15, seventh)
  • Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing: Josef Newgarden (No. 67, sixth)

The above five drivers are also ineligible to score manufacturer’s points because they are on their sixth or worse engine. Joining them in this category are the remaining runners we haven’t mentioned thus far:

  • Target Chip Ganassi Racing: Alex Tagliani (No. 10, eighth)
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing: James Jakes (No. 16, sixth)
  • Dale Coyne Racing: Pippa Mann (No. 18, seventh)

This will basically mean two things. Any of the cars ineligible to score manufacturer points can’t have a win of theirs count toward the Manufacturer’s Championship.

Secondly, this is the single least important qualifying session of the season because you’re going to have a final starting grid drastically different than the qualifying times. A year ago, 14 of the 26 starters took grid penalties for engine changes (Castroneves, Power, Dixon, Rahal, Kimball, Sato, Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay, Wilson, Newgarden, Pagenaud, de Silvestro, Tagliani and Wade Cunningham).

So long as the fastest qualifier is someone who doesn’t do an engine change and isn’t ineligible for manufacturer points, it’ll be perfectly understandable… mostly.

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.