Perez, Maldonado mixed on future outlooks

1 Comment

The two men in the spotlight of the five drivers at Wednesday night’s FOTA Fan Forum at Cedar Street Courtyard in downtown Austin were Sergio Perez and Pastor Maldonado, both of whom are confirmed to leave their current teams after the final two Grands Prix of the 2013 Formula One season.

Perez and McLaren part ways after a single season while Maldonado will leave Williams after his third. Speaking at the forum Wednesday, Perez admitted the timing of the decision leaves him in the lurch while Maldonado appeared more optimistic.

“The ideal is to find a team to fight for podiums, the ones I miss so much this year,” Perez said. “But it’s relatively a bit far back to find now. This year’s not been what we expected.

“It’s disappointing, but this is life. I have a long career in front of me. I’m only 23; I won’t be in F1 just to be in F1.”

Maldonado, by contrast: “That’s a tough question (as to where he’ll land), but we’re working really hard to solve the situation. We hope to have it clear soon.”

To be fair, the other three drivers in attendance, Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, Force India’s Adrian Sutil and Caterham’s reserve driver Alexander Rossi, don’t have their 2014 plans confirmed yet either. Of the three though, Sutil spoke most positively about next year.

“This year we’ve had a good start and a really strong forward direction,” Sutil said. “We had the tire change middle of the season and it didn’t help us. We’re finding our way back now as we move on next year.”

Rossi – who hopes to become the next American to race in F1 – had a simple response when asked if he had any interest in racing anything Stateside in 2014.

“No, I don’t,” he deadpanned to raucous applause from the audience.

Gutierrez didn’t field any questions about his future as yet. His form has come on in the second half of the season at a few races – Singapore and Japan in particular – although he’s still shaded Nico Hulkenberg.

The event itself played a bit like BBC’s “Top Gear” – hundreds of folks packed into a tightly condensed space and posing questions in an open, informal forum, hosted by English broadcaster Jonathan Greene. It was also live streamed online.

MRTI: Barber Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

The weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires was a tale of two completely different days.

Saturday was a picturesque Spring day for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, with bright sunshine and temperatures above 70 degrees. Sunday, however, was much cooler and wetter, with rain hitting both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights races.

Still, the packed weekend for both series produced plenty of drama, and each now sees its championship picture beginning to take shape.

Major stories to surface from the weekend at Barber for both series are below.

Indy Lights

  • Pato O’Ward has been, by a considerable margin, the fastest driver after four races in 2018. A winner of three races – which easily could be four if not for a mistake while leading Race 2 in St. Petersburg – and a polesitter for two, O’Ward has asserted himself as the early-season man to beat in the title chase, leading Santi Urrutia with 110 points to 94. O’Ward already has big-league championship to his name – he was a co-champion of the Prototype Challenge class in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship last year, and he is poised to add to that in 2018.
  • Victor Franzoni is starting to get his arms around the IL-15. Last year’s Pro Mazda champion gets better with every race, and he earned his first Indy Lights podium in Race 2 at Barber, finishing second. It would hardly be a surprise if Franzoni breaks into the win column soon.
  • Aaron Telitz’s run of hard luck continued in Race 1 on Saturday, as he was collected by a spinning Dalton Kellett and retired from the race with a damaged right-front. That meant through three races, Telitz had completed a combined four corners. Race 2 finally produced a clean day for the 2016 Pro Mazda champion, as he ran all the laps on his way to finishing fourth.
  • Colton Herta scored a double-podium at Barber, with finishes of second and third. Sitting on 83 points, he is 19 back of leader O’Ward. He’ll need to break into the win column to make up ground, but consistently finishing on the podium will also help his efforts, and prevent O’Ward from making big leaps away from him.

Pro Mazda

  • Although he might be disappointed to miss out on sweeping the weekend, Parker Thompson has lots of reasons to smile leaving Barber, as he overtook Rinus VeeKay for the championship lead by four points, 102 to 98. Thompson has had two strong weekends to open the Pro Mazda season, with finishes of second, fifth, first, and second after four races. He and VeeKay have emerged as possible title combatants after the opening two weekends.
  • Speaking of VeeKay, the 17-year-old Dutchman had a quiet weekend at Barber, with finishes of fourth and fifth after lacking pace in qualifying – he qualified seventh and ninth for Race 1 and Race 2. After dominating at St. Pete, VeeKay’s lack of pace was somewhat puzzling, though it could be indicative of a Pro Mazda field that is deep with talent. Expect him to rebound at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in May.
  • Oliver Askew’s troublesome start to the 2018 season only got worse at Barber, with finishes of seventh and 12th on a weekend in which he never factored into the outcome. The struggles of him and Cape Motorsports is mystifying given their prowess in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on their way to winning the championship last year. Getting into championship contention at this point is a tall task – he is 46 points behind Thompson – but righting the ship will be priority No. 1 for him and Cape heading to Indianapolis.
  • Harrison Scott enjoyed a great rebound after struggling in St. Pete, where he finished ninth and 12th. He took his first Pro Mazda podium in Race 1, finishing second, and then survived a chaotic and rainy Race 2 to take his first victory. The successful weekend also vaulted him into fourth in the championship.
  • David Malukas has also put together a solid season through four races, with finishes of seventh, second, third, and fifth. The BN Racing driver sits third in the championship, and may well end up challenging for race wins soon.

All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy will be in action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course during the weekend of the INDYCAR Grand Prix (May 11-12), with USF2000 returning after a two-month break following the season opener in St. Petersburg.

Follow@KyleMLavigne