Thursday Austin press conference noteworthy by Kovalainen’s absence

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Thursday’s press conference for the United States Grand Prix was more notable for the one driver absent from the proceedings: new Lotus signing Heikki Kovalainen.

The Finn was meant to join the other five participants in Austin, but for the slight problem he hasn’t arrived in Austin yet. The team said he was en route to the facility in due course, before he replaces Kimi Raikkonen for the final two Grands Prix this Formula One season.

As it is, of the other five present, only Jules Bianchi (Marussia) has a contract in place for next year. The rest – Paul di Resta (Force India), Pastor Maldonado (Williams) and Mexicans Sergio Perez (McLaren) and Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) – are all figuring out plans for next season.

“I’m confident with the team as we try to do our best to finish this year,” said Bianchi. “It all started really well, but it has been difficult of late.”

Di Resta, who’s been back on form of late with back-to-back points scoring finishes in the last two races, is surprised by late the silly season is occurring.

“I think it’s very late, but what can you do really?” di Resta said.

Maldonado, who seemed optimistic about his future at last night’s FOTA Fan Forum, pretty much echoed those thoughts this morning.

“For sure I know (what I’ll be doing),” Maldonado said. “We have a couple options. I have a tough decision ahead.”

Perez and Gutierrez largely echoed the same thoughts as they did at the Fan Forum, although Perez had the line of the morning regarding the large Mexican contingent of fans expected to attend in Austin this weekend.

“The grandstands would be empty without the Mexicans,” he deadpanned.

Newgarden fastest as Castroneves returns in weather-shortened Barber test

Photo: IndyCar
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The Verizon IndyCar Series took to Barber Motorsports Park on Tuesday for an open test, with 24 entries tackling the 2.38-mile road course.

Weather intervened in the afternoon, preventing nearly the entire field from going out, but the weather held off during the morning enough for one session to be run in its entirety.

Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden led the way, with a quick lap of 1:07.979, ahead of Team Penske teammates Will Power and Helio Castroneves. For Castroneves, this marked his first IndyCar outing of 2018.

Helio Castroneves was back in an IndyCar on Tuesday at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: IndyCar

Sporting the Pennzoil “yellow submarine” paint scheme, Castroneves turned 41 laps around Barber in the morning session, with a quick lap of 1:08.315. He was also the only driver to venture out on track in the afternoon, completing eight laps.

The Dale Coyne Racing duo of Sebastien Bourdais and Zachary Claman De Melo completed the top five.

Results are below.