Ganassi weighing whether veteran or up-and-comer should join team (VIDEO)


UPDATE, 2:00 p.m. ET: NBCSN IndyCar reporter Marty Snider called into NBCSN’s “SportsDash” on Friday to discuss Franchitti’s injuries and his retirement.

ORIGINAL, 12:30 p.m. ET: Chip Ganassi took time from his hectic schedule at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale to discuss the Dario Franchitti forced retirement news and outline preliminary plans for the No. 10 Target Chevrolet in IndyCar.

Regarding the No. 10, Ganassi wouldn’t be pressed on too many details, only saying that new signing Tony Kanaan – who is slated for the No. 8 NTT Data/TNT Energy Drink Chevrolet – is “not out of the question” for the No. 10. Ganassi did confirm a four-car team will continue for 2014 as planned.

But the big question now is when it comes to filling the No. 10, one of the three or four plum rides in IndyCar, is whether Ganassi opts to go with a proven veteran or a young up-and-comer.

You have guys like Justin Wilson, for example, eternally overlooked by the two or three “big teams” despite obvious talent. Then you have the veterans who have been around for a while but not ever had this chance – an Alex Tagliani or an Oriol Servia perhaps.

But with the same five or six drivers in the top rides for the last half decade at least, seeing a youngster like a Josef Newgarden, a Conor Daly, a Sage Karam or someone else of that ilk, fill the void could be an intriguing opportunity and a necessary spice to the field.

“That’s a good question,” Ganassi admitted during the media teleconference. “That’s one of the first decisions we have to make.

“We’ve always taken the best driver available at the time. That rule, we learned from a great mentor to our guys, Morris Nunn, who used to say that. Morris always said, ‘You need to take the best driver available and don’t think of anything else.’ That’ll be our first procedure to go through.

“Do you go with a proven talent or young, up-and-comer? That’s the question we’re dealing with now. Whoever fills that seat has big shoes to fill and they have to be a huge teammate to help Dixon, Kimball and Kanaan. We’ve been thinking more about Dario this week than who is going to be in the 10. We will figure that out in the next few weeks.”

Ganassi said it made “no difference” whether a driver announcement was done this week or next week, and he hopes to have something announced within several weeks.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.