IndyCar notes: Simona in Austin, Penske news coming soon

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A few quick IndyCar bits of info gleaned on the ground here in Austin:

  • If it wasn’t official already, Simona de Silvestro is a free agent on the IndyCar driver market. With upcoming tests scheduled for a handful of teams between now and December 19, don’t expect to see the 25-year-old Swiss driver at any of them as she and her management team decide the best course of action.
  • As she sorts out her IndyCar future, she spent some time at the track Thursday with the Sauber F1 Team, and had a photo op with team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and 60 aspiring young engineers, all girls, as part of an “F1 in Schools” promotion. She also met and chatted with team driver Nico Hulkenberg. I’m sure I’m not alone in the hope one day de Silvestro, who’s Swiss, could have a test with the Sauber team. She was thrilled to see the technology of an F1 car, having not been to a Grand Prix in several years.
  • A source told me on Thursday that Penske Racing is due for a primary sponsorship announcement in the coming days, after Nov. 18. The team’s new third driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, will make his final NASCAR start for Chip Ganassi Racing this Sunday in Homestead.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.