To Mario Andretti, IndyCar’s 2014 schedule is “not plausible”

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When Mario Andretti speaks, you listen.

When Mario Andretti disagrees with something, you listen even more intensely.

When Mario Andretti calls the 2014 IndyCar schedule “not plausible,” you have to pause and realize the magnitude of the statement.

One of the living legend’s many roles is serving as an ambassador at the Circuit of the Americas, but I had the chance to catch up with him in the paddock earlier today and he did not mince his words about his frustration with the condensed schedule.

“It’s not plausible. I’ll fight Mark Miles on this the whole way. It’s diminishing the series,” Andretti said.

“A season schedule should not end in August. It’s never happened before. You can’t be worrying about ceding to college football or the NFL. You can’t be taken seriously unless we’re like F1 or NASCAR with the season going to November.”

Andretti also doubts the possible “international series” will come to fruition. And if it does, it would be more of a slap in the face to IndyCar’s regular season than a real boon.

“This ‘mini’ international series is a real ‘pie in the sky’ idea to appease the owners,” Andretti said. “We can’t have a ‘mini’ series. What does that accomplish?”

Other drivers have expressed private concerns about the, at the moment, seven-month offseason slated between August 2014 and March 2015.

But when a legend such as Andretti expresses them without reservation, it’s a big deal.

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

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Esteban Ocon

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 31
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P5 (Spain, Mexico)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 87
Championship Position: 8th

A shining star in Mercedes’ junior programme, Esteban Ocon vaulted fellow youngster Pascal Wehrlein in the pecking order to secure a seat at Force India for 2017 – and boy, did he live up to the hype.

Ocon arrived at Force India with half a season of racing under his belt after his outings with Manor late in 2016, but wasted little time in settling in, scoring points on debut in Australia after winning a thrilling three-way fight with Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman spent much of the year close to teammate Sergio Perez – even if things did get a little too close in Canada, Baku and, finally, Spa, prompting the team to introduce team orders – and impressed the entire paddock with his displays.

While no podium was forthcoming, Ocon was often leading the midfield fight, enjoying three straight finishes ahead of Perez from Japan to Mexico. Given how well Perez is rated on-track in the paddock, to have convincingly beaten him in such fashion did a lot for Ocon’s reputation.

The term ‘Oconsistency’ also came into F1’s dictionary as he set a new record for consecutive finishes from his first race, with his retirement in Brazil ending the streak at 27 grands prix. It was also his first retirement in a single-seater race since the 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

The highlight moment arguably came at Monza, though, when Ocon stuck his Force India third on the grid through torrential rain in qualifying. While he would drop to P6 at the checkered flag, the display nevertheless cemented his place as one of F1’s rising stars.

Mercedes rates Ocon very highly, and with Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond 2018 already being questioned by the paddock, a good season could see the youngster move on up to the top table of F1 for 2019. His progression in the next 12 months will be fascinating to keep track of.

Season High: Lining up P3 on the grid at Monza after a rainy qualifying.

Season Low: Clashing with Perez in Baku, costing Force India a possible podium.