Webber 21-11

2013 Brazilian Grand Prix Preview

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The 2013 Formula One season comes to a close this weekend with the Brazilian Grand Prix in Interlagos, Sao Paulo, and with both championships sewn up long ago, a more relaxed atmosphere could be expected at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace. However, this race is perhaps one of the most important of the season as it marks the end of an era in many ways. This will be the last race using V8 engines (with turbocharged V6s inbound for 2014) and the last race in Mark Webber’s Formula One career, and it could prove to be the finale for a number of other drivers who are currently without a seat for next season.

Interlagos has a habit of producing the unexpected, meaning that whilst Sebastian Vettel is chasing a record-equalling ninth consecutive victory, his charge could be hindered by a number of factors. Given that Red Bull’s ascension to the front of the field came with the last raft of regulation changes in 2009, the possibility of the opposite in 2014 means that this could be the last race in the team’s era of dominance in the sport. The neutral can wish…

2013 Brazilian Grand Prix Talking Points

Webber hopes to leave his Mark

Mark Webber’s eleven year stint in Formula One will come to an end on Sunday, and he will be hoping to wave goodbye by claiming his tenth and final victory in Brazil where he has won twice before. It would be the fairytale ending for a driver who has never been one to conform and follow the crowd, but regardless of the result, thanks for the memories, Mark.

Seb’s planning to rain on his teammate’s parade, though

The stumbling block for Webber will be, as it has been all season, stablemate Sebastian Vettel. The German driver is looking to equal Alberto Ascari’s record of nine consecutive wins in Brazil and Schumacher’s tally of thirteen for a season. Given his form, of course, it’s hard to see this not happening. With a fresh gearbox to boot, don’t expect him to do Webber any favors as their frosty relationship comes to an end this weekend.

Did someone mention rain?

2013 has been one of the driest seasons in memory, with the intermediate tires being used for just a few laps in Malaysia and the wets not seeing any race running. Therefore, the ‘unexpected’ has rarely happened. This weekend though, heavy rain is forecast for the race on Sunday. Interlagos and precipitation is a marriage made in heaven, so expect 2013 to go out with a bang this weekend.

One last chance to impress

A number of drivers – Sergio Perez, Heikki Kovalainen, Nico Hulkenberg, Esteban Gutierrez, Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Pastor Maldonado, Charles Pic, Giedo van der Garde and Max Chilton – all head into the final race of the year without a firm drive in 2014. As a result, this race is a final opportunity for them all to prove their worth and secure a seat on next year’s grid.

Marussia vs Caterham: Round 2

As per 2012, Marussia enter the final round of the season leading the ‘battle of the backmarkers’ for P10 in the constructors’ championship by virtue of Jules Bianchi’s thirteenth-place finish in the Malaysian Grand Prix. If they are to recover tenth place – and the prize money that comes with it – Caterham require a top thirteen finish. Impossible? That’s what we said last year, but Vitaly Petrov managed to pass Charles Pic (then with Marussia) in the final few laps to move up into P11 and secure the place for Caterham. Will we see an equally-dramatic battle ensue this weekend?

Track: Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace
Laps: 71
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Juan Pablo Montoya 1:11.473 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Medium (option); Hard (prime)
2012 Winner: Jenson Button (McLaren)
2012 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 1:12.458
2012 Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 1:18.069
DRS Zones: T15 to T1; T3 to T4

Friday – Free Practice 1: 7am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 11am ET (LIVE on NBCSN and on NBC Sports Live extra)
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 8am ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 11am ET (LIVE on CNBC and on NBC Sports Live extra)
Sunday – Race: 12pm ET (LIVE on NBC, pre-race show starts at 11am ET and on NBC Sports Live extra)

IndyCar CEO: No safety changes for 2016 car, despite Wilson death

indycar ceo mark miles
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An investigation into the August accident that killed driver Justin Wilson has resulted in no recommendations for immediate safety changes in race cars, IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said.

But changes could be in line by 2017, including some sort of canopy or enclosed cockpit or surrounding apron to protect drivers, Miles told USA Today.

The 37-year-old Wilson was struck in the head from a piece of debris that flew off Sage Karam’s wrecked car during a race at Pocono Raceway. Wilson died the following day in a Pennsylvania hospital.

“What the report provides is a lot of technical data about the energy involved and the forces and exactly what happened and all of that,” Miles told USA Today. “I don’t think there were any revelations. I think for everybody, with or without the report, all of us hope to be able to make progress in finding ways to make the cockpit safer and to reduce the risks.

“So for example, there may be some short-term measures like tethering some parts that weren’t this year, but could be. That’s a work in progress. But I don’t want to give the sense that was because of anything revealed in the accident investigation. What you think happened, happened there.”

One area that has received considerable discussion is the potential for enclosed cockpits or canopies in Indy cars. But the development of such a device will take time, prompting Miles to predict that if canopies or capsules are ultimately added as a safety precaution, it likely would not occur until at least the 2017 season.

“You’re not going to see a change to the car for next year in this regard just because I don’t think it’s possible,” Miles said. “… These are technical challenges and it’s hard to imagine that anything transformative will happen this year. At this point, I wouldn’t rule out 2017, but the research has to be done, the development has to be done to answer the questions as to what can be done by when.”

Addressing specifically the investigation of Wilson’s accident, Miles said, “It reinforces the risks, I think, of the open cockpit and further energizes efforts in motorsport to try to reduce those risks.”

But devising a cockpit or canopy – if either is adopted – will take considerable development and testing time. Miles said he’s had lengthy discussions with officials from groups such as NASA and the aerospace industry that provide cockpits for entities such as jet fighters.

He added that Formula 1 officials have also been studying enclosed cockpits for quite some time, particularly things such as ingress/egress from within the cockpit, as well as heat buildup inside.

“Obviously, the foundational point is whether there’s a solution which protects the driver and there may be no solution which provides complete protection if you get into a situation like in Las Vegas (where driver Dan Wheldon died as a result of head injuries when he stuck a catch fence support),” Miles said. “But it’s how much more safe can you make it while proving for not having unintended consequences.”

Miles said that in addition to canopies and enclosed cockpits, IndyCar is also looking at other variations and the potential risk vs. rewards of those as well.

“This is not necessarily about a completely closed cockpit,” Miles said. “It could be more of an apron. If something hits that … it’s possible (the object) could be propelled higher and further and an unintended consequence could be the risk of something going into the crowd.

“It doesn’t necessarily knock it down and put it on the track if something was coming at a car like that, especially something like a tire that has energy in it.

“What is clear to me is we’ve got an outside perspective as do our safety people, on the long list of things you have to address. … Hopefully something meaningful can happen.”

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IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Luca Filippi

Josef Newgarden, Luca Filippi
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, in 2015. Luca Filippi ended 21st in the No. 20 car, running the road and street course races for CFH Racing.

Luca Filippi, No. 20 CFH Racing Chevrolet

  • 2014: 28th Place, 4 starts
  • 2015: 21st Place (10 starts), Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 4 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 13.9 Avg. Finish

After part-time runs with Bryan Herta Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2013 and 2014, likable Italian Luca Filippi finally got his first full part-time season as the road and street course replacement at CFH Racing, replacing Mike Conway. Having won twice last year, Conway left some decently big shoes to fill and Filippi did a fair job throughout the year more often than not.

Filippi had a slightly better grid position average than did Conway, 12.4 to 13, and was slightly better overall in the races. In 10 races (including one with double points), Filippi scored 182 points and four top-10 finishes (including one top-five). A year ago, Conway scored 252 points from 12 starts, but only two top-10 finishes (both were wins). Broken down, Conway averaged 21 points per race (about a 10th place result) and Filippi 18.2 (about 12th).

Thing was last year, Conway didn’t have a measuring stick as ECR was a single-car team. In the combined two-car CFH Racing organization, Filippi had Josef Newgarden as a teammate, and that provided a more accurate measuring stick. In their 10 races together, Newgarden finished ahead 7-3, and also qualified ahead 7-3.

Filippi felt more comfortable as the year progressed – keep in mind this was the first time he’d seen most of the tracks – and at places like Toronto and Mid-Ohio where had had past track experience, he shone brightest. It was no coincidence his lone Firestone Fast Six appearance and first career podium came at Toronto, and at Mid-Ohio he was also very quick but caught out by strategy in the race.

During the year, Filippi also had two other key moments of note, one personal and one professional. He became a dad prior to Mid-Ohio, and was embracing his newborn shortly after the race not long after. Professionally speaking, he made his oval test debut at Iowa, which was important to note in case CFH wants to continue on with him next year, as seems possible. It was a good year that planted the seed for further success in the future, provided he continues in North America.