IndyCar Driver Review: Graham Rahal

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With the IndyCar season in the books and a limited amount of news to come since the season finale at Fontana, my MotorSportsTalk colleague Chris Estrada and are taking a look back at the 2013 season just past. Chris and I each ranked our top 10 drivers and some of the biggest stories; now we take a look back at the field driver-by-driver.

P18, the second son at his father’s team in 2013 standings, Graham Rahal…

2013 SEASON PREVIEW

Graham Rahal

  • Team: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  • 2012: 10th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 3rd
  • 2013: 18th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 6th, 1 Podium, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 6 Laps Led, 17.7 Avg. Start, 14.8 Avg. Finish

DiZinno says: In 2012, Marco Andretti hit relative “rock bottom” with one runner-up finish, three top-10s in 15 races and 16th in the points. Graham Rahal’s homecoming to his dad’s team for 2013 was not supposed to mirror that, but it did. There was one runner-up finish, five top-10s in 19 races and 18th in the points. Andretti made the necessary adjustments to improve for 2013 – which he did – and young Rahal may need to do the same this offseason. Granted, he had his moments of glory (Long Beach, Iowa and Baltimore weekends were stout) and he was closer to the pace in qualifying once the team added Neil Fife to its engineering roster. But it was a terribly disappointing season and one he’d probably like to forget sooner rather than later.

Estrada says: All the optimism from Rahal’s return to the family team quickly vanished as the season wore on. Outside of a handful of efforts – his podium at Long Beach being the most prominent of those – the son of Bobby endured a very frustrating campaign that saw him struggle in qualifying (two Top-10 starts in 19 races) and also have some rough luck on race days, such as having to swallow a 17th-place finish at Baltimore due to late contact following a strong run. We’ll see if the addition of race engineer Bill Pappas to the RLL camp can help boost their fortunes next season.

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.