We did this on Monday for Formula One, and now with most of the top seats filled in IndyCar, here’s a look at its remaining free agent pool for 2014. Only four to potentially six full-time seats remain to be filled (Barracuda, second cars for KV, RLL and Coyne, with Panther, Dragon and Dreyer & Reinbold statuses to be determined).
UPDATE, 5:00 p.m. ET: Take Takuma Sato off the free agent board as his return with A.J. Foyt Racing was confirmed this afternoon.
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO, 13th in 2013
- GOOD: Her seemingly never-ending positive attitude, high paddock support, consistent improvement and strong finish to 2013 has boosted her stock after her first three years had more valleys than peaks.
- BAD: A liability on ovals, even though she has made some strides on them in 2013.
- VERDICT: With the continued support of her partners, who would likely seek a minority ownership stake in a team’s second car, de Silvestro will land in one of the remaining second seats. Coyne more likely than RLL or KV, though, at this stage.
E.J. VISO, 15th in 2013
- GOOD: Has really, really calmed down on track the last three years with far fewer accidents after denting his reputation his first few years in the series.
- BAD: Has more or less gone silent, save for a handful of Instagram posts and maybe one news report or two, since missing the season finale at Fontana.
- VERDICT: Viso might not have enough of a budget for IndyCar next year anyway. A move to sports cars seems probable.
JAMES JAKES, 19th in 2013
- GOOD: Quick on his day and brings a healthy budget to any available seat.
- BAD: No one would accuse him of being the hardest worker in IndyCar.
- VERDICT: Like de Silvestro, figures to land somewhere depending on where the dollars and chips may fall.
TRISTAN VAUTIER, 20th in 2013
- GOOD: Unfulfilled potential after three great years in ladder series, the pace to match and a very positive attitude.
- BAD: Trial-by-fire as a rookie led to a lot of mistakes in 2013.
- VERDICT: Likely out for 2014, but could re-emerge as a one-off later in the year.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA, 21st in 2013
- GOOD: Had some great qualifying efforts early in the year.
- BAD: Dwelled in anonymity the rest of the year.
- VERDICT: With two other Colombians on the grid in 2014, hard to see where Seb junior fits unless Dragon continues for a handful of events.
ORIOL SERVIA, 22nd in 2013
- GOOD: IndyCar’s most underrated shoe. Consistent, quick, dependable, and an asset to any team he would join.
- BAD: Flies so far under the radar that TV cameras often miss him. And has a horrible streak of driving for teams that ultimately run out of funding.
- VERDICT: If talent alone merited a spot, Servia’s place would be set. Alas, it’s not.
ALEX TAGLIANI, 24th in 2013
- GOOD: Veteran experience, quick on his day, good technical feedback.
- BAD: Still makes more mistakes than he probably should.
- VERDICT: With Ganassi spot gone, sports cars almost certainly beckons. Although it would not surprise me to see him in Indianapolis 500 or Toronto one-offs.
JR HILDEBRAND, 25th in 2013
- GOOD: We forget he dominated an Indy Lights field in 2009 with 13 future IndyCar drivers in it. We also forget he was 11th in the 2012 points ahead of 13 other full-timers. Scored Panther’s best result of 2013, a forgotten fifth at Long Beach.
- BAD: Panther’s dismissal of him left a pox on his reputation.
- VERDICT: Good enough to merit a second chance at a proper operation, although Bryan Herta Autosport and Barracuda Racing appears his only shot at the moment.
- Ana Beatriz: Adopting another name, Bia Figueiredo, and exploring sports car racing. Doubtful she’ll have another IndyCar opportunity anytime soon.
- Luca Filippi: Front-runner at Barracuda if funding issues don’t enter the equation, and could be placed elsewhere by Honda if he fails to land there.
- Pippa Mann: As ever, persistently working to secure funding for future races, likely on ovals as she raced in 2013.
- James Davison: Has a full-time sports car ride with TRG’s Aston Martin Vantage, but is in play for one Indianapolis 500 seat and perhaps more.
- Stefan Wilson: Minimal news yet for Justin’s younger brother but we need some “Bromates” action back in IndyCar at some point.
- Conor Daly: The European exploration nearing an end, Daly has set his sights on IndyCar. Talent would do it, but he needs to find funding to put it all together.
- Townsend Bell: Like Davison, has a full-time sports car ride with Level 5’s Ferrari 458. Will probably do his usual Indianapolis 500-only program.
- Katherine Legge: Like Davison and Bell, committed to the TUDOR Championship with the DeltaWing, but would welcome another IndyCar chance if the funding’s there.
- Buddy Lazier: Seems set for another Indianapolis 500 program.
- Sam Bird: Rumored by RACER to make the switch to IndyCar, Bird’s starred in GP2 but lacks the budget needed for F1. It could be viable in IndyCar.
- Sage Karam: The Indy Lights champion has some funding and is still working to find more for the step up.
- Mikael Grenier: Young French-Canadian who tested for KV in November is not particularly likely to find the budget needed for a series debut.
- Jack Hawksworth: Will test for Dale Coyne Racing this week, which already is his second in an IndyCar. The Englishman could use more seasoning, but may make the jump if his management team finds the funding.
- Arie Luyendyk Jr.: Seems bullish on an IndyCar return and has tested once for Coyne already. If a full-season ride doesn’t happen, a month of May program could.
- Francesco Dracone/Giuseppe Cipriani: They either have tested or will test for Coyne. Anything beyond that for either of them would be a serious stretch.
- A.N. Other: There’s always at least one other driver completely out of the woodwork that could appear, so reserving this bullet point for them.
LEXINGTON, Ohio – There are a lot of things to like about combined Verizon IndyCar Series/Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires/Pirelli World Challenge weekends, primarily the variety of content on track and the flurry of non-stop action from dawn to dusk.
One of the things not to like, though, is the sheer volume of things that come out of each of the three – and when you cover each of the three regularly, it’s easy to get behind.
That being said, here’s an attempt to recap all that’s taken place here today:
- There were two practice sessions as noted (Scott Dixon led first practice, Will Power second), although the second one ended early due to rain (I blame myself following my run back from the IndyCar Radio booth…).
- Have to give a shoutout to rookie RC Enerson, who was seriously impressive in his first full official day at the office. Enerson took what he learned from the test day last week with Dale Coyne Racing and was even more comfortable. He’ll have to adapt to the Firestone red alternate tires in qualifying tomorrow – it’s something that challenges even veterans – but he’s impressing the team with how much he’s taken in that’s getting thrown at him. Seventh in practice is remarkable; we’ll see how well it translates tomorrow.
- There were also a couple media availabilities during the day. The first was Graham Rahal, defending race winner, for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. We’ll have more on this in the coming weeks, but Rahal made a couple interesting points. One, he addressed the Target departure – he had a sense this day would come even going back to when he was a member of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams in 2011 and 2012 – but said partners are out there, they just need to be found. He also noted how having only one car has hurt RLL this year, given the volume of in-season testing, and the relative lack of data gathered compared to four-car mights from Team Penske, Ganassi and Andretti Autosport. Last year, without that same amount of in-season testing,
- The Target bit dovetails nicely, perhaps, into Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi’s media availability – the first for the two since the announcement earlier this week that Target would end its IndyCar relationship with Ganassi after 27 years. Ganassi, who did most of the talking in the 20-plus minute gathering, dismissed the idea that this was an IndyCar-related decision or a TV-related decision. He said it was a pure business decision and that he has nothing but praise for Target for all they’ve done for his team, and by default, the sport of IndyCar racing on the whole. More to follow from this availability in the coming days.
- We mentioned Honda’s “Christmas in July” camping theme earlier? Now, there’s Santa hats to match…
- Our social team was busy; Conor Daly did a Twitter takeover on the @IndyCaronNBCSN feed (you can view that here; here’s Daly saying thanks), and Rahal also did a Facebook Live video (available to view here).
- Two memorials were held to celebrate the lives of two amazing women. The first was for NBCSN pit producer Jenny Nickell this morning at the IndyCar Paddock Club (watch video produced by Taylor Rollins, narrated by Bob Jenkins here). The second was at Honda hospitality for Brenda McHale, wife of veteran Honda PR man T.E. McHale, who died earlier this year. T.E. is one of the true gems in the IndyCar paddock and it was great to see the outpouring of support from the community at both events, which were overflowing despite the small tent sizes.
MAZDA ROAD TO INDY PRESENTED BY COOPER TIRES
- The busiest series of the three today was the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, which held both qualifying and its first race of the weekend. Australian Anthony Martin won both sessions for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, the latter coming with a pivotal swing in the championship – a cut tire resigned his teammate and prior points leader Parker Thompson to 17th. Martin went from 20 down to nine up going into Saturday’s race two of three this weekend. Victor Franzoni (ArmsUp Motorsports) and Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports) completed the top three finishers, ahead of Jordan Lloyd and Dakota Dickerson.
- Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires also got in two sessions, practice and qualifying. Nico Jamin (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) has the pole for the first of two races this weekend, courtesy of a new track record (1:18.138) that beats a 10-year-old mark of 1:18.300 set by Ryan Justice in 2006! Aaron Telitz qualified second with Pato O’Ward, his Team Pelfrey teammate, only fifth.
- The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires only got one practice in with its second session scrubbed due to rain. In the first and only session, Santiago Urrutia (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports led from Shelby Blackstock, with Ed Jones and Dean Stoneman only sixth and eighth. They qualify and have their first race tomorrow.
PIRELLI WORLD CHALLENGE
- Owing to the rain and the fact they were scheduled when they were, the only session of the day was GTS qualifying from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. ET. Both GT practice and the GTS first race were scrubbed due to the rain; they were set to run from 4:15 to 4:45 and 5 to 6 p.m. ET, respectively.
- Here’s how GTS will work: Saturday’s now considered second race of the weekend will be run using today’s GTS qualifying times and be a standing start. The postponed race will be a makeup round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and feature a fresh qualifying, making that finale now a tripleheader.
- The other big news of the day? The provisional 2017 schedule is out, and the word “provisional” cannot be stressed enough. The determination of which classes have which drivers, which races fall under Sprint versus Sprint X designation, and which races are standalones versus on IndyCar weekends will all be further explained in the days to come. This release comes on the heels of the SRO announcing its 2017 schedules at the Total 24 Hours of Spa weekend (release here, calendars here).
- With GT practice scrubbed, so too is the opportunity for fans and onlookers here to see the new Acura NSX GT3 – tested by Peter Kox this weekend – on track in practice. The car remains on display throughout the weekend and a photo opportunity will come on Saturday morning.
Formula E champion Sebastien Buemi will enjoy his first Formula 1 test in over two years next week when he represents Red Bull in the latest Pirelli tire evaluation runs ahead of the 2017 season.
Buemi raced for Red Bull’s junior team, Toro Rosso, between 2009 and 2011 before being dropped to make way for Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.
Red Bull kept ties with Buemi, hiring him as the team’s test and reserve driver, a role he continues to enjoy in tandem with commitments in the FIA World Endurance Championship and Formula E.
His last F1 test came with Red Bull following the Spanish Grand Prix in 2014, and also completed a filming day for the team in Barcelona last year.
The Swiss driver won the second Formula E title in London at the beginning of the month with Renault e.dams, and is now set to get back behind the wheel of an F1 car as part of the ongoing evaluation of Pirelli’s new tires for 2017.
Buemi will get behind the wheel of a ‘mule’ car – a modified RB11 used in the 2015 season – and try out the wider tires on Wednesday and Thursday at Mugello, as confirmed by Red Bull’s chief engineer Paul Monaghan on Friday.
Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes have already conducted testing to evaluate the new compounds for 2017, but the wider treads will first hit the track on Monday.
Sebastian Vettel will complete the first day of testing with Ferrari at Fiorano, followed by Esteban Gutierrez on Tuesday before Buemi’s stint at Mugello.
Mercedes Formula 1 technical chief Paddy Lowe believes that Lewis Hamilton’s reaction to the yellow flag saga in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix was “regrettable”.
Hamilton was denied pole in Hungary after Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg beat his time with the final lap of Q3, despite completing part of it under yellow flags.
Hamilton told NBCSN on Thursday in Germany that the saga had set a precedent for drivers to follow in the future, and believes it could cause safety issues in the future.
Reports over the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend claimed that Hamilton went to FIA race director Charlie Whiting and asked him to investigate Rosberg’s lap.
On Friday, Lowe said he believes Hamilton did go and see Whiting after qualifying to seek clarity regarding yellow flag rules, not to try and get his teammate stripped of pole.
“It’s my understanding that Lewis did go and see Charlie but it wasn’t in any way to seek a review of Nico’s lap,” Lowe said.
“It was for his own understanding of what should be done in the future, how that should work for him in the future.
“I think that was regrettable. Personally, he should have kept to advice from the team and we can obtain that from Charlie as necessary.
“But I don’t think there was any harm done. It was just a misjudgement from that point of view.”
Whiting confirmed on Friday that if double waved yellow flags are shown during qualifying from now on, the session will be red flagged immediately to prevent a repeat of the saga from Hungary.
LEXINGTON, Ohio – Will Power topped the timesheets before the rains hit the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in the second 75-minute Verizon IndyCar Series practice of the day – albeit only 45 of which was run before the Mid-Ohio circuit turned into a water park.
Times descended a bit from the morning’s 1:04.4 best lap achieved by Scott Dixon in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet. Power clocked in a 1:04.1962 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet this session at the 2.258-mile road course.
Power was one of 16 drivers in the 1:04 bracket, an improvement upon the morning session when only the top 11 were in the 1:04 range.
There were no incidents of note other than a couple off course excursions before the rains hit.
Videos of the session are below:
Team Penske waits out the rain
Josef Newgarden and his recovery from his hand injury
Alexander Rossi returns to another familiar track
Times are below.