MRTI: Matthew Brabham out for a third ‘Road to Indy’ series title

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Last year’s Pro Mazda champion, Matthew Brabham, continued his acclimation to Indy Lights earlier this week by taking part in the series’ two-day test session at Sebring International Raceway.

In just his second major outing in an Indy Lights car, Brabham was solid, posting the third-fastest time across all sessions – only beaten by Andretti Autosport teammate Zach Veach and Gabby Chaves.

Getting used to new equipment has been an interesting exercise for Brabham, who comes to Lights after storming to the Pro Mazda title in 2013 on the strength of 13 wins. But he believes he is making progress there.

“It’s definitely a step up compared to Pro Mazda,” he said recently. “So far it’s been challenging to get used to more power and more grip, but fun to drive. I’m slowly getting there, and it should be a good year for us.”

Brabham was a relatively early addition to the 2014 Lights grid, when he was announced to join Andretti Autosport’s Lights team during the 2013 IndyCar season finale weekend in October.

To him, that’s made things a little bit easier as he focuses in on conquering yet another stop on the Mazda Road to Indy (he also won the USF2000 championship in 2012).

“It gives us a jump up on everybody, and that definitely helps,” he said. “That’s what we did last year [in Pro Mazda]. We got ahead and managed to sort things out before everybody else did.

“It’s great to get out early and nice to have everything signed so I can just focus on testing and getting comfortable before we go out and start getting ready for the racing season.”

As the son of former 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Geoff Brabham and grandson of three-time Formula One World Champion Sir Jack Brabham, the third-generation racer has a lot to live up to.

But from what we’ve seen out of him so far, Matthew looks like he’s capable of making his own mark in the years ahead.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”