Alex Tagliani named to SFHR’s second car for Indianapolis 500


Alex Tagliani, the 2011 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter, will have a new opportunity for this year’s month of May in the second Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry.

Tagliani will drive the team’s No. 68 SFHR/RW Dallara/Honda/Firestone for the Indianapolis 500. And for teammate Josef Newgarden, it’s a huge get, because it will mark the first time the young Nashville native will have a veteran in the team’s second car (Bryan Clauson in 2012 Indianapolis 500 and Lucas Luhr in 2013 Sonoma race were each making their series debuts).

“It has always been our goal at SFHR to hire talent for credentials, and I am excited to have that opportunity again to include Tag in our Indianapolis 500 lineup, alongside Josef,” SFHR co-owner Sarah Fisher said in a release. “Wink has helped us bring the proper individuals together to provide a solidly prepared effort toward success at Indy. We continue to have the support of the RW Motorsports founder, Steve Weirich, for this second program and are looking forward to building on to this second entry even further during the second half of the season.”

Added Tagliani, “I need to really thank Sarah and Wink for this chance to go back to Indianapolis to win this race. It’s been a pleasure working with them. This has the potential to develop into a longer association because I really love what this team is about. You couldn’t ask for a better team to attack the ‘500.’ They have the ability to surprise a lot of people! I’m looking forward to working with Josef and trying to help SFHR win the big one.”

This is the fourth extra Honda added for the ‘500, along with Martin Plowman, Jacques Villeneuve and Kurt Busch. That brings Honda’s confirmed number of engines for the race up to 17, as beyond the four Indy-only cars, Oriol Servia’s second Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing car has been added for four races.

The separate, crowd-funded Cutters RT effort, if it materializes, would be an additional entry that SFHR would run.

Tagliani is in action this weekend at the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, driving with Chris Cumming and Rusty Mitchell in RSR Racing’s No. 08 ORECA FLM09 PC car.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.