IndyCar notes: Potential Indy 500 deals are brewing

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From those at Sebring, there’s actually been a fair bit of potential IndyCar nuggets that have emerged this week:

  • Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull told MotorSportsTalk on Wednesday that a fifth car for the Indianapolis 500 is possible, but if it comes together it would likely be late.
  • On a somewhat related note, 2013 Indy Lights champion Sage Karam also said he has not shut the door to IndyCar opportunities, as he makes his second TUDOR United SportsCar Championship start this weekend with CGR. It would not be a surprise to see Karam appear somewhere on the IndyCar grid in the month of May, as he and his management team continue to work to put at least a partial open-wheel program together.
  • At least one other Chevrolet-powered team that has not announced an extra Indianapolis-only entry yet appears close to a deal with one Indy 500 veteran.
  • A significant number of Panther Racing’s crew members have been released to explore other opportunities; some have opted to shift into sports car racing. Panther has not formalized its 2014 IndyCar plans.

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.