3-year extension proposed for IndyCar at Long Beach, with possible F1 return afterwards

22 Comments

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is set to remain part of the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar for a little while longer – but Formula One may now have a way to eventually return there.

The Long Beach (Calif.) City Council has proposed a three-year extension with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach that will see the IndyCars race there through the 2018 season, per the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

However, the Press-Telegram also reports that the city will indeed open the event up for bidding, meaning that F1 could come back to the Beach after racing there from 1976 to 1983.

The proposed extension still needs to be confirmed in open session; the city’s current contract with the GPALB runs through next summer.

“This is precisely what we wanted,” GPALB president/CEO Jim Michaelian said to the Press-Telegram. “They have every right to explore other options, but by the same token we have the certainty of conducting the event through 2018. That’s important because we have lots of sponsorship agreements.”

Chris Pook, who has been the point man in F1’s attempt to return to the venerable street circuit, was also happy about the decision.

“I’m not knocking the IndyCar race, but Formula One will bring the economic value the city enjoys,” he said.

Pook recently estimated that upgrades to bring the Long Beach circuit to F1 standards would cost a little more than $9 million, and has maintained the stance that staging an F1 race would not be as costly as some may expect.

He re-iterated that belief to the Press-Telegram, saying: “We wouldn’t be talking about this if it wasn’t financially successful.”

This year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach opens up NBCSN’s 2014 IndyCar coverage on Sunday, April 13 at 4 p.m. ET. A full TV schedule can be found here.

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.