Kvyat finally turns 20 after fine start to 2014 season

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Toro Rosso’s workers must be sick of birthday cake this week. After Jean-Eric Vergne celebrated his 24th birthday yesterday, teammate Daniil Kvyat has his turn to wear the party hat today as he turns the ripe old age of 20.

That’s right, 20. The Russian rookie has made a lightening start to his Formula 1 career despite being a teenager, having been born in 1994. He is the youngest driver on the grid, and at the opening round of the season in Australia broke Sebastian Vettel’s record for being the youngest ever driver to score points in Formula 1.

However, 2014 has not been a year where experience is everything. The new regulations have in fact perplexed some of the older drivers who have not been used to driving without blown exhausts or with brake-by-wire systems. Therefore, the rookies – Kvyat, Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson – have not been at as much of a disadvantage as the class of 2013 was.

And the results have proven exactly that. The class of 2013 saw five new rookies join the grid: Jules Bianchi, Max Chilton, Valtteri Bottas, Giedo van der Garde and Esteban Gutierrez. They amassed 10 points in total, coming from just two separate scores (Gutierrez scored 6 in Japan, Bottas scored 4 in Austin). It was by no means a vintage year for rookies.

Of course, Bottas has since then proven himself, scoring 24 points in just four races so far this season. We must also bear in mind that Bianchi, Chilton and van der Garde were not driving cars that were really capable of scoring points.

However, Kvyat and Magnussen have already done a lot in 2014. At the opening race of the season, Magnussen qualified in fourth place and eventually brought his car home in third, which then became second upon Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification. He then picked up another two points at the Malaysian Grand Prix, but has since failed to score.

Kvyat may have only scored four points so far this season, but he has finished in the top 10 on three occasions, with the anomaly coming in Bahrain where he finished 11th.

The Russian youngster has made a great start to his Formula 1 career, especially given the Toro Rosso STR9’s pace in the dry which leaves much to be desired.

Kvyat celebrated his birthday by being a special guest at yesterday’s Serie A soccer match between AS Roma and AC Milan. He did the equivalent of swapping shirts with Italian footballer and Roma captain Francesco Totti, giving the veteran player one of his race suits in exchange for the #10 Giallorossi jersey.

Nearly 25 drivers already set for 2018 Indy 500… in mid-November

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Friday’s announcement that Danica Patrick would end her full-time driving career with a run in the 102nd Indianapolis 500, after also running the Daytona 500 in January, is another shot in the arm for the 2018 marquee event of North American open-wheel racing.

Surprisingly, it keeps the grid moving forward too to where nearly 75 percent of the 33 cars are already set… in mid-November, 2017.

Early confirmations of programs for the next year’s Indianapolis 500 aren’t new, but they’re seemingly coming earlier than normal this year, with a number of expected programs getting announced in the fall of 2017.

Coupled with the fact most of the IndyCar full-season grid for 2018 is set, it’s interesting to take a look at what’s already set for next year.

CONFIRMED FULL-SEASON (19)

The only things to add here are Dale Coyne Racing’s second driver in the No. 19 Honda, the road and street course driver for Ed Carpenter Racing in its No. 20 Chevrolet who may or may not be able to get an Indianapolis 500 extra seat in a third car, and the expected confirmation of Carlin’s graduation into IndyCar after three seasons in Indy Lights.

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (2, Honda): Scott Dixon, Ed Jones
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (2, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

CONFIRMED PARTIAL SEASON/INDY ONLY (4)

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Juncos Racing (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Danica Patrick

Here’s where it gets interesting. Castroneves is Team Penske’s confirmed fourth, and Juan Pablo Montoya could be a hypothetical fifth if the stars align – but it’s not in the immediate plans at this moment.

Patrick also makes her somewhat surprising Indianapolis comeback and with Penske, Andretti Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing not fielding her, the stars are aligned for her to drive with Chip Ganassi Racing in what would be a third car. Neither Patrick nor Ganassi said it’s happening today, but Ganassi acknowledged discussions, via NASCAR Talk.

Wilson finally gets his Indianapolis 500 shot with Andretti a year later as its fifth car. The team ran six last year, with the two Indy-only entries coming in separate partnership efforts between McLaren and Honda (Fernando Alonso) and Michael Shank Racing (Jack Harvey).

Jack Harvey is a very intriguing story for how he’ll be racing next year. NBC Sports understands a working relationship is being hatched between Shank and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and with Harvey bringing a program on behalf of AutoNation/SiriusXM to grow his role into a third-to-half season of racing, this could slot in nicely as SPM’s third car. While not “officially” confirmed, it would not be a surprise to see news revealed from the concerned parties in December.

How could Harvey become SPM three when SPM three was already announced, you ask? With the Calmels Sport with SPM program reportedly on thin ice after negative press, the unlikely union of the French team owner Didier Calmels, one-time open-wheel driver turned-sports car veteran Tristan Gommendy and SPM appears set to join the “announced and dropped before ever turning a wheel” club.

Kaiser’s four-race program with Juncos Racing was announced last month and the Indy Lights champion will likely have Chevrolet power, given the team’s existing relationship from 2017.

WHAT’S STILL TO COME

Playing it out a bit with the usual, “how many engines can each manufacturer provide” story, we know Honda ran 18 cars this year and was stretched to capacity, leaving Chevrolet with the remaining 15.

Work the math from here. Provided Carlin officially announces its entry (it still hasn’t to this point, but is known to have hired IndyCar personnel) and with Honda already stretched between its 12 previously announced full-season cars (4 Andretti, 2 Ganassi, 2 RLL, 2 SPM, 2 Coyne), with a 13th engine available at some races, Carlin would have to be at Chevrolet.

For Indianapolis, Honda already begins to work its car count further beyond those 13 (if SPM 3 gets added for more races) with Ganassi 3 (a TBD, but would be Patrick if confirmed here) and Andretti 5 (Wilson) to get to 15, which leaves just three leases at play to get to 18… again, this is in mid-November.

Provided Pippa Mann can work towards her annual appearance with Coyne, factor in a possible sixth Andretti car and an 18th Honda lease – perhaps a third car at RLL or fourth at Ganassi, SPM or Coyne – and suddenly the Honda inn would already be booked up.

Chevrolet would have the rest, and you can figure out the math from there.

It may only be mid-November, but the race to secure a berth on the grid for next May is already well underway.