Sebastian Saavedra

IndyCar update: Halfway home in time-shortened Barber race

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The 100-minute, rain-delayed and now rain-shortened Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is halfway home. A few moments of note have happened in the opening 25-plus circuits for the third round of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.

Polesitter Will Power led from the off, and stretched his lead north of five seconds running laps in the 1:19 range while others were in the 1:20s and 1:21s at Barber Motorsports Park.

But Power ran wide at Turn 5 and traversed through the gravel and grass, rejoining in second behind Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led until the second caution of the race prior to Lap 17, when Sebastien Bourdais made contact with Mikhail Aleshin into Turn 5, spinning the Russian rookie.

All cars except Oriol Servia, who’d made himself the guinea pig to switch from wets onto Firestone’s red alternate slick tires, took the opportunity to pit. On that sequence Helio Castroneves pitted in the wrong box; he was issued a stop-and-go penalty for the infraction.

During the caution, Carlos Munoz spun out exiting Turn 5, damaging his Cinsay/ Honda entry beyond repair. Incidentally, the Colombian rookie was also involved in an incident under caution at St. Petersburg.

Bourdais got a drive-through penalty as well for his avoidable contact with Aleshin. Shortly after the restart, then led by Sebastian Saavedra who’d opted not to pit, Juan Pablo Montoya went off course through the Turn 10-11 sequence and brought a gravel-laden PPG Chevrolet back to the pits. It marred what had been a great opening sequence for him, rising to fourth and posting the same times as Power and Hunter-Reay up front.

Saavedra led at lap 28 from Hunter-Reay, Power, Scott Dixon and Marco Andretti. Bourdais had been sixth prior to his penalty ahead of James Hinchcliffe, Simon Pagenaud, Josef Newgarden and Justin Wilson. Tony Kanaan, who started 23rd and last, was up to 11th.

More to come the rest of this race on NBCSN.

Lotus prepared for close fight with Force India for P5

SUZUKA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 26:  Romain Grosjean of France and Lotus drives during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on September 26, 2015 in Suzuka.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
© Getty Images
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Lotus technical director Nick Chester believes that the team faces a close fight with Force India for fifth place in the constructors’ championship that will rage on until the end of the 2015 Formula 1 season.

Lotus currently ranks sixth in the teams’ standings, 17 points behind Force India in fifth with five races remaining this year.

Finishing fifth in the constructors’ championship would not only secure some much-needed additional prize money for Lotus, but it would also secure it a place on the F1 Strategy Group for 2016 when it is poised to become Renault F1 Team.

Reflecting on last weekend’s race in Japan, Chester said he was pleased with the double-points finished achieved by Lotus drivers Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean, and believes that the team can catch up in the coming weeks if Force India hits trouble.

“[Japan] was very rewarding and also very important for us in our fight for fifth place in the constructors’ championship,” Chester said. “We closed up a little bit more on Force India and of course there is a bit more to do.

“They had a good race in Monza when both our cars got knocked out but effectively we’re one good race away where they have a bad one and we can catch up. It will be tight all the way until the end of the season.

Looking ahead to the upcoming Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, Chester spoke of the challenge posed to both the teams and the drivers by the tight and twisting circuit around the site of the old winter Olympic park.

“We know that the surface is very smooth and last year we struggled generating temperature with the tires, partly through the smooth surface and partly through what was a conservative tire allocation,” Chester said.

“Pirelli’s softer allocation for this year along with the more weathered track surface and our better knowledge of the circuit should mean we fare far better in this regard. In terms of its needs, we know that it’s a track that is quite power and traction-sensitive.

“The layout presents a lot of slow speed corners and long straights. Braking down into turn 13 is very severe and you come out of the kink before you brake so it is a difficult corner to get right. Overall, the whole track is quite technical, so it certainly a challenging one for the drivers.”

Status targets 2016 GP2 title after GP3 exit

2015 GP2 Series Round 8.
Autodromo di Monza, Italy.
Sunday 6 September 2015.
Marlon Stockinger (PHL, Status Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C2088
© GP2 Series
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Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.

Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.

However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.

Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.

This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.

“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.

“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.

“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.

“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”

Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.