Indy 500: ‘Little Al’ in as driver coach for KV; Cripps added as Lazier’s lead engineer

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KV Racing Technology and Lazier Partners Racing have made some announcements today regarding their respective programs for the Month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr. will serve as a driver coach this month for the KV camp, which may expand its “500” program to four cars if the reports involving James Davison indeed pan out (the team is currently at three with Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastian Saavedra, and Townsend Bell).

“Obviously, Al brings a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience to the team and will be a huge asset,” said team co-owner and former CART champion Jimmy Vasser. “You don’t win the Indianapolis 500 twice and come from a family that has won it nine times without figuring out a few things that the other guys haven’t.”

“I think everyone knows how I feel about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and to be able to come back with the defending [Indy 500] champions and try and help them repeat means a lot to me,” Unser said. “I am just very thankful for this chance to work with the team’s drivers and hopefully, I can contribute in a meaningful way.”

Meanwhile, the Lazier team has added David Cripps as lead engineer for the No. 91 Chevrolet of 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier.

One of the more respected engineers in the IndyCar paddock, Cripps served as engineer for Panther Racing during its run of four consecutive runner-up finishes at the “500” from 2008-2011.

He recently served as a technical director for the U.S. Bobsled team during the 2014 Sochi Olympic Winter Games. With Cripps’ help, the team earned four medals – two bronzes in men’s bobsled, plus the silver and bronze in women’s bobsled.

LPR has also acquired associate sponsorship for the “500” from lawnmower engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton.

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.