A few news and notes gathered from around the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock Thursday at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis…
- From the aerial perspective of the media center, the speed of the cars going the opposite direction down the front straight doesn’t look that fast, especially compared to when you’re seeing 220-230 mph counter-clockwise on the oval. However, from the ground, the launch out of Turn 14 up to 190-plus mph does. Once you get past the initial “well, this looks weird” thought process, it’s decently cool.
- On the other side, this being the first Thursday-Friday-Saturday event of the season, the rhythm and flow of the race weekend is different. Traditionally Thursday is a load-in day, yet with teams having been at the track for last week’s open test, plus ROP for some teams on Monday, it doesn’t feel like a standard setup day you’d see at a typical Friday-Saturday-Sunday road or street race weekend.
- If there’s one thing I do find a bit weird, it’s the pit positioning. Consider Tony Kanaan, for instance, is in pit stall 23 for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. It’s third from pit in on the road course and one of the worst spots to be in. Yet if he was in that same position for the oval, he’d be third from pit out, and in one of the best spots. Pit positions will change after this race for Indianapolis 500 practice, and again once qualifying is complete for the race next weekend.
- Livery update: all three Penske cars are in Verizon colors, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves basically inverting where the red and white are on their respective cars, Kanaan is in a multicolored blue and white Lexar scheme, Carlos Huertas has swapped red and white for blue and white on the Café de Colombia car, Josef Newgarden has the Klipsch Audio scheme and Franck Montagny and Martin Plowman premiere the SureTone and Alfe liveries, respectively.
- Associate sponsor news! Butterball will be an associate on Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 Andretti Autosport entry this month; KECO Coatings has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports; Robert Talbott will provide Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing with co-branded sportswear for the team during the 2014 season; and Ed Carpenter Racing has confirmed cmcglobal and DMC Indy, consulting and logistical project management companies, for both the GP of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis 500.
- KV Racing Technology is due to have several reveals in the next couple days. Townsend Bell, who will drive the team’s third car for the Indianapolis 500, is expected to have his livery revealed on Saturday. Meanwhile James Davison, who is targeted for a fourth, is anticipated to have his program officially confirmed on Friday. Davison will be the 33rd entrant into the 500-mile race, and will have to complete his Rookie Orientation Program once the program is finalized.
- The new paved area at the north end of the track before the road course Turn 1, which houses the entire Mazda Road to Indy paddock, is a welcome addition to the circuit. Teams from all of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tire and the Cooper Tire USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda are setup in the area.
2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.
Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.
The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.
“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.
“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.
“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.
“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”
Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.
Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.
Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.
“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.
The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.
Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.
Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.
Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.
Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.
“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.
Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.
“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.
“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”
Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.
NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.
Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.
Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.
In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.
Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.