Some notes and thoughts from the field of 25 heading into this weekend’s inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Indianapolis:
Juan Pablo Montoya has made the most number of Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course starts in the field, with six coming in Formula One from 2001 to 2006 and another one in the GRAND-AM Rolex Series in 2012. And he digs the changes for this year’s race: “They found a great balance between being technical and being able to put on a good race. There are several parts of the track that are going to be very high-speed, which I love. The straights are so long that you are going to get huge drafts. I really think the ‘push to pass’ button is going to play a big role,” he said in the team’s pre-race advance.
Hard to believe it’s been nearly 10 years, but then-18-year-old Marco Andretti pulled off a win in the Indy Lights race on the IMS road course in 2005. After finishing second in Barber, this could be a shot for him to win this weekend: “I raced the Road Course here in Indy Lights and won – the track is a little different now but we had a good test day for the Snapple car. Now we’re looking to capitalize on our Barber finish, start building points and hopefully wins,” he said ahead of the weekend.
The other 9 of 11 with track experience include Takuma Sato, Justin Wilson and Franck Montagny (like Montoya, ex-F1 shoes), Graham Rahal (like Andretti, Indy Lights), Sebastian Saavedra (Formula BMW and GRAND-AM), James Hinchcliffe (Formula BMW), Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan and Sebastien Bourdais (GRAND-AM).
Count Long Beach winner Mike Conway in the happy column for returning to IMS, despite two serious accidents in the Indianapolis 500 in 2010 and 2012. “I am actually excited to come back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Sure, I think about those incidents in 2010 and 2012. But I’m coming back to my roots of road racing and the new road circuit is very good. It is cool to return to Indy to compete in the inaugural road race at Indy. And, with the ECR/Fuzzy’s Vodka team, we have a good chance to score another win this year,” said the driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.
Bourdais, another former winner (GRAND-AM in 2012) thinks the revised circuit will offer a good challenge. “It’s a challenging racetrack. You have to commit to it and the grip level, so you can challenge yourself in the car. The last section is very enjoyable. The left, right, left and right again, that’s opened up a lot more than it used to be, and they are all third-gear corners. The car digs in and goes side to side as you’re working the tires and pushing yourself. It’s quite fun and I see some passing areas,” he said.
Diaz (right) is another prototype class veteran, with recent PC experience (8Star Motorsports and PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports) added to his LMP2 days with Fernandez Racing.
All three of them also competed in Champ Car World Series races in Mexico City, with Gonzalez and Diaz part of a six-Mexican driver entry in the 2003 race (Adrian Fernandez, Michel Jourdain Jr., Mario Dominguez and Rodolfo Lavin).
Ricardo Gonzalez co-drives the No. 43 RGR Sport Ligier JS P2 Nissan with Bruno Senna and Filipe Albuquerque in the WEC.
Around two-thirds of the Formula E grid also race in the WEC, with the two championships preventing clashes so that drivers do not have to pick between them. As a result, it seems inevitable that one of the races will have to change date.
Jolyon Palmer felt “gutted” after a likely top-10 finish in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix was lost following a spin in the closing stages, costing him his first Formula 1 points.
2014 GP2 champion Palmer joined Renault for its return to F1 as a constructor in 2016, but arrived in Hungary without a point to his name from the opening 10 races of the season.
Palmer was left disappointed on Saturday after a red flag knocked him out of qualifying at the first hurdle, but a long first stint brought him into contention for points.
Palmer moved into the top 10 after jumping Nico Hulkenberg in the pits, only for Renault’s hard work to be undone when he spun off at Turn 4, losing three positions in the process.
The Briton was ultimately classified 12th after Esteban Gutierrez’s time penalty, extending his points drought to 11 races.
“I’m gutted as my first points in Formula 1 were there for the taking,” Palmer said.
“The car was good and I was driving well within myself in P10. I turned in the same as normal at turn four – I wasn’t hanging everything out and I was looking after the tires – but for some reason I lost the car in a massive snap.
“I need to look at everything with my engineers to see if there is anything we could have done to prevent it.
“I was running tenth, we had completed all our pit stops, we had good pace relative to those ahead and behind so it looks like we’ve made a real step forward this weekend.
“It was the best drive of my career today and just one small spin took away those points.
“I’m gutted today but I’ll be fighting to get in the same position or better in Hockenheim.”