MRTI: Brabham, Hargrove, Owen score Friday Indy wins

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Mixed track conditions made for a barnburner of an afternoon in three Mazda Road to Indy races at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. And for the most part, the drivers in the Cooper Tire-shod Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 series did a good job in their respective races on the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Two 2013 MRTI champions – Matthew Brabham (Pro Mazda 2013, Indy Lights 2014) and Scott Hargrove (USF2000 2013, Pro Mazda 2014) – took their first wins on the next rung of the ladder, while rookie Will Owen scored his first USF2000 win as well.


The 40-minute sprint race, the first of two for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire, saw a wealth of passes and action as drivers fought for grip and traction on a drying track.

From his first career pole, Matthew Brabham finally secured his first Indy Lights win. The Andretti Autosport driver got a great start and headed off challenges from outside pole sitter Gabby Chaves and rookie Luiz Razia throughout the day to take home the triumph.

Behind him it seemed a bit of process of elimination. Chaves retired with an engine failure, points leader Zach Veach had a spin and finished ninth, and Jack Harvey ran off course early but then completed a sterling comeback to return to third.

After the podium finishers, Zack Meyer posted a career-best fourth finish with Alex Baron fifth.


Several accidents peppered the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tire race, which saw Scott Hargrove (pictured) finally take his first win for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.

With erstwhile series dominant force Spencer Pigot, 4-for-4 to open the season, involved in a first corner accident and Hargrove’s teammate, Neil Alberico, surviving a clash with Ryan Booth in a battle for the lead, Hargrove made it through to take top honors.

A late-race restart saw Shelby Blackstock shoot himself out of a cannon to nearly take the lead from Hargrove, but he was unable to complete the move and ended second. Alberico ended third.


Pabst Racing called in rookie Will Owen to change from wet-weather tires onto dry weather slicks as the IMS road course dried out during the USF2000 race, and it paid major dividends.

Owen turned a major deficit into more than a 15-second victory as the only driver on the slicks, with Jake Eidson second and Aaron Telitz third.

Florian Latorre finished fourth and 14-year-old Colton Herta was fifth, in an impressive rebound from 22nd on the grid after his car had an infraction found during post-qualifying technical inspection.

All three series have their second races of the weekend on Saturday.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.