IndyCar: Bourdais says tire management remains critical at Texas

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Verizon IndyCar Series squads will have the option to add as much as 300 pounds of downforce to their cars this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, but Sebastien Bourdais believes that tire degradation will still be a major factor.

“This place abuses tires really badly,” Bourdais said after this morning’s first IndyCar practice session on the 1.5-mile oval. “Even though we have more downforce, it’s not huge. We’re still running around with a low amount of downforce compared to what we’re used to running around here.

“It’s definitely taking its toll on tires and it’s all about average speed over the course of the stint. That’s what we’ve been trying to focus on, but in the meantime, you need balance. It’s kind of a mix between max speed and then average speed and the shift between on your own and in traffic as far as balance is concerned.”

The aero package for this weekend was worked out during an April test session at TMS. Firestone is using the same tire spec and construction as it did last year at both Texas and Auto Club Speedway (two-mile oval) in California.

Per the series, the use of tools to reach that higher downforce level would result in an additional 50 pounds of drag – slowing the car but perhaps easing some of the tire degradation issues through fuel runs.

But no matter the amount of additional downforce that teams may use, Texas remains a stiff challenge.

“It’s definitely not a place where it’s easy to find your way around,” Bourdais said. “It’s bumpy. It’s fast. There’s a lot of banking and traffic makes a big incidence in the balance of the car. It’s not easy and it’s always the same thing.

“We came here for the test and the conditions were really, really complicated. There was a lot of wind and it was difficult to get some reads and you show up here and you have two sets of tires to figure the car out.

“It’s very complicated to do everything. You have 75 minutes to finish your race car and one shot at trying to sort out your qualifying car. We’ll see how close we can get it.”

Qualifying for the Firestone 600 will air tonight on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra at 6:30 p.m. ET.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”