Romain Grosjean excited for first race in Austria

1 Comment

Austria is set to welcome Formula 1 for the first time in over a decade next weekend, meaning that very few of the current drivers on the grid know what to expect from the Red Bull Ring circuit.

However, for the youngsters in Spielberg, there is a certain level of excitement that comes with the new event. Lotus driver Romain Grosjean is particularly relishing the race due to the nature of the circuit.

“Competing in the Grand Prix will be my first experience there, which is a pretty cool way to get to know a track,” Grosjean explained. “It looks like quite a fun lap with some high speed sections and not too much low speed stuff, which hasn’t suited our car so far this year.

“The track has a bit of undulation too, which is always fun as a driver. A downhill approach to a corner means you have to drive it quite a bit differently than if it’s an uphill approach and Spielberg has both of those. It should be fun.”

The race was last held in 2003 before falling off the calendar, and just three drivers in the current field took part in the last grand prix there. Thanks to significant investment from Red Bull, it has been revived, and bucks the trend of F1 looking for new races outside of Europe. You can watch a virtual lap of the circuit here.

Grosjean retired from the last race in Canada due to a rear wing failure, and despite this setback he remains hopeful as Formula 1 returns to Europe for the next six races.

“Even though the end result in Canada might not show it, we’ve actually made good progress with the car and it’s starting to feel like a real racer in how it handles and how all the systems feel,” he said. “This is very important to me as it helps you get the most out of the car through every corner to make the most of every lap.

“Certainly at the start of the season this new generation of car was not the easiest or the most pleasurable thing to drive, but I’m being won round! The feel of the car is an important aspect of the improvements being made so it’s another piece in the jigsaw.”

Grosjean has scored all eight of Lotus’s points so far this season, with teammate Pastor Maldonado currently sitting rock bottom of the drivers’ championship with nothing to his name.

However, the team has certainly made some impressive strides forwards over the past few months, and a return to the podium before the end of the season will be the target at Enstone.

MRTI: Barber Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

The weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires was a tale of two completely different days.

Saturday was a picturesque Spring day for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, with bright sunshine and temperatures above 70 degrees. Sunday, however, was much cooler and wetter, with rain hitting both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights races.

Still, the packed weekend for both series produced plenty of drama, and each now sees its championship picture beginning to take shape.

Major stories to surface from the weekend at Barber for both series are below.

Indy Lights

  • Pato O’Ward has been, by a considerable margin, the fastest driver after four races in 2018. A winner of three races – which easily could be four if not for a mistake while leading Race 2 in St. Petersburg – and a polesitter for two, O’Ward has asserted himself as the early-season man to beat in the title chase, leading Santi Urrutia with 110 points to 94. O’Ward already has big-league championship to his name – he was a co-champion of the Prototype Challenge class in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship last year, and he is poised to add to that in 2018.
  • Victor Franzoni is starting to get his arms around the IL-15. Last year’s Pro Mazda champion gets better with every race, and he earned his first Indy Lights podium in Race 2 at Barber, finishing second. It would hardly be a surprise if Franzoni breaks into the win column soon.
  • Aaron Telitz’s run of hard luck continued in Race 1 on Saturday, as he was collected by a spinning Dalton Kellett and retired from the race with a damaged right-front. That meant through three races, Telitz had completed a combined four corners. Race 2 finally produced a clean day for the 2016 Pro Mazda champion, as he ran all the laps on his way to finishing fourth.
  • Colton Herta scored a double-podium at Barber, with finishes of second and third. Sitting on 83 points, he is 19 back of leader O’Ward. He’ll need to break into the win column to make up ground, but consistently finishing on the podium will also help his efforts, and prevent O’Ward from making big leaps away from him.

Pro Mazda

  • Although he might be disappointed to miss out on sweeping the weekend, Parker Thompson has lots of reasons to smile leaving Barber, as he overtook Rinus VeeKay for the championship lead by four points, 102 to 98. Thompson has had two strong weekends to open the Pro Mazda season, with finishes of second, fifth, first, and second after four races. He and VeeKay have emerged as possible title combatants after the opening two weekends.
  • Speaking of VeeKay, the 17-year-old Dutchman had a quiet weekend at Barber, with finishes of fourth and fifth after lacking pace in qualifying – he qualified seventh and ninth for Race 1 and Race 2. After dominating at St. Pete, VeeKay’s lack of pace was somewhat puzzling, though it could be indicative of a Pro Mazda field that is deep with talent. Expect him to rebound at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in May.
  • Oliver Askew’s troublesome start to the 2018 season only got worse at Barber, with finishes of seventh and 12th on a weekend in which he never factored into the outcome. The struggles of him and Cape Motorsports is mystifying given their prowess in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on their way to winning the championship last year. Getting into championship contention at this point is a tall task – he is 46 points behind Thompson – but righting the ship will be priority No. 1 for him and Cape heading to Indianapolis.
  • Harrison Scott enjoyed a great rebound after struggling in St. Pete, where he finished ninth and 12th. He took his first Pro Mazda podium in Race 1, finishing second, and then survived a chaotic and rainy Race 2 to take his first victory. The successful weekend also vaulted him into fourth in the championship.
  • David Malukas has also put together a solid season through four races, with finishes of seventh, second, third, and fifth. The BN Racing driver sits third in the championship, and may well end up challenging for race wins soon.

All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy will be in action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course during the weekend of the INDYCAR Grand Prix (May 11-12), with USF2000 returning after a two-month break following the season opener in St. Petersburg.

Follow@KyleMLavigne