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IndyCar: Transcript of Derrick Walker’s Toronto media availability

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INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Derrick Walker spoke to the media after the postponement of race one in Toronto on Saturday. A transcript of that interview is below:

Derrick Walker: We’re talking with promoter, TV, teams in that order. Might be somewhere around 10:30.

Q: Will it be two full races?

DW: It will be two complete races. We’re looking at the lengths now because we’ve moved the schedule around. Now we’re jamming the schedule around.

Q: There seemed to be some indecision on the part of INDYCAR to get the cars out and bring them in. What was the thinking?

DW: No indecision, surprisingly enough. We were just eyeballing the conditions. The conditions looked like almost we could get it in, we were moving back and forward based on the rain.

Q: Was there any thinking as to whether to start the race behind the pace car? Maybe let the cars blow it off?

DW: We tried that for a few laps as you saw… no we didn’t and no we couldn’t (throw the green with the yellow flag). I think it would have been crazy to start the race today. It was just … it didn’t look like a lot of water but when you get out there and look it was enough.

The other factor that happens here is you get a lot of oils coming out, when it comes out on the blacktop. It’s quite slippery and there’s a lot of water. I don’t think we did the wrong thing. We waited and waited and waited; part of the indecision, as you put it, was going as late as we possibly could to hold. We wanted to try to get the race in. Television hung in as late as possible.

We watched the weather channel, watched the rain. We thought if we could get the race started, maybe we could have kept it going. But visibility was just crazy.

Q: Can you tell us for certain, does IndyCar race in the rain?

DW: I’m here to tell you we do race in the rain. But we also do think of our drivers and our fans’ safety. Racing in the rain is great; but, you can’t throw everyone in the fence because the conditions are archaic. I think they were today.

Q: Any opposition from teams or unanimous with teams?

DW: We haven’t actually talked to the teams about what happened. We saw a lot of instant messages and one or two interviews. I think they know what it’s all about. We tried to fit it in and make it work.

The conditions were wet but not as wet as this one was. The slipperiness of that standing water, everybody looked at it and said no way, no way.

Q: Visibility was bad too, as well?

DW: Yes it was. But you have to ask yourself, what do you want? Do you want a good race? Or are we gladiators where we get a couple lions out and see who can eat people in two laps? We’re trying to put on a show here.

Q: Worst case scenario, if it’s like this tomorrow, is there a Plan B to come back?

DW: We’d stay here as long as we could to get a race in. For sure.

Q: You could race Monday, if possible?

DW: There is a slim chance, via the promoter, but I think we can get at least one race tomorrow in for sure.

Q: To clarify the three cars sent to back under red, would they regain their original starting position?

DW: Good question (laughter). To explain, there’s a lot of people getting hot about that issue, guys doing work on their cars.

Basically we looked at it – the stewards looked at it – and the race hadn’t started yet. Yeah he crashed during the pace car, parade laps, Car 12, and he was sent to the back. The race hadn’t started so it was still not a penalty as such. When the race was red flagged and everyone went to their cars, some needed more work than others. When one can work on their car, they all could.

When the 12 car disappeared and went back to the truck, we thought it was gone and never coming back. Well they put it together and brought it back. Then we positioned it at the back. Nobody requested any more time to work on the cars.

At the end of the day, the stewards are trying to get everyone back on track, wheels on and make a race out of it. Tomorrow, to answer your question, it’s not final, but would go off the qualifying positions in order. Second race, probably on points.

We need to allow a three or four hour break, three minimum, for the crews to work on their cars.

Q: What about spare cars for the race?

DW: The rules have it where you don’t have an engine in spare cars. When you take an engine off the truck, or from one car to another, they have a spare, you’d eat up all that time turning it around. I don’t think it would work.

If you have a serious accident, you’ve got three hours, four hours to get it fixed. If they don’t they could jump to a spare car. But I think with the time slot, with serious damage, it should be turned around.

Q: What time do you hope to start the first race?

DW: We’re hoping to be going somewhere around the 10:30 timeframe. Wait until you get the official time frame. Second race pretty close to schedule.

Q: How do you compare the conditions of racing in the rain on a road course like Mid-Ohio to a street course like Toronto?

DW: What you tend to find at a lot of road courses, like Mid-Ohio, is that the water comes roaring down the hill. You get about a six-foot wide river that when it’s really heavy it’s just as bad as the backstraight here. All tracks are susceptible; some don’t have the drainage to get rid of it.

On street courses, you have the walls and some drainage holes, but it doesn’t all run and disappear. A lot lies on the surface. It’s unique to street racing. We generally deal with it. We just couldn’t get it started.

Q: Derrick, to clarify, race results from the first race set the grid for race two?

DW: No. It will be, we have a set of qualifying positions to start the first race. The second race, because it’s not had any qualifying, would probably revert to what the rulebook says, which goes by points, driver points in order. That’s more likely what it will be by the rulebook.

Q: Derrick, were you planning to go green when Will Power had his accident, and if you had made it to the green is it your opinion or experience you could had continued to race?

DW: Difficult to say. Will Power, Briscoe, pace car, a few people were diving off. We became increasingly skeptical that each time we tried we saw someone slip off. In hindsight, I’m glad we didn’t.

Q: Was the intent to go green?

DW: We were always trying. You can ask your fellow journalist, Curt (Cavin) was in race control and saw the whole drama unfold.

Flavio Briatore: Fernando Alonso won’t take vacant Mercedes F1 seat

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 24:  Flavio Briatore, his wife Elisabetta Gregoraci and their son Falco Nathan attend the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 24, 2015 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Flavio Briatore has dismissed speculation suggesting that Fernando Alonso could replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes for the 2017 Formula 1 season.

Briatore previously managed Alonso and remains a close friend of the Spaniard, who currently races for McLaren.

Rosberg announced just five days after winning his maiden F1 title that he would be retiring from racing with immediate effect, freeing up the most coveted seat on the grid.

Alonso is known to be desperate for a third world championship, having not claimed a title since 2006, leading to speculation that he could push for a move to Mercedes for 2017.

Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff said that Alonso was a driver that officials at the German marque “have to consider”, but was quick to acknowledge the contract in place with McLaren.

Briatore has become the latest figure to dismiss the idea, also making light of the fact that Alonso is linked to every free seat of note in F1.

“How is it that whenever there is a seat, you always think of Fernando?” Briatore told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“But there is a contract and we respect it.”

Alonso broke out of his Ferrari deal early at the end of 2014 to move to McLaren, but Briatore insisted that this was due to an escape clause in his contract.

“The situation was different. We had a pact with [Ferrari president Luca] di Montezemolo,” Briatore said.

“If we didn’t win the championship in 2014, we would be free, and Luca kept that promise.

“[Ferrari team principal Marco] Mattiacci offered a three-year renewal, but we refused.”

F1 2016 Review: Stories of the season

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo leads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF16- Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP), Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer and the rest of the field at the start during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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The 2016 Formula 1 season may have ended a little under two weeks ago now, but it was perhaps right that we let the dust settle before kicking off our series of year reviews on MotorSportsTalk.

Last Friday saw Nico Rosberg perform the ultimate mic drop by announcing his immediate retirement from racing just five days after winning his first F1 World Championship.

We’ll get to that in a bit when looking back on the stories of the season – but through the rest of the year, F1 offered a number of intriguing and notable moments.

Here’s a look back at the biggest stories of the 2016 F1 season.

MERCEDES MAKES IT THREE

Mercedes winning a third straight championship double may not seem like a big story at face value, but it really, really is. Given we are now three years in to the V6 turbo era of F1 and the field has noticeable converged, for Mercedes to have racked up a record number of wins, points and poles is an astonishing achievement.

Very rarely have we seen a true threat to Mercedes’ surpremacy, either. In 2015, Sebastian Vettel’s three victories came on weekends where Mercedes was simply second best. This time around? The two blots on Mercedes’ record book – Spain and Malaysia – were due to mitigating circumstances.

Red Bull and Ferrari may have lurked at times, but in reality, the gap at the front only grew bigger in 2016.

HAMILTON/ROSBERG RIVALRY GETS ANOTHER (FINAL) CHAPTER

The rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg reached a fiery crescendo in 2016. On-track clashes in Spain and Austria stoked the fire nicely, forcing Mercedes to revise its “terms of engagement” with both drivers to prevent recurrences.

While we failed to see any titanic on-track battles between the duo, this was certainly the bitterest year yet in Hamilton/Rosberg relations. The lengths that Hamilton went to in the title decider to stop his teammate winning was evidence of how sour relations had become, yet he was gracious in defeat once Rosberg had clinched the title.

Following Rosberg’s retirement, it looks like we’ve seen the last chapter of one of F1’s most intense rivalries. While it may have been messy at times, it has at least ensured that Mercedes’ spell of dominance was not a complete procession.

ROSBERG DROPS THE MIC

The last F1 story of the year was the biggest. Nico Rosberg’s sensational decision to retire from racing just five days after winning his maiden world championship shocked the entire F1 paddock (well, except Lewis Hamilton) and the sporting world in general.

Everything about the story was a surprise: the decision itself; the nature in which it happened; the ‘OK-ness’ about it all, as well. F1 will be without its champion next year despite him being perfectly fit and well, young, and coming off the best season of his career. It’s a weird situation…

It also brings into question the legacy that Rosberg will leave behind. Will he be remembered as the driver who defeated one of F1’s all-time greats in Hamilton? Or as the man who was ‘one and done’? Time will tell.

HAAS HITS THE GRID

The star-spangled banner returned to the F1 grid full-time in 2016 as NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas saw his eponymous operation make its debut. Most were unsure what to expect from Haas F1 Team during its debut season, making Romain Grosjean’s charge to sixth on debut in Australia a surprise for most.

Grosjean went one better at the next race in Bahrain, finishing fifth, but it proved to be the high point of the season. The strategic mastery we saw early on disappeared, and the teething problems that come with any new project began to crop up time and time again. The team scored just one point in the second half of the season.

Nevertheless, it was a strong start to life in F1 from Haas. Let’s see what more it can do in 2017.

FERRARI STRUGGLES, RED BULL EXCELS

When Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen vaulted to the front of the pack on the opening lap of the season in Australia, it seemed our prayers had been answered: finally, there would be some resistance to Mercedes’ steam-roller act we’d seen for the previous two years in F1.

It was about as good as things got for the Scuderia though. Come the end of the year, both Vettel and Raikkonen ended up winless, with Ferrari slipping behind Red Bull to third in the constructors’ championship. It was a big come-down after the hope that ran through the 2015 campaign and off-season.

As for Red Bull? 2016’s success was a big surprise. Renault finally got its act together on the engine side of things, giving Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo the tools with which to win one race each, and even light the fire under the Mercedes boys later in the year.

VERSTAPPEN STEPS UP, STEALS THE SHOW

Max Verstappen’s promotion into a Red Bull seat just four races in to the new season was a major story, with the crest-fallen Daniil Kvyat moving back down to Toro Rosso. We knew this teen protege was going to be special, but few could have predicted just how special he would be through 2016.

From victory on debut (albeit a fortunate one) to his defence of Hamilton in Japan, and, most impressive of all, his magic in the rain at Interlagos, this was a memorable year for Verstappen.

Don’t go thinking this is the finished product yet. Verstappen’s qualifying form remains a bit patchy, lacking the ouright pace over one lap of teammate Daniel Ricciardo, and there were costly errors through the year (the start at Spa being one).

But boy, if this is Verstappen as a sophomore, we can’t wait to see what’s to come in his twenties.

TALKING ‘BOUT MY GENERATION

2016 was a year for the next generation of F1 to come to the fore. Besides Verstappen’s growing stardom, we saw his ex-teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr., lead Toro Rosso and mark himself as one of the best up-and-comers on the grid.

Mercedes youngsters Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon both enjoyed impressive campaigns, the latter making his debut at Spa, with both now being linked to the vacant Mercedes seat.

We also saw Stoffel Vandoorne make his race debut, replacing the injured Fernando Alonso in Bahrain ahead of his full-time bow with McLaren next year, and had GP3 champion Charles Leclerc run in practice for Haas.

With Lance Stroll also poised to join the grid next year, we’re talking more and more about a younger generation in F1.

CHANGING OF THE GUARD

Tying in with that theme, 2016 saw the last hurrahs in F1 for Felipe Massa and Jenson Button, two of the sport’s veterans. Although Button could yet return in 2018, it’s highly unlikely.

Both ended their careers gracefully, bowing out with class in Abu Dhabi, although it’s hard to play their seasons up as being overly impressive given their form compared to teammates Valtteri Bottas and Fernando Alonso.

With Rosberg now also out of the picture, the F1 grid is becoming more and more unrecognizable to the one we had 10 years ago.

Some of the other big stories were:

  • Force India’s best-ever finish in the constructors’ championship, beating Williams to fourth.
  • Liberty Media’s plan to buy F1, announced back in September.
  • F1’s first race in Baku, Azerbaijan, which proved to be a pleasant surprise.
  • McLaren’s continued revival as Honda makes progress.
  • The reliability of Lewis Hamilton’s car (or lack of) through the season.
  • The power struggle at McLaren that led to Ron Dennis’ exit.
  • Continued efforts to improve safety in F1 with the Halo device.
  • After a damp 2015, the roaring, record-breaking USGP in Austin in October (with a hat-tip to Taylor Swift).

And it is with a T-Swift lyric we shall close things out in our stories of the season. 2016 may have been a bit of a rough year for the world, but the F1 season acted as a kind of escape; a way to shake it off.

John Force Racing will ‘Advance’ with new sponsorship for Courtney Force

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BROWNSBURG, Indiana — John Force likes to use the word “advance” in discussing the long-term future of his four-car race team.

Friday morning, Force literally put “advance” into action, as he announced daughter Courtney Force’s Funny Car will be sponsored during the 2017 24-race NHRA schedule by Advance Auto Parts stores, beginning with the season-opening Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California. The deal is for multiple seasons.

“This is all about building John Force Racing for the future,” Force told MotorSportsTalk. “We had a great run with Traxxas, they’ll be staying in the sport, which is great. And now we’re partnering with Advance Auto Parts, which we’re very excited about.”

Advance Auto Parts replaces Traxxas, which produces radio-controlled race cars, and which had sponsored Courtney Force for the past five seasons. Traxxas will remain involved in the sport as sponsor of the Traxxas Shootout, a special race-within-a-race for both Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters contested during the annual U.S. Nationals in Brownsburg.

Advance Auto Parts, which has nearly 5,400 retail stores across the country, is no stranger to John Force Racing. The auto parts supplier sponsored John Force’s PEAK Chevrolet Camaro at several events during the 2016 season, including a victory in the NHRA Carolina Nationals, which kicked off the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

“The opportunity came to grow the deal and they were interested in Courtney so it was a perfect match,” John Force said. “I have done shows with Advance Auto Parts in the past and am looking forward to working with them again.”

Both John and Courtney Force will be featured in several upcoming advertising and marketing campaigns for the company.

 

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Gustav Malja joins Racing Engineering for 2017 GP2 season

2016 GP2 Series Test 3
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Wednesday 30 November 2016.
Gustav Malja (SWE, Racing Engineering) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _SLB2993_1
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Racing Engineering has announced the signing of Gustav Malja for the 2017 GP2 Series season following the Swede’s rookie campaign.

Malja, 21, made his GP2 debut in 2015 before embarking on his first full campaign in the Formula 1 support series with Rapax.

Malja scored points in the opening round of the year in Spain, finishing ninth, before highlighting his season with a run of top-10 finishes from Hockenheim to Sepang.

The run saw Malja finish second in the Spa sprint race and third at Monza in the feature event, enough to give him 13th in the final standings.

Malja will now move up to Racing Engineering for 2017, the team having worked with Norman Nato and Jordan King for the past season.

“I’m excited to join Racing Engineering for the 2017 GP2 season. We began getting to know each other in Abu Dhabi last week, and I immediately felt very much at home,” Malja said.

“It’s a team with a long and successful history in GP2, and I’m convinced it’s the ideal place for my continued development as a driver.

“I’m also very pleased to have everything in place at such an early stage. It will ease preparations this winter and give us all some peace of mind.”

Malja is the fourth driver to confirm his entry to GP2 for 2017, joining Sergio Sette Camara (MP Motorsport), Charles Leclerc and Antonio Fuoco (both Prema Racing) on the grid.