While at times both Force India and Williams have starred this season – Williams more recently, on the strength of Valtteri Bottas’ run of podiums – it’s Force India’s team boss praising Bottas that’s making a bit of news during the Formula One summer break.
Team principal Vijay Mallya hailed Bottas’ second-year leap in performance in comments made to Autosport.
“There can be no two opinions that Bottas has been the star of the season so far,” Mallya told Autosport. “Not only does he have the killer instinct but also the maturity not to get flustered.”
You can take this one of two ways.
One, Mallya is being magnanimous and genuinely praising a rival for his efforts this season.
Or, two, Mallya is short-sighting his own squad and own drivers, Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg, who haven’t been able to do quite as much as Bottas with the Force India chassis and the similar Mercedes power unit.
It’s an odd statement to make because until Hungary, Hulkenberg had scored points in every race – and for the most part, exceeded his machinery. Perez, meanwhile, bagged Force India’s first podium in five years with third at Bahrain earlier this year.
As it is, Mallya’s up for a fight the remainder of the season, and his drivers will have to beat Bottas on a regular basis to move Force India forward from fifth in the Constructor’s Championship.
Both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires completed their first races of the weekend on Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park.
Indy Lights saw a pair of teammates battle for the win, while a series veteran suffered first lap trouble for the second race in a row.
In Pro Mazda, things were much more straightforward, as a title contender ran away to a dominant win from the pole.
Reports on both series are below.
Indy Lights: O’Ward Withstands Herta Challenge for Race 1 Victory
Lap 1 told the tale for Indy Lights Race 1, as Colton Herta led from the pole, but Pato O’Ward was able to sneak by on the inside entering Turn 5.
O’Ward subsequently had to withstand a race-long challenge from Herta, who kept the gap at less than one second between the two Andretti Autosport affiliated drivers – Herta races under the Andretti Steinbrenner Racing banner – for most of the 30-lap race. But, O’Ward kept Herta at bay to take the win by one-and-a-half seconds at the checkered flag.
This is also O’Ward’s second win in three races in the 2018 season.
Belardi Auto Racing’s Santi Urrutia finished third, followed by Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni, and Ryan Norman finished fifth to put three Andretti Autosport affiliated drivers in the Top 5.
Meanwhile, Belardi’s Aaron Telitz endured a second consecutive race in which he failed to complete a lap, after he was collected in a Lap 1, Turn 2 spin with Dalton Kellett. Kellett, who spun on his own, was able to continue despite the contact, but Telitz suffered damage to the right-front suspension, forcing him to retire without completing a lap for the second race in a row.
Results are below. Race 2 rolls off at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Pro Mazda: Thompson Roles to Dominant Race 1 Victory
Race 1 for Pro Mazda was hardly ever in doubt. Polesitter Parker Thompson, who soared to pole with a track record in qualifying, led right from the drop of the green flag to lead all 25 laps on his way to winning Race 1.
Thompson had to withstand a brief challenge from RP Motorsport’s Harrison Scott on a Lap 4 restart – a caution was flown for debris on the front straightaway on Lap 2 – but Thompson immediately began gapping the field again, and the Exclusive Autosport driver won by over five seconds.
Scott came home in second, while BN Racing’s David Malukas, Team Pelfrey’s Andres Gutierrez, and Juncos Racing’s Rinus VeeKay battled for third, with Malukas holding off Gutierrez and VeeKay to take the final spot on the podium.
Results are below. Pro Mazda Race 2 rolls off at 10:50 a.m. ET on Sunday.