Shell Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston

Houston axed from 2015 IndyCar calendar; CTMP likely per report

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FONTANA, Calif. – Two bits of news to report this Friday for the labyrinth that is the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule.

The first is one race weekend that is confirmed not to return for 2015 (Houston) and the second is one that may well be joining the schedule (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park).

INDYCAR confirmed Friday that the Houston race weekend, which ran in October in 2013 and June of this year for doubleheader race weekends, will not be back in 2015.

Neither the series nor event officials could come to grips on a date.

“INDYCAR is thankful to Mike Lanigan and his team for all their hard work and for the tremendous support of the Grand Prix of Houston that we received from Shell, Pennzoil and Honda,” Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent of INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway said in a statement. “We look forward to a continued relationship with Mi-Jack Promotions and will always keep our options open when it comes to an important market like Houston.”

Meanwhile it appears forward momentum is occurring for CTMP to make at least a one-off appearance on an IndyCar calendar.

Per the Indianapolis Star‘s Curt Cavin, Green Savoree Promotions’ proposed June 5-7 date for the Toronto street race at Exhibition Place is now off because the IndyCar race date has gone to Texas Motor Speedway that weekend.

But CTMP and Green Savoree officials are working to find a suitable date for IndyCar to race there, and still have a Canadian race weekend.

In attempting to piece the schedule together, there are several race weekends that would seem to work for a CTMP date.

The first is June 12-14, which would fall the weekend after Texas on the calendar, but would be almost completely unrealistic from a logistics and timing standpoint following the month of May, the Detroit double weekend and Texas, and a potential June 20 race at Iowa Speedway.

Another option, is during Houston’s 2014 weekend, June 26-28. That falls two weekends before the IMSA weekend at CTMP, with the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race occurring July 12.

Later in July, either on Toronto’s weekend this year could also be an option for IndyCar, following the IMSA weekend (July 17-19). The last weekend in July, July 24-26, is also feasible as it would be two weeks after.

In terms of an IMSA/IndyCar shared weekend, don’t bet on it. IMSA officials have said repeatedly they will only work with IndyCar on shared weekends when it is their only way onto the schedule. Additionally, in terms of the IMSA support content on an IMSA weekend, paddock space would be limited, and the pit lane with both sets of IndyCar/IMSA equipment would be very crowded.

The intriguing part for both races though, is that by the confirmed departure of one and the likely departure of the other (Toronto), is how IndyCar will fill the race number void.

Both Houston and Toronto were doubleheader weekends last year; it would remain to be seen whether a CTMP IndyCar race would be a doubleheader race.

Esteban Ocon secures Mercedes DTM seat for 2016

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Sunday 29 November 2015.
Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C8733
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2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.

Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.

The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.

“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.

“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.

“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”

Trident completes 2016 GP2 line-up with Armand

2015 GP2 Series Test 3.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 4 December 2015.
Philo Armand (INA, Status Grand Prix).
Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _L0U4261
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Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.

Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.

Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.

“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.

The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.

Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.

Marchionne calls for Alfa Romeo to consider F1 entry

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  The Alfa Romeo 4C on display at the Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood Alfa Romeo Ride and Drive luncheon at The Polsky Residence on February 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
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Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.

Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.

Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.

“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.

Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.

“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.

“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”

Grosjean unveils new helmet design for first F1 season with Haas

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Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.

Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.

Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.

Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.