Andretti and Perez excited for United States GP in Austin

Leave a comment

Mario Andretti and Sergio Perez have both spoken exclusively to NBCSN about their excitement for the United States Grand Prix, which is set to take place at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas this November.

Since returning to the calendar at COTA in 2012, the race has been a great success, welcoming fans from all over the world. The event has also proven to be a hit with the drivers and teams, and for Andretti, 2014 could prove to be the best race yet.

“Well obviously hopefully better than ever,” he said when asked by NBCSN’s Will Buxton how the race would be this year. “This started out as a huge success, and we want to gain momentum every year, more and more.

“We’re excited about it. The buzz is out there.”

Andretti is visiting Monza for the first time in 31 years this weekend to promote the race, and has been giving out Stetson hats to all of the drivers to get them in the Texan spirit.

“I’m here as a sheriff to officially welcome again the drivers as my deputies! As you can see, I’ll be giving them one of these hats [Stetsons] so they can play the part when they come to Texas, so they look like they’re Texans and enjoy the hospitality.”

Andretti was on hand to commentate on a sim race between Buxton and Force India driver Sergio Perez, which you can watch in this weekend’s episode of Paddock Pass.

For Perez, the race is also an important one. In the absence of a Mexican Grand Prix, Austin acts as his home event given that it is so close to the border, allowing flocks of Mexican fans to make the trip over.

“Yeah it is, really close to my home,” Perez said. “Right now it’s probably my home race because it’s so close and so many Mexicans come to watch the race, so it’s really a great weekend for me where I receive a lot of support.”

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.