Daly talks with Dale Coyne. Photo: IndyCar

Daly, Honda Racing launch new video series for grassroots racers

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If you’ve made it to the top level of open-wheel racing – Formula 1 overall and worldwide or the Verizon IndyCar Series in the United States – you’ll have done something right from a preparation, persistence and performance process to get there.

However, navigating your way to the top weeds out a ridiculously high percentage of drivers, who don’t make it for either the lack of opportunity, timing, results or budget – or some combination thereof.

One of the ways Honda Racing/HPD is working to develop young drivers is via a new five-part video series that will launch at the start of next year, created in partnership with the Derek Daly Academy.

hpdlogoDaly, who raced in both F1 and IndyCar before becoming a broadcaster in both championships, and himself having helped guide a number of young driver careers, is seeking to reduce the confusion and provide more clarity for how young drivers can make it to the top in what’s a complex labyrinth of an industry to attempt to navigate.

unnamed-11“We’d had the academy in Las Vegas, with when it was still Barry Green and Team KOOL Green in the 1990s, and we’d put 44 young drivers through the program in two years,” Daly told NBC Sports.

“All of them are different people with different styles. Then I had it myself, with my son Conor starting to come through the ranks, and I had parents ask me, ‘How do you do it?’

“I realized very early on we have a very unstructured sport. Stick-and-ball sports feature talented athletes, scouted from the early days in high schools, then into college, and then they get drafted into the pros. It has all the finances and coaching right there, and it’s a completely structured sport. We don’t have that.”

Daly explained that making it to the next step of competition beyond a driver development program or ladder series requires foresight and the five-year model, which is where the video series and the “X Factor” comes into play.

The “X Factor” targets grassroots racing in particular, aiming for young drivers to build their resumes and their accolades early on so they’re a well-rounded driver after five years.

The breakdown is talent and matrix for year one, technical and funding in year two, communication and branding in year three, marketing and mental growth in year four, and finally sponsorship and physical strength in year five (see visual of it below).

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“You have to figure out early on to ask the question of how you’re going to raise the money,” Daly explains. “Figuring out the structure of approaching people to convince them to support your racing program early on is key. You need to have the driver skills, but you also need the support skills; that’s how the whole ‘X Factor’ came about, before they converge down the road. It took on its own natural growth.”

One of the areas I wondered about – and I’m sure others do as well – is whether “branding” has taken precedence over performance for younger drivers trying to stand out in a crowded marketplace. Not so, Daly says, because in his view it’s highly challenging to become a “brand” without having the results on track first.

“To me, branding… is part of the peripheral. It’s still talent and winning races that drives everything,” Daly explained. “That’s why my concentration is more on becoming the fastest possible driver. That drives everything.

“You have to get yourself started. Your on-track success drives your off-track success. In that order! Most think it’s off-track driving the on-track. But without the on-track, you can’t drive your off-track, because you haven’t got any results. Most people mix that up.”

The video series is targeted to hit the natural progression of growth over five years.

Concentrating on hitting the ground in the first year then shifts to a greater technical understanding of the car and focusing on raising money from friends and family. By year three, with the building blocks from the previous two years, interacting with engineers becomes the start.

Daly would like to see new parents understand the racing business and environment better, for them to appreciate the experience as much as their kids can.

“It’s a huge guessing game, because it’s so unstructured,” Daly said. “But Honda have become more and more invested and more interested in, ‘How do we give grassroots families a realistic chance to get their highest return on investment.’ Let’s face it: families are the first investors in these careers. The hope is whatever you invest, there’s good value in it.

“So the goal for us is, ‘How do we lay a platform for a family to understand the basic high performance principles?’

“The X Factor got developed into something real, and with the video series, they can sit here and say look, here’s the steps it takes.”

A pre-release of the video screening is part of Daly’s annual “What If It’s You?” seminar, which will be Saturday, December 10, at 8 a.m. in Room 244 of the Indiana Convention Center. The seminar is free of charge and requires neither a show credential nor pre-registration. This year’s seminar focuses on budget raising.

Daniel Ricciardo frustrated to crash out of home F1 qualifying

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Daniel Ricciardo made no secret of his frustration after crash out of Formula 1 qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, resigning himself to a 10th-place start for his home race on Sunday.

Ricciardo entered the Melbourne weekend aiming to become the first Australian to finish on the podium at his home race since the event became part of the F1 world championship in 1985.

Despite struggling with the setup on his RB13 car on Friday, Ricciardo looked poised to claim a top-five grid slot for Sunday’s race, only to lose control of his car at Turn 14 in Q3 and end the session in the wall.

“That was a tough one today. I don’t crash into the barriers often and the last place I want to do that is at home,” Ricciardo said after the session.

“But I feel I crashed for the right reason, as I was basically pushing and trying to find the limit and these things happen, so let’s say I’m not disappointed by the approach, it was just more of a frustrating outcome, starting 10th instead of being under the top five.”

Ever the optimist, Ricciardo said the difficult qualifying will only serve as greater motivation to fight back up the order and give his home fans a result to celebrate on Sunday.

“I knew the crowds would have also preferred to see me further up the grid and it would have been nice to put on a better performance than that but tomorrow is where the points are,” Ricciardo said.

“It’s a chance to create a bigger headline if I have a good race so that’s what will motivate me to do better tomorrow. I made it a bit more difficult for myself but it’s going to be alright.

“To get a good start in the race will be the key. I saved a set of ultra-softs in Q2, I know that not everyone in front of me has, so maybe that gives me a chance.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Valtteri Bottas disappointed with P3 start for Mercedes F1 debut

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Valtteri Bottas came away from qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix feeling disappointed despite securing third place on the grid for his first Formula 1 race as a Mercedes driver.

Bottas joined Mercedes over the winter following world champion Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from racing, and made his first official race weekend appearance for the Silver Arrows on Friday.

The ex-Williams driver made a splash in qualifying by running teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel close, but was left to settle for third on the grid after finishing three-tenths of a second off the pole time.

“Third position is not ideal. In general I’m not happy with the result,” Bottas admitted after qualifying.

“But what I’m really happy about and proud about [is] what the team has done again with this car. I only saw a very small part of the preparation with the new car and the new era of Formula 1, and it’s really nice to see that all the work has paid off and we’re fighting at the very front.

“It seems to be very close this year, especially here. Myself I didn’t get any perfect laps in, so not that satisfied.

“Tomorrow’s the day that matters. It seems like in the race starts we’ve been quite strong. If we can keep that form I had in practice, and have a nice and clean race and get some really good points.”

Bottas’ best finish in Australia currently stands at fifth place in 2014 with Williams, with the Finn never qualifying any higher than sixth at Albert Park in his four previous attempts.

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Vettel: Front-row grid slot for Australia proof of Ferrari’s progress

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Sebastian Vettel believes that his charge to second place on the grid for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix acts as proof of the progress Ferrari’s Formula 1 operation has made over the winter.

Vettel arrived in Australia as one of the favorites to take pole following an impressive showing in pre-season testing, prompting three-time champion Lewis Hamilton to name Ferrari as the leading team.

Hamilton rallied in qualifying to take pole position for Mercedes, beating Vettel by two-tenths of a second, but the Ferrari driver managed to fend off Valtteri Bottas in the second Silver Arrow and clinch a front-row berth.

The result marked Ferrari’s best qualifying result since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Vettel’s and Ferrari’s last pole and victory in F1 – and the German was encouraged by the result.

“I think we have a good car. I think we are working well as a team,” Vettel said.

“Things are improving. Obviously it’s nice to see that things are working, the car is working. I had a mixed day yesterday, but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed that again today.”

Vettel conceded that he felt his final lap in qualifying could have been faster, but doubts it would have been enough to catch pole-sitter Hamilton.

“In the end I was not entirely happy with my lap. I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much,” Vettel said.

“But I think Lewis did a very good lap. I would have loved to, but I don’t think pole was up for grabs. Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday when we had practice.

“It’s been a big winter for us, lots of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last 12 months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger.

“Obviously everyone is pushing very hard and it’s not so easy to come here with a long journey to get to Australia, but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow.

“I think it’s the first good opportunity.”

Hamilton buoyed by sixth Australia F1 pole, ready for tight race

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Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton was buoyed by his charge to pole position in Australian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday, but is braced for a tight race at the front of the pack.

Hamilton saw off a challenge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and new Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to capture his sixth pole at Albert Park, and the 62nd of his F1 career.

Hamilton had doubts over Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari heading into the new year, making his charge to pole all the more meaningful as he paid tribute to the team members after qualifying.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far. It’s quite amazing to come here for I think the 11th time, and it feels like it was only yesterday that I came here and had my first race here in 2007,” Hamilton said.

“I’m just incredibly proud of my team. This rule change has been huge and such a massive challenge for everyone. The guys have just worked so hard to make this car what it is today.”

Despite taking pole by almost three-tenths of a second in Q3, Hamilton is braced for a close fight on Sunday with Vettel and Bottas, the latter starting his first race for Mercedes from third on the grid.

“Valtteri did a fantastic job given it’s his first qualifying session with the team. He did a great job and it’s great for Mercedes,” Hamilton said.

“Looking forward to the race, it’s close between us all. As you can see, there’s going to be a tight race this year I think.

“I think tomorrow is about putting all the work that’s gone in over the winter, all the work that’s gone through testing and this whole weekend and really put it to work tomorrow.

“I’ll make sure I get a good night’s sleep and come back tomorrow stronger than ever.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET on Sunday.