The 2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg is back… sort of.
The recently retired Rosberg paid his first visit to the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona on Wednesday for the third day of this week’s first test of the offseason to catch up with his colleagues at Mercedes AMG Petronas, check out the new 2017 cars and offer his thoughts on the atmosphere and season ahead.
Rosberg posted a video to Twitter after he left the track this afternoon and immediately hailed the new cars as “proper monsters,” which he hopes will push drivers to their physical limits this season. Rosberg also thanked Liberty Media Corporation, F1’s new owners, for allowing pit lane activity and some track activity to be posted in short videos.
“It was a nice experience for me to see my racing family again. It was fun!” Rosberg said. “It’s great to see the new cars. It’s definitely looking good on that front, because they look like proper monsters. That’s how F1 should be – very extreme.”
Rosberg hopes this may push drivers over the limit to where some races could be won or lost on fatigue.
“With those cars, the drivers need to be gladiators out there. That’s how it should be. They’ll take them to the limit physically,” Rosberg said.
Even now, they’re hurting bad, all of them. That’s great to hear. It should take the drivers physically to their absolute limits. Maybe we’ll see a race where someone will lose a win because they’re just knackered. That would be exciting.”
A natural question you wonder is, would Rosberg want to be out there? After being back at a track, Rosberg felt content and solid with his decision to step back after his proverbial “mic drop” moment.
“For me there was not one single moment where I thought, ‘Damn, I should be sitting in that car,'” Rosberg said. “It was interesting and perfect to realize that.
“I think that’s it! It’s awesome … the vibe is so exciting. All the journalists are out of control with new cars, who’s gonna be fastest, it’s such hype at the moment. (There’s) big hope and big optimism the sport can become even better.”
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.