Colton Herta's Indy Lights debut was the top story of the weekend in MRTI. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: St. Petersburg weekend digest

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With six races to kick off the new Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires season, there was always going to be an overload of story lines that emerged from the streets of St. Petersburg.

And indeed, there was a heavy magnitude of incredible moments that played themselves out the last few days.

HERTAMANIA 2.0 IS FOR REAL

I’ll admit to having had only a casual following of Colton Herta during his stint in Europe the last couple seasons, not because I didn’t think he was good, but when you cover double digit series on a regular basis it’s hard to put EuroFormula Open and F4 with Carlin on your full-time radar. But knowing that he’d won races overseas against what is always a stacked field was always going to be an impressive feat, particularly when you consider the Californian moved overseas and raced there at 14 and 15 years old.

Rise up, young man. This is Colton Herta, and at 16, his future is bright. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Testing, too, can always be a bit of a red herring coming into a new season because of different test plans, programs and the occasional fast lap “glory run” for promotional purposes. That Herta ended fastest from the only official day of preseason testing in his No. 98 Deltro Energy Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing Dallara IL-15 Mazda at Homestead-Miami Speedway was nice and great to see, especially considering he’s working with talented engineer Doug Zister. But would it translate onto the bumpy, if repaved, streets of St. Petersburg, a place as far away on setup from Homestead’s infield road course as the miles it takes to get between the two in this long state? That was always the question going in.

But good lord, if Bryan’s son – “HertaMania 2.0” – is this good, this early in his career, the sky is the limit for him. He’s 16 now and turns 17 later this month, but showed the combination of aggression, tenacity and poise well beyond his years, and was so cool as a cucumber outside the cockpit even as he ran the gamut of interviews during the weekend that could have easily distracted him.

Telitz (9) won Saturday but Herta’s (98, white text rear wing) moves were impressive. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Cool as it was to see Aaron Telitz, another fascinating and talented young American walk away with Indy Lights race one on Saturday, it was Herta’s passing demonstrations into Turn 1 that dazzled in arguably one of the best Indy Lights races since the introduction of the new car. Making several moves on Kyle Kaiser (Lap 5), Shelby Blackstock (Lap 20), and Neil Alberico (Lap 31, after nearly colliding on Lap 26), Herta was the passing star of the race.

“I guess push-to-pass worked!” Herta deadpanned with a wit you’d expect of a 26-year-old, not 16. “It was a bit of an unknown going from Homestead. It performed great.

“That one on Neil… oh that was close. It took my nose nipple off a little bit. It was close, but he left me room and saw me coming. We both kind of locked up and went a little wide, so we avoided big contact.”

Alberico, who drives for Carlin and is supported by Rising Star Racing, had to tip his cap on the move to the fellow Californian, on a day when SoCal just edged NorCal.

“He had a lot more pace at end of the race,” Alberico said. “Getting a podium after starting mid-pack would be a good result. The smartest guy will win this championship. Colton earned second place today.”

Herta’s win in race two (airs March 18 on NBCSN) allowed him to showcase his defending, rather than overtaking, level of race craft. He defended against the aggressive but determined Santiago Urrutia on multiple occasions, to complete the dream debut weekend, and lead the points in the process.

At 13 in 2013, Herta won the Pacific F1600 championship driving for PR1/BHA with Curb-Agajanian and won 10 of 15 races, so his win Sunday was his first win on North American soil since that time. It capped off a week where Herta tossed out the first pitch at a New York Yankees spring training game on Tuesday and then ended on top Sunday morning.

Herta (center) and the Steinbrenners. George Michael Steinbrenner IV is to Herta’s immediate left. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“We had the whole Steinbrenner family that all came out today. Hank’s even out here. It was great to have the team rooting for us,” he said.

George Michael Steinbrenner IV, Steinbrenner Racing principal added, “It really couldn’t have aligned any better. It’s very satisfying for me. Knowing Colton for so long, I’ve known how good he could be.”

SOUL RED SATURDAY IN ST. PETE

Askew, Telitz and Martin. Photo: Mazda Motorsports

The running joke that permeated during the Mazda Road to Indy offseason was that the three Mazda scholarship drivers, Telitz, Anthony Martin and Oliver Askew, had to tactfully and carefully manage to note they were driving but couldn’t say with which team until Mazda formally confirmed it. At one point, Telitz – who’d been linked to Belardi Auto Racing since September – was listed as driving with “Team Real Big Secret” and the laughs followed.

Laughs turned to straight-up smiles and jubilation on Saturday when all three of the scholarship drivers, having been formally confirmed with Belardi (Telitz in Indy Lights) and Cape Motorsports (Martin in Pro Mazda, Askew in USF2000) won on the same day, at the same track, in their debuts in the respective series.

Martin won the first Pro Mazda race of the weekend, with Askew then winning the second USF2000 race of the weekend. Once Telitz started from pole and survived a four-wide passing attempt off the start into Turn 1 in the Indy Lights race, the stage was set for the “Soul Red Saturday” sweep.

“I mean honestly this feels a little bit unreal,” said Telitz, the Wisconsinite who at 25 is one of the older but savvier and funniest drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy. “I knew Belardi cars were fast. But to actually do it, qualify on pole, lead the most laps and win by 11 seconds or something, it is seriously awesome. I can’t explain exactly what this means. Huge thanks to Mazda for having the scholarship to move up!”

Askew’s win came after running second in the morning race, where he pressured Robert Megennis but didn’t force the issue against the talented teenager. “I keep telling myself, it’s all about points this weekend. So many guys come out of here with a huge deficit,” he said then. After the win, Askew was reflective and effusive with praise: “I thought if I could come out second, that would be great. But that caution came out and it threw the plan out the window. I reacted to whatever was happening and I was off from there.”

Martin had the broom at Mid-Ohio in USF2000 last year and had it this weekend in Pro Mazda. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Martin, who’d traditionally struggled at St. Petersburg in USF2000, completed the only weekend sweep for the MRTI this weekend in Pro Mazda. The Australian, now back in a single-car effort after having two teammates last year, has the sole focus on him and impressed straightaway.

“Yeah I knew the pressure was on, with St. Pete as the first race of the year,” he said. “As a team we were really pushed to set a mark for everyone involved. We’ve shown what we’re gonna do. We’re not gonna play around. The Soul Red boys… man it proves what Mazda is doing, is working. It gives me the confidence when people believe in me. This weekend is the hardest I’ve ever pushed in my life.”

USF2000’s DAILY DOUBLE, TATUUS USF-17 DEBUT

Race 2 start for USF2000. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

If one was to grade the debut of the new Tatuus USF-17 for Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, a B to B-plus would be a fair assessment. The car raced very well, particularly in the first race of the day held Saturday morning when drivers raced smart and kept the 30-minute affair caution-free, and then continued to do well in race two on Saturday. The downgrade from a firm A comes with the number of accidents in practice that occurred, which while understandable given it’s inexperienced drivers and a street course, quickly added up to make a good weekend for the spare parts department.

It was interesting to talk to two of the drivers who raced the previous generation Van Diemen and continued this year, in Megennis who won race one and Parker Thompson, who had pole for race two in his Exclusive Autosport entry but made a mistake at Turn 1 that opened the door for Askew, ultimately ending third.

“As a new team we have brand new mechanics and a lot of new components,” explained Thompson, out of Red Deer, Alberta. “The team handled it really well. Exclusive gave me a car that could have won and I threw it away. But I have to hold my head high. Myself and team have worked to learn everything. Pabst and Cape have been to this track before. We haven’t. And we had a car, a new car, good to win first race… so I guarantee I’ll work harder than ever to repay them.”

Megennis scored both his and Team Pelfrey’s first USF2000 win in St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Added Megennis, who drives for Team Pelfrey: “It’s different. I had the aero wash being behind people. Out front, it was a different experience! This car is a lot more comfortable to drive. It’s a lot more fun, it’s not easier, and you have to push it harder, it’s a lot more enjoyable and exciting.

“I tried to approach it exactly like last year. But now, you can show up at the weekends ahead. You know the track, you know the setup direction, and you know how the races work. Being a second-year driver makes a lot of difference.”

BACK FROM BREAK, AND BACK TO A NEW BREAK IN PRO MAZDA

With a reduced schedule, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series races only six weekends this season. The gap between St. Petersburg and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course is the longest gap this season, a full two months.

So what do you do to stay sharp in that time? We asked the podium finishers this weekend what their game plan was.

Franzoni (left), Martin (center) and Fischer (right) were podium both days, flanked by the Team Cooper Tire girls. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“I think I’ll be in Indy for the break. It’s a bit of a break but we may be doing some testing,” said Martin.

“This break will be really good for us,” said Victor Franzoni, who concluded a late deal to race with Juncos Racing this season. “We already had a great result there in a test. And we tested together, so they know the setup for me. I think there, it will decide our championship! Here, was more to meet each other and start the work.”

“It is a big break,” added TJ Fischer, who delivered two-time defending champions Team Pelfrey both his and its first two podiums of 2017. “We don’t have Barber – which is somewhat unfortunate. But it makes every weekend more powerful, and means more in the championship. In the little break we have, we have one or two days of testing, so it’s about getting the rhythm down. From there you have to stay mentally in the game.”

NEWS AND NOTES

Urrutia’s “Red 5.” Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • In Indy Lights, keen-eyed observers will have spotted Urrutia’s No. 5 Belardi car with Arrow signage on the sidepods this weekend. Arrow Electronics is a sponsor of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Verizon IndyCar Series program. The Uruguayan was gutted to have been taken out by Dalton Kellett in race one, but bounced back with second in race two.
  • Kyle Kaiser had a respectable but not sterling weekend for Juncos Racing with finishes of sixth and fourth. Juncos was the only team of the five in Indy Lights that didn’t score at least one podium this weekend.
  • Pato O’Ward did make the podium on Sunday, and fifth and third finishes were great for him at Team Pelfrey. The teenaged Mexican driver will be in action next at this weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Performance Tech Motorsports in the PC class, where he looks for his second win after also winning at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Regarding his Indy Lights future? “I have to work on more, but I’m optimistic you might see me in Barber,” he said.
  • Kellett and Juan Piedrahita were unlucky to not convert top-five starting positions into results this weekend, as both series veterans were further up the grid than they had been previously.
  • Meanwhile, quietly good weekends occurred for two other returning drivers in Shelby Blackstock (fourth and sixth) and Zachary Claman De Melo (eighth and seventh) in their first weekends with new teams of Belardi and Carlin, respectively. Ryan Norman also did well to score a pair of top-10s in his first weekend with Andretti.
  • Neil Alberico’s run to third on Saturday was aided by a pre-race engine change, as Alberico has continued to bear the brunt of mechanical issues. He didn’t get a chance to repeat on Sunday, collected in a first-lap accident with Nico Jamin.
  • A loss of power also stunted a potential podium run for Alberico’s teammate Matheus Leist in Sunday’s race, the young Brazilian having done well to come to grips early on in his first weekend.
  • Pro Mazda not only saw Martin sweep, but the same podium in order in both races. Carlos Cunha (race one) and Sting Ray Robb (race two) were fourth, with Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin fifth in both races.
  • After completing a late deal to race Pro Mazda with ArmsUp Motorsports in an old Kaiser-driven, Juncos chassis, Max Hanratty did well to end eighth and sixth in the two races. He’d missed qualifying for race two with a gearbox issue. The Gregg and Brent Borland-led ArmsUp group also bagged a solid seventh place in USF2000 race two, with Devin Wojcik.
  • USF2000’s star beyond the winners was Dutch driver Rinus Van Kalmthout, or VeeKay as he’s been listed in promotional material this year. The Pabst driver scored a double podium finish with third in race one, and second in race two. “I’ve never felt so good at a race weekend,” he said.
  • Cape, Pabst, Pelfrey, ArmsUp, John Cummiskey Racing and RJB Motorsports continued into 2017 with the new car, while new teams rounded out the grid in the form of DE Force Racing, Exclusive Autosport, Kaminsky Racing and Newman/Wachs Racing. Benik was a no-show with Kyle Kirkwood, who along with Askew and Exclusive’s Luke Gabin were part of Spencer Pigot’s winning team in Wednesday night’s Kart 4 Kids Pro/Am, an unfortunately – and hopefully briefly – sidelined Team USA Scholarship winner.
  • Newman/Wachs Racing scored five top-10 finishes out of six shots this weekend, Dakota Dickerson with two sixths, Cameron Das with an eighth and a ninth and Andre Castro with one 10th. But it was an expensive and character-building weekend otherwise as Castro sustained three accidents, one in the race, and Das one in a preliminary session. You never want to see a team incur such a weekend but if a team was well-prepared to handle it, it would be NWR, given its previous ladder experience in Atlantic, its crew experience, and the seemingly ever-present smile on veteran PR rep Anne Roy’s face. If the racing gods took away from NWR on the streets of St. Pete, they should make up for it later this year.
  • DE Force was quietly impressive in its series debut. Both Moises de la Vara and Kory Enders were in the front half of the field and Enders banked a solid P8 in race two for the Mexican-influenced team that features former driver and veteran driver coach David Martinez as part of its ownership structure.
  • Seven drivers scored top-10s in both races: Askew, Van Kalmthout, Thompson, Dickerson, Das, 14-year-old Kaylen Frederick of Team Pelfrey who was fourth and fifth,and Guyana driver Calvin Ming, another Pabst driver.
  • Former John Cummiskey Racing drivers Lucas Kohl and Ayla Agren had tough weekends in their new teams. Kohl was 12th and 11th, while Agren had a frustrating weekend where again she was unable to show her potential. JCR pressed on with sports car driver and open-wheel novice Kris Wright, who kept the car in one piece with two top-15 finishes.

The next round for the Indy Lights and USF2000 series is at Barber Motorsports Park in about a month and a half in April, while as mentioned, the Pro Mazda series is off until mid-May in Indianapolis.

MRTI Preview: Mid-Ohio

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires faces possibly its busiest weekend of the year this weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Yet another double header awaits the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, while the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires tackles it’s lone triple header of the year.

What’s more, the season is rapidly winding down for all three series. Indy Lights and Pro Mazda only have three race weekends remaining (Mid-Ohio, Gateway Motorsports Park, and Watkins Glen International), while USF2000 has only two (Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen), meaning time is running out for anyone who wants to challenge the championship leaders.

In Indy Lights, the title picture centers around one driver, while Pro Mazda and USF2000 are up for grabs between two pairs of young hard chargers. All told, the final weekends of the year have the makings for intense battles to claim not only the championships in each respective series, but also the Mazda scholarships that enable the drivers to move up.

Below are quick previews for all three series.

INDY LIGHTS

  • Top 5 in points: 1. Kyle Kaiser, 279, 2. Matheus Leist, 228, 3. Colton Herta, 214, 4. Zachary Claman De Melo, 207, 5. Aaron Telitz, 203

    Kyle Kaiser dominated the most recent Indy Lights outing in Toronto. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Kyle Kaiser swept the weekend at Toronto, dominating Race 1 on Saturday and surviving a crash-filled Race 2 on Sunday. His weekend sweep gives him three victories for the year, and combined with struggles from the likes of Matheus Leist and Colton Herta to give him a sizeable championship lead of 51 points.
  • Zachary Claman de Melo and Aaron Telitz are quietly riding waves of momentum. Claman de Melo’s last four finishes are 1-6-2-3, while Telitz has gone 5-9-5-2 in the same stretch.
  • Though Kaiser has a sizeable championship lead, 39 points separate second from seventh (Leist, Herta, Claman de Melo, Telitz, Santi Urrutia, and Nico Jamin).
  • Santi Urrutia swept both Indy Lights races at Mid-Ohio last year.
  • Ryan Norman’s No. 48 entry for Andretti Autosport gets a different look this weekend, with rock band Journey featured on the car.

 

PRO MAZDA

The Pro Mazda championship has been a see-saw battle between Franzoni and Martin. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Top 5 in points: 1. Victor Franzoni, 174, 2. Anthony Martin, 167, 3. TJ Fischer, 115, 4. Nikita Lastochkin, 110, 5. Carlos Cunha, 103
  • Through six races, only Franzoni and Martin have won races (three apiece); with Fischer 59 points out of the lead in third, it appears Franzoni and Martin will decide the 2017 Pro Mazda championship.
  • Mid-Ohio represents the lone triple-header of the year for Pro Mazda, with races on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
  • Last year, in a triple-header for USF2000, Anthony Martin swept the weekend, winning all three races.
  • Nico Jamin swept the Pro Mazda weekend at Mid-Ohio last year, winning both races in what was then a double-header.

USF2000

  • Top 5 in points: 1. Oliver Askew, 283, 2. Rinus Veekay, 265, 3. Parker Thompson, 206, 4. Kaylen Frederick, 185, 5. Calvin Ming, 151

    Oliver Askew has struggled lately, allowing Rinus Veekay to close the championship gap. Parker Thompson now sits third. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
  • Askew’s points lead has been trimmed to 18, with finishes of 17th (Road America Race 1, due to suspension problems) and 12th (Toronto Race 2, due to a crash) blighting an otherwise impressive season.
  • To contrast some of Askew’s recent struggles, Veekay has finishes of 1-1-2-3-2 in his last five races, allowing him to dramatically close the gap to Askew.
  • Parker Thompson’s weekend sweep at Toronto vaulted him to third in the championship. At 77 points back of the lead, it will be difficult to mount a title push, but his presence can be a spoiler for Askew and Veekay.
  • Of note: each of USF2000’s Mid-Ohio visits the last two years have seen weekend sweeps. As previously mentioned, Anthony Martin accomplished the feat in 2016, with Nico Jamin doing so in 2015. Conversely, the 2014 outing saw different winners in each race. RC Enerson, Jake Eidson, and Florian Latorre all won in a triple-header weekend that year.

Racing begins on Friday with USF2000 and Pro Mazda running their first races of the weekend. Indy Lights holds its first race of the weekend on Saturday.

Follow Kyle Lavigne.

 

Foyt, Coyne optimistic about Mid-Ohio after testing

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Along with Felix Rosenqvist and Chip Ganassi Racing, two other teams visited the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for testing ahead of this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (Sunday July 30, 3:00 p.m., CNBC). A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Dale Coyne Racing sent their drivers and teams to Mid-Ohio in hopes of getting a leg up on things and building optimism ahead of this weekend.

For Foyt’s team in particular, the optimism is needed. Combined, drivers Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly have only three top tens (two for Munoz, one for Daly) across a total of 24 starts, making them desperate for strong results to come their way.

Conor Daly and Carlos Munoz are hopeful that they can turn their seasons around at Mid-Ohio. Photo: IndyCar

Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity for Foyt’s duo to right the ship. Munoz has finishes of fourth, ninth, and third in three starts at the Lexington, Ohio road course, while Daly led late in last year’s race and finished an impressive sixth.

And a productive test last week has both feeling hopeful. “We needed this test to try big steps and different options and I think we gained a lot from where we started to where we finished,” said Munoz, whose best 2017 finish of seventh came at Barber Motorsports Park in April.

Munoz added that, while they are still playing catch up a little, the team gained valuable information that should help them this weekend. “The car was much more competitive from where we started so we closed the gap but we need a little bit more to compete with the top guys. But the information that we gathered will help us to show up stronger than we did at the test so I’m looking forward to going back,” he asserted.

Daly echoed Munoz’s sentiments and added that his near-win last year makes him upbeat ahead of the weekend. “It was a really productive (test) for us. Every day with this car and aero package we are learning more. I feel like I came quite close to winning the race last year so I’m hoping to have another strong result this year,” Daly expressed.

Technical Director Will Phillips added that the knowledge they gained should help them at Watkins Glen International and Sonoma Raceway at the end of the season, particularly in terms of maximizing the grip from the tires.

“We certainly believe that the area we made an improvement in will help us at all the road courses to come – we have been slow to extract performance from the tires at times and it was in this area that some changes we made had a very positive response,” Phillips described. “We will keep our feet on the ground but are optimistic that we can carry the gains through for the remainder of the year, not just for Mid-Ohio.”

On the other side, Dale Coyne Racing has been a giant-killer in 2017, winning at St. Petersburg with Sebastien Bourdais and finishing third at the Indianapolis 500 with Ed Jones. James Davison, Tristan Vautier, and Esteban Gutierrez have also impressed in fill-in roles for the injured Bourdais.

Dale Coyne Racing has shown a lot of speed in 2017. Photo: IndyCar

And while the team has also incurred more than it’s fair share of crash damage, they have consistently showcased speed at nearly every event, and the team’s drivers are confident Mid-Ohio will yield more of the same.

“We had a really good test last week at Mid-Ohio. It was very positive and we worked on a lot of things,” said Ed Jones, who has four starts at Mid-Ohio from his days in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, with a best finish of sixth. “The car seemed pretty fast compared to others that were there. As we saw at Road America, it’s beneficial to be able to test somewhere before we race there. It can give you an advantage early on and hopefully we can produce another good result because of it.”

Teammate Esteban Gutierrez, making his sixth start for the team this weekend, is more modest of his expectations, but did reveal that a top ten finish could be realistic.

“In terms of objectives for the weekend, I want to keep on learning and it would be nice to reach the top ten. We know that it’s been a pretty steep learning curve for me in IndyCar but we’ve made some progress and hopefully we can make our way into the top ten pretty soon,” Gutierrez detailed.

Of the drivers mentioned here, Jones ranks the highest in the championship standings, currently sitting 12th. Munoz sits 15th, Daly 19th, and Gutierrez 25th in his fill-in role.

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Lando Norris also gets confirmed for Hungary test with McLaren

Photo: Lando Norris PR
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McLaren Honda young driver Lando Norris has joined the list of those confirmed for the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test as well.

He’ll run on the second day, Wednesday, of the two-day test with Stoffel Vandoorne running on day one, Tuesday.

The teenaged Brit races for Carlin in the FIA F3 European Championship this season and is one of the most talented prospects in the pipeline, following his karting career and early years in formula cars. This will mark his test debut in an F1 car.

He was announced as part of McLaren’s development program in February.

Norris was confirmed a little more than a week ago for next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona in a United Autosports Ligier JS P217 LMP2 car but this gives him his first go in a proper F1 rocketship.

 

Pirelli review says Raikkonen tire not faulty at Silverstone

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BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) Formula One tiremaker Pirelli has concluded that Kimi Raikkonen’s tire damage late in the British Grand Prix was likely caused by external contact.

Raikkonen was set for second place in the July 16 race but his tire problem allowed Valtteri Bottas to complete a Mercedes one-two with Lewis Hamilton. The Finnish driver even looked set to lose his podium spot to his own teammate Sebastian Vettel, but in a bizarre twist he ended up third after Vettel’s own tire shredded.

The sight of two Ferraris capitulating within moments of each other led Pirelli to conduct extensive post-race tests on both cars. Raikkonen’s problem, Pirelli said in a statement Wednesday, did not come from the tire itself.

“The possible initial cause of this damage is consistent with contact against an external body, leading to a partial separation of the belt from the carcass in the two affected areas,” Pirelli said. “On no occasion was there any sign of fatigue, detachment or laceration -or even the beginning of such problems – that affected the structure of the tire. In conclusion, Pirelli can confirm that no issues have emerged connected with the tire itself.”

Last week, Pirelli said that Vettel’s shredded tire at Silverstone was caused by a slow puncture.

Vettel appeared to be heading for third place at Silverstone until his front left tire suddenly blew apart two laps from the finish. The four-time F1 champion managed to steer his Ferrari back to the pits for a tire change, and secured seventh place to cling onto his championship lead. Raikkonen’s pit stop to change his tire came just before Vettel’s.

Hamilton won to cut Vettel’s championship lead to one point. Raikkonen, who has three podium finishes this season, is fifth overall.

The championship continues at the Hungarian GP this weekend before a month-long summer break.