Photo: IndyCar

Ed Jones shining in rookie season with Coyne

Leave a comment

It’s hard to believe Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Ed Jones had never run an IndyCar race prior to last month’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. With two top tens (tenth and sixth) to his name in the first two races, Jones has been driving with the poise and consistency of a veteran, not the dramatics of a young driver desperate make a name for himself.

As a result, Jones is indeed starting to make a name for himself. In fact, the British driver is putting himself in good company. The last time an IndyCar rookie scored top tens in each of his first two starts was in 1993, and the driver was Nigel Mansell. That year, Mansell scored a victory on debut in Australia before finishing third in Long Beach. A race at Phoenix Raceway split the two, but Mansell missed the event due to a concussion after a practice crash.

Jones’ finishes are not going to garner the headline’s that Mansell’s did. But, they are no less impressive. Team owner Dale Coyne is elated with Jones’ opening races. “Ed did a phenomenal job. You have to watch Ed during the race. Sebastien couldn’t get around Marco Andretti in the first stint at St. Pete, but Ed got around Andretti in the second stint at St. Pete, and Ed got around Rahal here,” Coyne said of his rookie driver. “He’s passing people on the track. He’s racing really well. He got a sixth here, he should have had a sixth at St. Pete but he got it here and he’s doing a very good job. I’m very happy with Ed’s progress.”

Jones was a little more muted in his comments, and directed a lot of the credit to Coyne and the team he has built. Still, Jones is gaining confidence with every race. “It’s great to be in the top 10 again with a sixth. Another great effort by the team as well with Seb finishing second,” he said of the team’s Long Beach outing. “I said this at St. Pete, it shows the effort that Dale has put into the team with the drivers, engineers, the development, the whole package to take the team to another level this year and the proof is the first two races. It’s clear to see. I’m really excited. We made big jumps this weekend from St. Pete and I can’t wait to get to Barber to make even more.”

Currently, Jones sits seventh in the championship, two points clear of former champion and Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay.

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.