Spencer Pigot starred today but didn't quite have result to show. Photo: IndyCar

Veterans dominate, but young guns star too in INDYCAR GP

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INDIANAPOLIS – Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway saw the established, north of 30-year-old veterans finish in the top five positions, but the young guns that finished in spots six to nine made a big impression behind them.

Will Power, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves are all at least 32 and have been part of the IndyCar fabric for at least a decade since making their debuts; in Castroneves’ case, two decades since his rookie season of 1998.

From sixth on back though were guys you hope will be here at least a decade further, if not longer.

Yes Graham Rahal debuted in 2007, but he’s still only 28 years old. Then with Max Chilton (26), Alexander Rossi (25) and Spencer Pigot (23) in the next three positions thereafter, it was a day for the young guns to showcase themselves too.

Rahal and Chilton both translated poor qualifying performances into great opportunities on Saturday. From 20th and 14th on the grid respectively, they started on Firestone’s black primary tires and carved their way through the field being on the softer, red alternate tires the rest of the day up to sixth and seventh. For both Rahal and Chilton, it was their best races of the season and in Chilton’s case, one he called the best of his IndyCar career.

For Pigot and Rossi, the opposite results happened compared to hopes – and weirdly, for a second consecutive INDYCAR Grand Prix they could afford to be disappointed with results not as good as was possible.

On the scoreboard Rossi started ninth and finished eighth, while Pigot started 16th and finished ninth, but top-fives for both drivers were possible.

Photo: IndyCar

 

Pigot, driver of the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet, was perhaps the star of the race as he vaulted from 16th up to sixth early on, notably after gaining six positions just on the first lap alone. But a stall after his first pit stop dropped him down the order to 15th, a big loss of both valuable track time and positions.

The result is still Pigot’s second top-10 this year – he was eighth at Long Beach.

But there’s been points left on the table, often through no fault of his own. A fiery brake disc explosion at St. Petersburg ruined a star drive there, and a spin at Barber from another strong run into the top-10 means there’s been some solid points left on the table.

“You never really know. Hopefully we could have ended up there as well,” Pigot told reporters post-race. “Something happened the first launch out of the stops. Today, we’re P9 knowing we could have been in the top five, not finishing a lucky P9, by getting a big break or a lucky yellow. I can’t say we’re totally 100 percent satisfied. But some stuff will go well later this year.

“A lot today depended on the tires. But we seemed to be really good in the second half of track, (Turns) 7 to 13, we used the overtake (button) to get runs. I could brake pretty deep into 1. This track produces great racing and lots of passing zones. We just have to see what happened with the stall.”

Photo: IndyCar

Rossi launched up to sixth after the start in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda but cited a bad call in pre-race downforce selection as hampering his ultimate potential.

“I think we chose the wrong downforce levels. The first stint really killed us. It was all about recovery from that point forward,” Rossi told NBC Sports post-race. “A top-five was possible. I’m pretty happy for Ryan (Hunter-Reay); it’s great for the team to be on the podium.

“But our pre-race decision setup wise hurt us on (Firestone) reds. We got the balance tuned in for the last stint. That was pretty strong.

“This year, we’ve had pace and we haven’t put a weekend together yet, which is frustrating. But we’re way ahead of where we are from last year. Indy was our strong suit last year, so we’ll look forward for that on Monday.”

Josef Newgarden, the six-year veteran who’s still only 26, was poised for his third top-five finish in five starts since joining Team Penske as well. But back-to-back pit lane speeding violations were traced to an electronics glitch and resigned him to 11th after running fourth or fifth most of the race.

Of the other sub-30-year-old young guns today, Conor Daly advanced from 15th into the top 10 early but struggled on pit stops and on blacks, Carlos Munoz never seemed a factor, Ed Jones got caught up Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan’s first lap contact and never recovered in what was his worst day in IndyCar thus far (finished 19th) and JR Hildebrand (still only 29) progressed from 21st to 14th but never seemed at ease with the car all weekend.

Last year’s Indianapolis 500 featured Rossi and Munoz, both then 24, and Newgarden, at 25, in the top three positions. And given the prodigious talent of the under-30 crowd in IndyCar now, it was nice to see these guys have success today – and additionally good to know there were even better results possible for Rossi, Pigot and Newgarden had the ball bounced differently.

Rising Star Racing-supported driver Pigot switches to Juncos Racing for the rest of the month, in that team’s Indianapolis 500 debut.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.

Mercedes F1 engine chief warns against underestimating Honda

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Mercedes Formula 1 engine chief Andy Cowell has warned against underestimating the threat of Honda despite its ongoing power unit struggles, tipping the Japanese manufacturer to bounce back in the near future.

Honda returned to F1 as a manufacturer in 2015, supplying V6 turbo power units to the McLaren team, but has struggled for either performance or reliability through that period.

The struggles have led McLaren – currently sat bottom of the constructors’ championship – to consider cutting ties for 2018 given how far adrift compared to the other three engine suppliers Honda has been.

Mercedes has been the benchmark for engine performance since the change in regulation for 2014, but Cowell feels that Honda could make up ground quickly, with the removal of the token system for 2017 helping performance to converge through the field.

“I think collectively we’ve helped with convergence in Formula 1 in the opening season, performance development through the year,” Cowell said.

“But then the opportunity to do a big change with Honda coming in, we all agreed that Honda could have that same opportunity to change everything in the first year and then the request came from manufacturers in addition to Honda saying ‘please can we take this crazy token table away because it’s bad for the sport?’

“It’s bad if somebody can’t train to get better and so we agreed, yeah, take the table away because it’s better for the sport because it means that you can innovate, you can introduce whatever you like.

“I think none of us should underestimate the technical prowess of Honda and of McLaren and I think my money is on that combination coming good and coming good pretty quickly. No pressure…”

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Nico Rosberg visits Stanford University, considering study options

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2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg is considering study options at Stanford University after visiting the college earlier this week as part of his tour around California.

Rosberg sensationally announced his retirement from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title last November, wanting to spend more time with his young family.

The German has been enjoying his retirement, recently embarking on a tour of Silicon Valley and California that saw him hold meetings with electric car giant Tesla, among other companies.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday, Rosberg spoke warmly about a visit to Stanford, revealing that he is considering some study options in the near future at the historic institution.

Rosberg was previously offered a scholarship to study engineering at Imperial College London when he was younger, only to turn it down in order to embark on a racing career. He also reportedly holds the highest ever score on Williams’ engineering aptitude test.

Should Nico sign up to a course at Stanford, we imagine he’d take things one class at a time…