Photo: IndyCar

Indy 500 notes: Alonso arrives; ROP, refresher test underway

Leave a comment

INDIANAPOLIS – The first day of official practice for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil is underway.

Here are notes gathered from the track and paddock (Gasoline Alley) so far.

  • Fernando Alonso arrived in Indianapolis last night straight from Spain for the Spanish Grand Prix, where he was greeted by fans at the Indianapolis airport. In his first run through the paddock this morning, dozens of fans at least stood outside his garage, awaiting the chance for his autograph. Alonso has been signing; here’s a photo from Trackside Online at close range, and here’s one from me from further range. Besides Alonso, McLaren’s Zak Brown and Eric Boullier have also made it to Indianapolis. Once the first on-track action began, his pit was more populated than anyone else’s. It’s only the first day of practice and so far, what I’ve seen of Alonso, the people here have a pretty good idea of who he is and will work to mob him at every opportunity.
  • Rookie Orientation Program and refresher testing is underway, which is what Alonso completed on May 3. Drivers have to go through 10 laps of 205-210 mph, then 15 laps of 210-215 mph, then 15 laps at 215 mph-plus to complete the ROP. The three other rookies participating are Ed Jones, Zach Veach and Jack Harvey. Drivers eligible to participate in the refresher program include Oriol Servia, Sebastian Saavedra, Sage Karam, Pippa Mann and Jay Howard. Servia, Karam and Mann were in last year’s ‘500 while it’s been since 2015 (Saavedra) and 2011 (Howard) for the other two. At the start of the session, temperatures were 77 degrees ambient and 106 on track.
  • Jack Harvey’s start to his day in the No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda has gotten off to a slow start with clutch issues. The car has sponsorship from SiriusXM, AutoNation and Gap Guard among other longtime Shank partners.
  • Jay Howard told NBC Sports he was happy to shake the cobwebs off at his first IndyCar running in six years at the Gateway test. As of 12:40 p.m., he had also completed his first phase of his refresher test.
  • Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ Honda for Dale Coyne Racing is now its planned oval chassis, starting today. The team rebuilt the road course chassis for the INDYCAR Grand Prix this weekend, and that chassis is the team’s lone backup car for all three entrants.
  • Buddy Lazier and some members of his Lazier Racing Partners team are here, though as of the first practice time, there was no signage listed above their garage in Gasoline Alley and no sign of the car as yet. It would be a surprise to see Lazier on track today.
  • Bell Racing has 18 of the 33 helmets entered in this year’s field. Full season drivers are Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves, Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz, Marco Andretti, Sebastien Bourdais, Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter, Graham Rahal and Ed Jones. Indianapolis additions are Pippa Mann, Jack Harvey, Gabby Chaves, Zach Veach, Fernando Alonso, Sage Karam, Buddy Lazier and Sebastian Saavedra.

More notes will follow throughout the day.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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

Getty Images
1 Comment

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…