Formula E/LAT

WEC Nurburgring entry list confirms FE subs, Buemi set to miss NYC

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Pipo Derani and Filipe Albuquerque are among the drivers substituting for Formula E regulars in the FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring next month, as confirmed with the publication of the entry list for the latter event.

The clash between Formula E and WEC on the July 16 weekend has been a long-running saga for both series, with no resolution workable due to a lack of communication regarding the placement of the Formula 1 race in Germany that was ultimately canceled.

With drivers racing in both series, a number were left with a key dilemma to make when picking which race to entry, ending with a majority opting to partake in Formula E’s double-header race weekend in New York.

Two drivers have chosen to prioritize WEC, including Formula E championship leader Sebastien Buemi, who is bound by his contract with Toyota’s LMP1 team. Jose Maria Lopez is also in a similar position, racing in the sister TS050 Hybrid at the Nürburgring.

Here’s a run-down of the drivers who had to work around the clashes and where they’ve ended up, and who will be replacing them.

Sebastien Buemi

Formula E championship leader Buemi had hoped to be racing in New York – where he could have sewn up the title – but is now risking a 50-plus point loss by missing the double-header.

Buemi said that his Le Mans result would decide whether or not he could have the chance to skip the Nürburgring, only for the No. 8 Toyota crew to have a miserable race, finishing eighth overall after two hours in the garage.

Buemi’s replacement for New York will need to be decided in the next 24 hours when the race stewards are informed of the entry list. Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly is thought to be leading the chase for the seat.

Jose Maria Lopez

Like Buemi, Lopez was tied down by his Toyota contract and was not able to get out of his duties, meaning he will be missing New York as well.

Lopez will return to the No. 7 Toyota for the Nürburgring round, having been moved into the third car for Le Mans given his lack of prior experience following his Silverstone crash and the subsequent injury that forced him to miss Spa.

Lopez will be replaced at DS Virgin Racing in New York by Alex Lynn, the team’s reserve driver. Lynn, in turn, will miss the Nürburgring race with G-Drive in LMP2, with Ben Hanley taking his place.

Sam Bird

Lopez’s Formula E teammate, Sam Bird, is another driver who said his dilemma would be solved by his Le Mans result. The Briton is fourth in the WEC GT drivers’ championship with AF Corse and just 14 points off the lead, yet he opted to prioritize his Formula E duties in New York.

Bird will be replaced at AF Corse in the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE by Toni Vilander, who races in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Risi Competizione and featured at Le Mans earlier this month.

Nicolas Prost

Renault e.dams appeared the face the prospect of having neither of its regular drivers in place for New York, only for Buemi’s teammate Nicolas Prost to put his Formula E duties first.

Prost has raced with Vaillante Rebellion Racing in LMP2 so far this season, but will step back for the Nürburgring. Seasoned sportscar racer Filipe Albuquerque takes his place.

Nelson Piquet Jr.

Nelson Piquet Jr. is another driver who had the same decision as Prost, putting Formula E over his duties with Rebellion in the sister Oreca 07 Gibson. Piquet will be replaced in the No. 13 car by Pipo Derani, whose three-race stint with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing came to an end at Le Mans.

Jean-Eric Vergne

Jean-Eric Vergne has made a flying start to life in the WEC this year with Manor, regularly featuring at the top of the timesheets, and stood out at Le Mans with some mammoth quintuple stints.

Vergne won’t be at the Nürburgring, though, putting his Formula E duties with Techeetah – a team he also has commercial interests in – first. Roberto Merhi takes his place, returning to Manor after previously racing for the team in both F1 and WEC.

IndyCar: Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama Recap

Photo: IndyCar
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After two days, with both featuring a lot of rain, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is finally in the books for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

With Mother Nature intervening with rain and fury over both days, it’s understandable if there’s a sense of relief that the weekend at Barber Motorsports Park is behind us.

Still, as is usually the case, Barber produced plenty of thrills, and a few spills, across the weekend of racing.

A recap of big stories to emerge from the weekend is below.

Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head…

Mother Nature was ever present on Sunday and Monday, dropping a lot of rain on Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: IndyCar

Rain races can be very fun and entertaining…if they’re able to run. Sadly, that just wasn’t the case on Sunday.

The undulating and picturesque Barber Motorsports Park is one of the most striking road courses in the country, and often produces some of the best racing anywhere. But, the nature of the track and its dramatic elevation changes can make it susceptible to standing water in heavy rains.

And that’s the exact scenario that played out on Sunday, with heavy and persistent rain hitting the track late in the morning, and hanging around the entire day.

While INDYCAR officials and Barber track crews worked tirelessly on Sunday to disperse the standing water, the rainfall was simply too heavy for them to make any impact.

While very unfortunate, postponing the finish of the race to Monday was the right decision, as several drivers explained.

“It’s tough because we have so many people that come out here to watch us,” said eventual race winner Josef Newgarden following the Sunday postponement. “We want to put on a good race. We want to put on a show. So calling the race, running around behind the pace car not running, it’s tough, it’s tough to do that. But I think it was the right thing in the end. When we started the race, the conditions were OK. You could run at that level of rain. Then, it intensified right before that first caution. I think when the caution came out, it got to a point where it was just too much.”

Graham Rahal echoed Newgarden’s sentiments, also emphasizing poor visibility as a big factor in making the conditions too treacherous.

“It was a tough beginning, but when we kind of got going it was OK and kind of fun to challenge for a while, but visibility was a major issue (on Sunday), no doubt. I’m glad that the series postponed it. I would have like to get it in (on Sunday), but that’s life,” he explained.

Rest assured, Firestone makes a strong rain tire, and IndyCar teams, drivers, and track crews are more than equipped to handle a rain shower from Mother Nature. But, Sunday’s weather was simply too extreme.

Newgarden Shines in the Rain and the Sun

Josef Newgarden in Victory Lane at Barber Motorsports Park. Photo: IndyCar

About the only thing as powerful as Mother Nature during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden.

Last year’s IndyCar champion was quickest at the end of Friday’s practices, scored the pole on Saturday, and led all but nine laps across Sunday and Monday.

And his leads were always decisive. He quickly gapped the field when racing started on Sunday, holding down a gap of as much seven seconds over teammate Will Power in the early laps. And on Monday, he gapped the field by as much as 27 seconds during the second half of the race.

Only outside circumstances could have prevented Newgarden from getting to Victory Lane…and that nearly happened. A late rain shower in the final minutes created split strategies across the field, with Newgarden among those opting for rain tires, while Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dale Coyne Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais gambled by staying out on slicks.

Hunter-Reay, however, jumped into the pits soon after for rain tires, a move that helped him eventually finish second, while Coyne and Bourdais gambled that the track would not get wet enough to force them to pit.

Alas, with only a few minutes remaining and the rain getting heavier, conditions became too slick and Bourdais was forced to pit, handing the lead back to Newgarden and dropping Bourdais to fifth.

“More hectic than you would want at the end,” Newgarden quipped when asked about conditions at the end of the race. “It seemed like it was pretty straightforward all day. We weren’t having yellows. It was dry. Then that rain made it very nerve-racking.

Newgarden added that pitting for rain tires, and doing so early, was their best option, even though it opened the door for others to jump ahead.

“I think for us we did the only thing we could,” he said of their strategy. “We went to rains as soon as it intensified. We had to. I think it was the right thing to do, just because we’re in the lead, we have the most to lose by not putting on rains early.”

The victory, Newgarden’s second of 2018, moves him back into the championship lead with 158 points, 13 ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.

Misc.

  • Ryan Hunter-Reay enjoyed a solid weekend following a troublesome day at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Andretti Autosport driver ranked in the Top 10 through practice, qualified a strong fourth, and ran a very clean race to finish second, his best finish of 2018, and he now sits only three points out of third place in the championship – he is currently sixth, with 113 points.
  • While teammate Robert Wickens has made more headlines, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe is having one of the best early-season efforts of his IndyCar career. With finishes of fourth, sixth, ninth, and second to his name through four races, Hinch sits fifth in the standings on 118 points, and is keeping himself well within reach of the championship lead. A race win would do wonders for his championship standing, but the consistent start puts him in a good position heading into the month of May.
  • Conversely, four-time champion Scott Dixon has yet to finish on the podium in 2018 – his best finish is fourth at ISM Raceway. Still, at seventh in the standings with 107 points, Dixon is within striking distance despite the quiet start.
  • Elsewhere, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud have had comparatively disastrous starts to their seasons. Power has hit the wall in three of the first four races, while Pagenaud only has a best finish of ninth, coincidentally at Barber this weekend, through four races. Power sits tenth in the championship on 81 points, while Pagenaud languishes down in 15th on 66.
  • He made not have made many friends out there, but Zachary Claman De Melo gave viewers some thrills after the Monday restart, pushing his way through the field despite being two laps down. It also created one of the highlights of the race, with he and Spencer Pigot going for a slide through Turns 7 and 8 (video below). For his efforts, Claman De Melo recorded the fastest lap of the race on his way to finishing 19th.

The Verizon IndyCar Series now has two weeks before their next race, the INDYCAR Grand Prix on May 11-12. However, the series will be plenty busy, with testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway kicking off next week.

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