Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: St. Petersburg Sunday notebook

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Sunday finished the season-opening double header for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, with the three series book-ending the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires started things off in the morning while the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda finished the day off in the late afternoon and into the early evening.

Indy Lights saw one driver survive a carnage-filled affair to take the win, while Pro Mazda and USF2000 saw a pair of dominant runs to victory.

Reports on all three races are below.

Indy Lights: Urrutia Survives Chaotic Race 2 to Take Victory

Santi Urrutia celebrates his win in Race 2 at St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

A wild Race 2 for Indy Lights was plagued by contact and saw several potential race winners suffer misfortune that dropped them from contention.

The chaos was immediate from the drop of the green flag. Belardi Auto Racing’s Aaron Telitz crashed in Turn 2 off the start while battling with Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni. Franzoni tried to stay inside of Telitz entering Turn 2, but made contact with the left-rear of Telitz and spun him into the outside wall, with Franzoni also suffering a damaged wing.

The incident ended a nightmare weekend for Telitz, as the Belardi team needed to borrow a car from Carlin after Telitz crashed in qualifying for Race 2. The Belardi team did not have a backup chassis with them at St. Petersburg, and the No. 9 IL-15 suffered too much damage to be repaired, forcing Telitz to miss Race 1 after grabbing the pole.

The team had to work overnight to prepare their new car for the race, only to see it end in the opening two laps.

When racing resumed on Lap 5, Andretti Autosport teammates Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta (Herta competing under the Andretti Steinbrenner Racing banner) began battling for the lead. Herta had taken the lead from the polesitting O’Ward on the initial start, but O’Ward got him back on the Lap 5 restart as they approached Turn 4.

A short time later, on Lap 11, Herta drifted wide in Turn 8 and clouted the outside, eliminating him on the spot.

O’Ward continued to lead on the subsequent restart, but his race unraveled with six minutes left. The 18-year-old overshot the entry into Turn 4 and ran into the runoff area. He was able to eventually rejoin, but not until he fell back to seventh.

O’Ward’s error moved Santi Urrutia into the lead, which he held until the end to give the Belardi team something to cheer about after a tough weekend.

“Super big emotions right now. I’m so proud of the team, second yesterday and a win today,” Urrutia said in Victory Lane. “From the time I arrived in the United States and joined the Mazda Road to Indy, this is the best start I’ve had. To win the championship, you have to always be on the podium and in the points, so I think things are going the right way.”

Team Pelfrey’s Shelby Blackstock finished second, while Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Norman finished third following a late battle with Pelfrey’s Neil Alberico. Alberico, who was in third, suffered a cut right-rear tire in the process, and limped home in fifth, behind fourth-place finisher Franzoni.

Dalton Kellett was sixth, followed by O’Ward in seventh. Herta and Telitz were credited with eighth and ninth.

Pro Mazda: VeeKay Takes Race 2 to Sweep the Weekend

Rinus VeeKay swept the Pro Mazda weekend at St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

A bizarre start to Pro Mazda Race 2 saw the green flag fly a little too early, and several drivers were swamped as a result. Among them, polesitter Rinus VeeKay plummeted from first to ninth.

However, race control quickly determined that the race began too early, through a red flag, and got everyone back in their original starting order to restart the race.

The second attempt was much cleaner, allowing VeeKay to rocket off into the lead after starting on the pole. However, the Juncos Racing driver had to deal with BN Racing’s David Malukas, who stalked VeeKay the entire way.

A late-race caution put Malukas right on VeeKay’s gearbox, but VeeKay held him off in the final minutes to take the victory, completing a weekend sweep for the Dutch driver. Malukas hung on for second, while Carlos Cunha finished third, putting two Juncos drivers on the podium.

Sting Ray Robb and Parker Thompson completed the top five, while Harrison Scott, who was running inside the top five before the final restart, dropped like a stone through the field after suffering front wing damage. Scott ended up 12th.

Race 2 results are below.

USF2000: Alex Baron Dominates Race 2 to Win from the Pole

Alex Baron led every lap on his way to winning Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Swan-RJB Motorsports’ Alex Baron endured a very difficult race 1 on Saturday, incurring a drive-through penalty that he never recovered from, finishing 22nd.

Sunday’s Race 2 was a different story, however, with the Frenchman dominating from the pole to take his first USF2000 victory.

Baron was never headed at any point during the 25-lap race, leading every lap on his way to beating second-place Igor Fraga by two seconds.

Fraga enjoyed a solid Race 2 to finish second for Exclusive Autosport, while Pabst Racing’s Lucas Kohl rebounded from a 13th in Race 1 to finish third in Race 2.

Jaime Caroline finished fourth while Race 1 winner Kyle Kirkwood finished fifth.

Race 2 Results are below.


Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.