Photo: IndyCar

Team Penske endures troublesome day at St. Petersburg

Leave a comment

In a surprising twist of fate, none of the three drivers from the powerhouse Team Penske were factors during the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, with all three suffering various problems that prevented them from being contenders during the race.

The trouble started early when Will Power, who started second alongside polesitter Robert Wickens, spun in Turn 3 after battling with Wickens for the early lead on the opening lap. Power’s No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet gently backed into the wall, doing damage to the rear wing and eventually forcing a pit stop for repairs.

Will Power had to recover from a Lap 1 spin at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Photo: IndyCar

Power eventually rebounded to finish 10th, but his was a day of “what might have been.”

“I was on the back foot from the very beginning,” Power detailed afterward. “(Robert) Wickens and I touched in Turn 1 and I spun around. There wasn’t a lot of room. That set us back and we fought the rest of the day.”

Still, Power’s spirits are high and he thinks Sunday’s race was merely a small hiccup.

“Not a perfect day, but we have a good Verizon Chevrolet team, and we will come back ready to race at (ISM Raceway),” he finished.

Defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden also saw his fair share of challenges, which started during Saturday qualifying when he failed to advance out of Round 1.

Starting 13th, Newgarden had his eyes set on moving forward, but his plans got disrupted following a Lap 39 restart when he suffered a cut tire. While a caution for Jack Harvey, who crashed on the run up to Turn 13 after also suffering a cut tire, prevented Newgarden’s issue from being compounded, it still put yet another obstacle in front of him and the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet team, as they had to go off strategy in hopes of regaining track position.

He eventually recovered to finish seventh, but he felt the car had much more in it if circumstances played out differently.

“We had a great Chevy package – it’s just sad we couldn’t take better advantage of it,” he lamented. “I felt we had really good power today from Chevrolet. The Hitachi car, overall, was pretty strong. We were just fighting all day to catch back up and we were on the wrong end on the fuel mileage and getting run into and cutting the tire didn’t help us. But I think if a couple of things would’ve gone differently, I really think a podium finish was in the cards for today.”

Meanwhile, as Newgarden and Power were able to finish in the top 10 after their issues, Simon Pagenaud languished in 13th. Starting 11th, Pagenaud simply didn’t catch the breaks he needed to use pit strategy to move forward, with an air gun issue during his first pit stop on lap 23 only making matters worse.

Simon Pagenaud was mysteriously a non-factor at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Photo: IndyCar

For Pagenaud, Sunday’s was a race to forget.

“It was a hard-fought day. We had a tire gun problem on the first stop and I feel bad for the Menards crew. That’s a tough thing to happen and they did such a good job on the next two stops. Unfortunately, that put us back in the pack and we just couldn’t make up ground from there,” Pagenaud explained.

Team Penske will look to regroup ahead of next month’s Phoenix Grand Prix at ISM Raceway (April 7 on NBCSN).


Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

Getty Images
Leave a comment

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.