Lotus to test Raikkonen, Prost, Valsecchi at Silverstone next week

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Next week’s young driver test at Silverstone (July 17-19) will actually include the second oldest driver on the Formula One grid – Kimi Raikkonen.

But the Lotus driver knows what he’s doing. He, like any other full-season entrants, is now eligible to participate in the test to sample Pirelli’s new compounds that have yet to make their race debut. Raikkonen will run on Friday, after Lotus development driver Nicolas Prost runs on Wednesday and third driver Davide Valsecchi runs on Thursday.

The decision was made in spite of the restrictive in-season testing rules and regulations.

“It’s great timing for us to have this season’s young driver test scheduled in the middle of the year as it allows us to evaluate more of the new parts we have for the E21 as the championship battle intensifies,” team principal Eric Boullier told the official Formula One website. “Remarkably, the UK has been having some notably good weather recently so we’re looking forward to getting some good running across the three days.”

Trackside operations director Alan Permane added: “Obviously we want to give all three drivers the maximum track time possible as well as assessing the latest upgrades to the car. Our aim on the third day will be to help Pirelli understand the latest changes to their tires at the same venue where they most notably had issues this season.”

Besides the tire test, this will also be a valuable time for Prost and Valsecchi to gain more mileage. Lotus’ driver situation for 2014 is very much fluid with rumors of Raikkonen (paid late by Lotus but still in its frame) potentially leaving to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull, and Nico Hulkenberg linked to the team as a potential replacement.

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”