Massa pleased after strong showing in Bahrain

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Williams’ Felipe Massa is anticipating a strong start to the season after today posting the fastest time of winter testing at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The Brazilian driver’s time of 1:33.258 was three-hundredths of a second quicker than Nico Rosberg’s benchmark that was set at Sakhir last week. He rallied to see off the German once again today as the two drivers exchanged fastest laps late on.

Massa not only set a quick one-lap pace with the Williams FW36, but he also enjoyed good reliability by completing 99 laps on the penultimate day of winter testing. As a result, he is anticipating a good start to the season in Australia.

“We had a very good day today doing almost 100 laps,” Massa explained. “We did a lot more performance work in the car which is something that we haven’t done so much of so far. I’m really happy with the car and feel we found a good balance. We did so much work on the set-up but it is very important that we go to Australia prepared.

“Of course you are always happy when you see your name at the top in first place, but as well as performance, today was good for the mileage and reliability of the car which we know is needed for Australia.”

Although it is only testing, Massa is confident that Williams have done everything possible to prepare for the coming season and adapted to the new technical regulations well.

“You can never be sure that you are 100% ready for the first race, but I feel that what we have done in these days testing has been important for making sure that we have a car that can not only get to the end of the race, but that will have good performance as well.”

Williams have ran strongly throughout winter testing along with the other Mercedes-powered teams, and Massa will be hoping to lead the British team’s charge in 2014 as they bounce back from a disastrous 2013 campaign.

Massa joins Williams after eight seasons with Ferrari, and he looks to be in a new lease of life. In interviews, he appears to be far more comfortable and relaxed whilst his on track pace appears to also have improved. It remains to be seen whether this will carry over into the new season, but the popular Brazilian has every reason to be excited about 2014 with Williams.

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.