Red Bull’s Horner says Mercedes could lap field twice in Oz

1 Comment

By now, it’s been established that Mercedes is the favorite going into this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix while Red Bull, the reigning four-time World Champions, are battling to be competitive after a dismal run of preseason testing.

No doubt the other teams in the paddock are thrilled at this development, but Red Bull’s team principal, Christian Horner, appears to have indicated that while his team won’t be their dominant selves, Merc’s tandem of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg may very well pick up where they’ve left off.

‘You could see a higher level of domination than we had last year,” he told the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper. “Looking at Mercedes’ race simulation, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they finished two laps ahead of everyone in Melbourne. They have a massive advantage.”

Whether it’s a last-minute bit of preseason mind games or not, only Horner knows for sure. But his additional declaration to the Mail that Hamilton is the favorite to become a two-time World Champion does go along with what’s being predicted by at least some observers going into Melbourne.

“What we know about Lewis is that he is extremely talented and naturally fast,” he said. “And he’s in a good team, so he’s probably got to be the favorite going into the season.”

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has also made Hamilton his pick for the title this season, even though he told Germany’s Sport Bild that Red Bull’s top gun, Sebastian Vettel, will ultimately be the best to adapt to the new 2014 regulations “once his car gives him the chance to do so.”

Speaking of the RB10, Horner is confident that the team and engine partner Renault will be able to turn things around by the time the World Championship calendar enters its European stage later this spring.

‘We believe it is inherently a good car,” he said, again to the Mail. “I have every confidence in the team. There’s no panic. There are engineering solutions and there is no better set of engineers in the pit lane.

“By the time we get to the European races in May, we should be OK.”

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne