19 car/driver combos expected at IndyCar test in Texas

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A two-day IndyCar test session that begins tomorrow at Texas Motor Speedway will help set the aerodynamic options available to teams when the series returns to the 1.5-mile oval for the Firestone 600 in June.

19 different car and driver combinations are expected to take part in the test.

The track has reported tomorrow’s session will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time (10 a.m. – 6 p.m. ET) and will be open to the public, albeit without access to the infield and garage areas.

Before last year’s IndyCar race at Texas, the low-downforce aero package was tweaked slightly to take away drag from the cars.

That increased the pressure on drivers to hang on and conserve their tires, and made for a race that was clean but somewhat lacking in excitement compared to past Texas races.

After that race, Ryan Hunter-Reay noted the series’ difficult job of getting the package correct with the downforce levels and the tires’ rate of falling off. We’ll see if this upcoming test will help in that regard.

The test could also be an eye-opening experience for some of the series’ rookies, like Andretti Autosport’s Carlos Munoz (who finished third last weekend at Long Beach), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Mikhail Aleshin, and Bryan Herta Autosport’s Jack Hawksworth.

Hawksworth has a solid run going at the Beach until he was collected in the Lap 54 crash triggered by Hunter-Reay’s contact with Josef Newgarden in Turn 4.

But now he’ll have to shift focus toward navigating Texas’ high banks. While the British racer has handled other high-speed ovals such as Indianapolis, Pocono, and Fontana, he did so in the markedly slower Indy Lights cars.

“I am looking forward to the test at Texas to see what one of these [IndyCars] is like on an oval,” he said recently. “I’ve never been to Texas before, so it will be interesting to see the layout. It looks unique for an oval, especially the ones I’ve been on.”

While he’s learned the proper line through video, Hawksworth still plans to lean on the advice of his team owner, Bryan Herta, and his other crewmates.

“There’s a really good bunch of guys on the team,” he said. “Bryan has a bunch of experience as a driver, and he’s available to give me advice about all kinds of circuits.

“The engineers and everybody are really helpful in getting me up to speed and help me as much as they can. The other part is just me getting on with it myself.”

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).