Vergne handed 10 place grid drop after unsafe release in FP2

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Jean-Eric Vergne has been given a 10 place grid penalty for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix after his wheel broke free from his car at the end of the second practice session in Barcelona today.

The Toro Rosso driver was released from the pits with five minutes remaining, but the team failed to properly attach the left rear tire onto the STR9 car. As he came through the opening complex of corners, it came free and bounced through the gravel. Thankfully, it did not make any contact with another car and was eventually recovered by a marshal.

The FIA has taken a zero tolerance approach to loose wheels ever since the 2013 German Grand Prix, where a cameraman was struck by an errant wheel in the pit lane during the race. Thankfully, he escaped unharmed, but a precedent has now been set.

Daniel Ricciardo was the last driver to be handed a penalty, receiving a 10 place grid drop for the Bahrain Grand Prix after the team released him without properly attaching the tire on his car.

Toro Rosso has also been fined €30,000 by the FIA for the unsafe release.

Although it may seem like a harsh penalty for a minor error, bouncing wheels can be very dangerous. F2 racer Henry Surtees died back in 2009 after a wheel came loose from another car and struck his head.

With safety being so important, this penalty will hopefully ensure that a little more care is taken by the teams during pit stops.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.