Mattiacci denies making approach for Adrian Newey

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Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci has denied making an approach for Red Bull designer Adrian Newey despite a number of recent stories suggesting otherwise.

Newey is widely recognized as being one of the greatest designers in the history of Formula 1, working with Williams and McLaren before making the move to Red Bull in 2006. Since 2009, the team has been one of the front-runners in Formula 1, winning the drivers’ and constructors’ championships each year between 2010 and 2013, and much of the credit has been given to Newey.

Ferrari on the other hand, has entered something of a decline. The team has failed to win a championship since 2008, and spirited efforts from Fernando Alonso to win a world title have been hindered by the pace of the car, with 2010 and 2012 being examples of him coming close but just lacking the speed to beat Sebastian Vettel.

It was thought that Ferrari was willing to triple Newey’s salary to bring him to Maranello and hoist the team out of the doldrums, but the 55-year-old confirmed earlier this week that he was committed to Red Bull. Now, Mattiacci – who took over as team principal just over one month ago – has denied that he made an approach despite being tasked with turning Ferrari’s fortunes around.

“If I invite Adrian Newey to work at Ferrari? No,” Mattiacci said in yesterday’s press conference in Monaco.

However, he did admit that plans were being formulated in order to get Ferrari back to the front of the field, although he hinted that a complete overhaul was not on the cards.

“I would be extremely arrogant in saying that we already have a vision,” he explained. “Definitely we are having a picture, a quite accurate picture of the problems we have experience so far. It is clear the gap toward the leader of the championship. So we are clear what are going to be the next steps.

“I wouldn’t say vision, we know that we need to have a continuous improvement every race and that’s the way we are working. We have a lot of assets, as I have said, very positive people, drivers but definitely there is the need to improve dramatically.”

With Fernando Alonso also getting restless, it appears that time is of the essence for Mattiacci and Ferrari to cut the gap to Mercedes and Red Bull at the front.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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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.

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