Lotus confirms Pastor Maldonado for 2015

Leave a comment

We may only be in July, but the first driver confirmation for 2015 was made yesterday as Lotus boss Gerard Lopez revealed that Pastor Maldonado will be staying with the team for next season.

Although his retention was something of a formality, most teams choose to leave their driver announcements until later in the season. However, in an interview the Lotus F1 Team website, Lopez confirmed that the Venezuelan driver will remain at Enstone for 2015.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but as it’s half way through the season I can confirm 50% of our driver line-up for 2015 as Pastor is with us for next year,” Lopez said. “Despite the difficulties we’ve had so far this season, he recognises our true potential as a team and we recognise his true potential as a driver. We will achieve great things together.”

Maldonado joined Lotus at the beginning of the season after spending three years at Williams. The one-time grand prix winner has gained many critics over the years as a result of his aggressive driving style, but he has shown signs of immense pace and ability.

It has been a very difficult year for Lotus following a period of great uncertainty in 2013. Maldonado’s signing did ease the financial pressure at Enstone, and Lopez is looking forwards to the team being properly back on its feet next year.

“We have been able to take steps to ensure that 2014’s lessons have been learnt and we get back to where we want to be in 2015 – fighting for podiums,” he explained. “When we look at the team’s recent history we can see what is possible. In 2011 our car followed a unique development path with the forward facing exhausts. This concept didn’t give us the results we wanted but look how we bounced back in 2012 and 2013!

“Our 2014 car hasn’t given us the results we’ve wanted, so watch this space in 2015 and beyond!”

With 50% of the line-up confirmed, a question mark hangs over the other 50%: Romain Grosjean. In 2013, he developed from a crash-kid driver to one of the most talented starlets on the grid. In 2014, he has scored all eight of the team’s points, and is well respected in the F1 paddock.

However, with the team set to switch to Mercedes engines in 2014, Grosjean’s place may be at risk. Three of the four Mercedes-powered teams use Petronas fuel, with the fourth – McLaren – suffering a lack of performance as it is running on Mobil 1. Grosjean’s main backer is French supplier Total, but it is unclear whether the team will have to switch to Petronas, thus ending that deal.

For the time being though, both drivers will be hoping to do the best job possible and try to score some points at today’s German Grand Prix. You can watch the race live on CNBC from 7:30am ET.

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