MotorSportsTalk continues its 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver review with a look at Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin, who quickly endeared himself to the paddock and who we’re all pulling for a fast recovery after his Fontana accident.
2014 SEASON PREVIEW
- Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
- 2013: Did Not Participate
- 2014: 16th Place, Best Finish 2nd, Best Start 2nd, 1 Podium, 1 Top-5, 7 Top-10s, 4 Laps Led, 14.4 Avg. Start, 13.7 Avg. Finish
At the start of the year, I wrote of Mikhail Aleshin’s potential this season: “Realistically, this entry could achieve a top-15 finish in points with one or two top-fives, and maybe a podium. Anything more would be a bonus.” Sixteenth, with exactly one top-five that was a podium almost perfectly bares that out.
But stats don’t tell the story of Aleshin’s first season racing in America. The Russian had to adapt to the culture, the tracks, the scenery, the competition level and a competitive teammate – one who sought a new number two rather than an overly presumptuous wanna-be 1A. Aleshin made both friends and enemies on track with his aggressive nature, but he also endeared himself to the paddock – and few had that pegged given the early year angst about Russia and some of the things were going on in that part of the world. Frankly, there were some concerns he’d see out the year given the sanctions imposed against his backer SMP Bank.
So it spoke volumes of how far he’d come that the concern when his accident occurred at the Fontana finale was so overwhelming. Yes, you’re always anxious when an accident as scary as Aleshin’s happens, but for 30 minutes it felt like a 10-year paddock veteran had been involved, rather than someone who’d only been there 10 months.
The level of support for Aleshin has been staggering this year, and that only makes us all want to root for him even more throughout the recovery process into 2015. He wants to return; he’s a fighter; and if he gets the all clear I’d expect him back with SPM next season.
Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.
The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.
“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.
“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.
“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”
The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.
Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.
Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.
McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.