F1: Raffaele Marciello joins Sauber as test/reserve driver

Leave a comment

Ferrari Driver Academy member Raffaele Marciello will back up Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr at Sauber next season as the team’s test and reserve driver.

The 20-year-old Italian, who tested Ferrari’s 2014 F1 challenger last month in Abu Dhabi (pictured, right), will also continue to compete for Racing Engineering in the developmental GP2 series.

In 2014, Marciello finished eighth in the GP2 standings with a win at Spa-Francorchamps and four podiums overall.

He entered GP2 this past season after winning the 2013 FIA European Formula 3 title on the strength of 13 race wins.

“I am really pleased to become a member of the Sauber F1 Team, which has a long tradition of building up excellent drivers,” Marciello said in a statement. “I really think that this is the best choice for my future career. I am also happy to compete for one more season in the GP2 Series, which, together with my new F1 role, will give me a very busy 2015 season.

“I want to thank the Ferrari Driver Academy for giving me this important opportunity, and now I really can’t wait to start delivering my best.”

Marciello also tweeted:

His new boss, Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn, also confirmed in the same release that Marciello would have the chance to take part in multiple Friday practice sessions during the 2015 F1 season.

With this announcement, it would appear that Marciello has effectively replaced Giedo van der Garde in the test/reserve role at Hinwil.

The Dutchman had also been in the running for a 2015 race seat before Sauber chose Ericsson and Nasr to replace both Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez.

Gutierrez has since become Ferrari’s reserve behind Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.

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