Formula E: Series boss shrugs off Sebastian Vettel’s “cheese” comment

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Last summer, as the FIA prepared to launch its all-electric Formula E championship, four-time Formula One World Champion Sebastian Vettel didn’t give the upstart series a vote of confidence.

In fact, he called it “cheese.” And not in a good way.

But as his series prepared to race in Buenos Aires this afternoon, F-E boss Alejandro Agag has taken the high road on the matter.

In fact, Agag has expressed his hope that Vettel will eventually change his tune and experience F-E himself.

“We’re big admirers of Vettel,” Agag said on Thursday according to Reuters. “He just doesn’t like Formula E. Maybe one day, we can convince him to come to Formula E.”

Perhaps Vettel’s comments last summer stemmed from the image issues that go with electric cars. Those issues are something that F-E is hoping to solve as it works toward becoming a stronger series in the years ahead.

“People don’t think of them as quick, as cool,” Agag said before adding that “we respect what Vettel thinks, but I also respect what Alain Prost thinks” – a reference to the four-time World Champion, who helps lead the e.dams-Renault squad in the series.

F-E may not be the fastest series in the land, but it has provided its fair share of highlights in its opening races.

The inaugural event in Beijing ended in mayhem as Lucas di Grassi won following a wild, last-lap crash involving Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld. Solid races have followed at Putrajaya, Malaysia (won by former F1 prospect Sam Bird) and most recently at Punta del Este, Uruguay (won by current F1 test driver Sebastien Buemi).

Not bad considering the series was essentially nothing just a couple of years ago.

“Two years ago, we didn’t have cars, we didn’t have venues, we didn’t have teams. We didn’t have sponsors or broadcasters,” said Agag. “Today, we have a championship going full-on with big fights between the drivers.”

That championship takes another turn this afternoon in Buenos Aires (start time, 2 p.m. ET) on a 1.5-mile street circuit set at the city’s Puerto Madero district.

Buemi, the series’ most recent winner, appears ready to continue his momentum. After leading both practice sessions earlier this morning, he has won pole position for today’s race.

He’ll be joined on the front row by Jaime Alguersuari, who just missed the pole by 27 one-thousandths of a second. Heidfeld and Bird will be in Row 2.

Despite a small accident in qualifying, championship leader Di Grassi shall start on the inside of Row 3. He’s joined there by Andretti’s Jean-Eric Vergne, who challenged Buemi for the win in Uruguay before a mechanical failure stopped his surge.

Speaking of Andretti, IndyCar veteran Marco Andretti will make his F-E debut from 14th on the grid. He’ll have familiar company in Row 7 with another long-time IndyCar pilot, Oriol Servia, starting to his inside.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.