With aero kits homologated and Rolex 24 this weekend, IndyCar could be poised for flurry of news

3 Comments

You might remember back on November 25 (OK, you may not, but that works as a convenient setup to link back to this post), that with a couple GP2 veterans announcing they’d be testing in December, I examined just how many free agents there were vying for the roughly seven or eight remaining Verizon IndyCar Series seats for the 2015 season.

In short, there’s an overload. And there will be way more drivers left without a seat when the music stops.

However, there has been zero official movement on new full-time seats since late October, when Jack Hawksworth was confirmed in a second car for A.J. Foyt Enterprises, and for any seat overall early November, when Jay Howard was confirmed in a second Indianapolis 500 entry for Bryan Herta Autosport.

With James Hinchcliffe confirmed at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports back in early October, we have to go back to September to find the last driver without “JH” initials confirmed in IndyCar – and that was Simon Pagenaud to Team Penske.

Technically, yes, the first three drivers at Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball) were all confirmed over a series of days in December. But those were more formalities than surprises, and none of them involved team movement.

The month of February is now setting up to cram nearly an entire offseason worth of news – or close – in the span of three-four weeks.

Here’s what still needs to come down the pipeline for IndyCar before the March 8 season opener in Brasilia, Brazil:

AERO KITS, AERO KITS, AERO KITS

You probably wouldn’t have realized this otherwise because it was NFL Championship Sunday, but Sunday marked the homologation date deadline for Chevrolet and Honda. INDYCAR is yet to confirm an official launch date for the kits, but figure news on when that launch date is could be imminent within the next week or two.

INDYCAR’s Will Phillips posted about aero kits on Twitter on Sunday.

INDYCAR DRIVERS/TEAM OWNERS IN OTHER DISCIPLINES

Sarah Fisher made her competitive racing return this past week at the Chili Bowl. And now, a boatload of drivers from the 2014 IndyCar season will be in action at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

More than a third of the starters from the 2014 Indianapolis 500 are on the grid, and a handful more were pounding the pavement during the week seeing if they could get anything done. It didn’t seem to happen.

THE REST OF THE GRID

Back in November, the available seats still outstanding were: Chip Ganassi Racing #4, Andretti Autosport #4, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports #2, CFH Racing’s road/street course #2, Dale Coyne Racing’s #1 and 2, and Bryan Herta Autosport’s #1.

Two months later, exactly all of those seats are still yet to be filled. There is literally no point to writing another silly season update beyond the one I penned in November because almost nothing has changed.

With IndyCar’s media day set for Feb. 17 in Indianapolis, the next month figures to be prime signing time to ensure each driver/team gets at least one or two days of testing in before the season opener.

So, basically, if you cover IndyCar, get a template ready that reads “Driver signs with team for the 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season,” and go from there depending on each driver’s respective resumes over the years.

TRACK, AND CAR, PREP

As noted in the last week, Brazil’s track construction in Brasilia is finally underway. Between finishing that up, then bolting on the aero kits, testing them at Barber and heading to St. Petersburg, IndyCar will have its own version of “March Madness” awaiting it.

The long and short of the above: after an offseason with little to no news, really, over the extended gap since last August’s season finale, IndyCar is finally set for a flurry of it that should occur – that really has to occur – between now and the March 8 season opener.

Valtteri Bottas on Silverstone pole; Nico Hulkenberg a surprising third

F1 Bottas Hamilton Silverstone
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Valtteri Bottas nipped Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in Silverstone qualifying Saturday to maintain the team’s hammerlock on F1 results this season while Nico Hulkenberg was a surprise in third.

Hulkenberg is filling in for Sergio Perez for the second consecutive race while the Racing Point driver recovers from coronavirus.

It’s the best F1 start since 2016 for Hulkenberg, who was left without a full-time ride after the 2019 season. He finished 20th at Silverstone last week when an engine problem on the grid prevented him ftaking the green.

FERNANDO IS HERE: Alonso arrives for Indy 500

“The last seven to eight days have been crazy,” Hulkenberg said after qualifying. “This weekend I felt much better prepared. Q3 was just head down, full beans, and give it whatever I had.

“I’m a bit surprised to be standing here, but there’s a big smile on my face.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen qualified fourth and will be among the field trying to derail the Mercedes duo that has won the first four races of an F1 season delayed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Feels good,” Bottas said after nipping Hamilton by a few hundredths of a second on his final lap for his 13th career pole position. ” I just love qualifying especially, when it goes well. Proud to drive this car. The race pace is there, so our first job is to get a good start off the line tomorrow and go from there.”

The impressive lap came two days after Bottas, who won the season opener in Austria, announced a one-year contract extension with the team.

Mercedes also is set to begin negotiating a new deal with Hamilton, who has won the past three races in F1 but was disappointed Saturday.

“Valtteri did a great job, but for me, it wasn’t a perfect last lap,” he said. “I don’t think many teams will be doing a one-stop race tomorrow so let’s wait and see how things turn out.”