Ricciardo wary of Ferrari’s early pre-season pace

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Daniel Ricciardo has admitted that he is wary of the pace that Ferrari showed in the first F1 pre-season test, but is reserving judgement until the opening race of the year next month.

Today marks exactly one month to the first race of the 2015 season in Melbourne, Australia, and the early signs from testing in Jerez are that Ferrari has made a step forwards from last year after finishing as the quickest team in Spain.

Red Bull, on the other hand, finished towards the bottom of the timesheets, although it did complete far more running than in the first test in 2014 – a fact Ricciardo found some comfort in.

“At the first test you worry about yourself, but of course we’re aware of the laps Mercedes did and the lap time Ferrari put down,” he told Keeping Track, the official podcast of the Australian Grand Prix.

“We expect nothing less of Mercedes to be honest, but Ferrari look like they came out pretty strong. For now they look good, but it’s still early, and are they going to be the same once we’re racing in race conditions?

“For us, it was a lot better than last year, but we’re still trying to find our feet. But we know we have time on our side, and we’re pretty quick at turning it around.”

With one month to go, Ricciardo admitted that he is excited to get back in action, particularly in front of his home fans at Albert Park.

“I’m hanging out to race,” the Australian said. “Four weeks can’t come soon enough.

“Last year, coming into it, there was less expectation after our pre-season. This year it’s a bit more exciting. If we’ve got the car on Sunday, then I believe I can get it far up the grid.”

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.