Maldonado hoping to fight with Red Bull and Ferrari in 2015

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Pastor Maldonado believes that the teams behind Mercedes in Formula 1 this season are closely-matched, with Lotus capable of fighting with Red Bull and Ferrari after a solid display in pre-season testing.

Following the switch to Mercedes power units for the 2015 season, Lotus has enjoyed a far better winter testing programme and appears to have made a step forwards in terms of both pace and reliability.

Maldonado has been buoyed by the E23 Hybrid’s form in pre-season, and thinks the field will be quite tight in 2015 behind the dominant Mercedes drivers.

“I think behind Mercedes, the group is getting more compact,” Maldonado explained. “At the moment I see Williams at the head of this group, but not far away to be honest.

“And then I see Red Bull, Ferrari, us, maybe Force India is coming because they are new for this week and they are looking quite good from what we can see. So it’s quite interesting.”

Maldonado is pleased with the mileage that Lotus has completed over the winter following a complete overhaul of the car for 2015.

“I’m quite happy,” Maldonado said. “I’m quite happy because we have a lot of mileage, we have different compounds run. It was very complete.

“Compared to last year it is completely different. Reliability, maybe we’ve reached the top which is quite positive. From now, we start to be more focused on the car performance and try to push for the rest of the season.

“Most of the teams have continued the project they had last year. For us, it was difficult. But we are gaining to a good point. We have very good mileage, nearly 4000km or something like that. It’s quite positive. I think we are much better prepared than last season.”

The 2015 Formula 1 season kicks off with the Australian Grand Prix on March 15.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.