Oriol Servia adapts to new Dragon role, and isn’t done driving

Leave a comment

MIAMI – He hasn’t been in a Verizon IndyCar Series race in 10 months, but with four FIA Formula E races under his belt since September, Oriol Servia has still banked more seat time than most of his IndyCar driver colleagues lately.

Now though, the popular Catalan is embracing his new role as partner and managing director of Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing, having been confirmed to the new role earlier this week.

It’s an interesting contrast for Servia, now 40, who spent parts of the 2000 through 2014 seasons (except 2010) with 11 different teams in CART, Champ Car or IndyCar – and Dragon isn’t among them.

But with his base in California near the team’s Los Angeles area headquarters, and with Penske looking to expand Servia’s role within the team, the new role made sense.

“Hopefully it’s a good one,” Servia said of his move during Friday���s FIA Formula E driver press conference. “Since I joined the series, and joining the team with Jay, I liked where the championship was going.

“From the beginning I was going to be involved in managing and operations. We decided I’d start driving because it’s what I’ve done all my life. I didn’t give up the wheel that easy, trust me.

“But a couple things happened. Loic Duval became available, and we’ve regarded him highly for a while. We saw the opportunity of me taking on a bigger role.”

Servia’s career ran the gamut in IndyCar of these teams: PPI, Sigma Autosport, PWR Championship Racing (the former PacWest), Patrick Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, Newman/Haas Racing (three stints), KV Racing Technology (three stints), Forsythe Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (two stints), Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Panther Racing.

Of those 11 teams, only Coyne, KVRT and RLL still field full-time teams in IndyCar, with DRR likely set for another Indy-only appearance this season.

But the year Servia didn’t race in IndyCar, in 2010, he struck up a relationship with Michael Andretti and got a taste of the managerial side of affairs.

“Something I liked through my career in IndyCar is that I’ve been through a lot of good, and maybe not so good teams,” Servia said. “In 2010, when I wasn’t driving, Michael hired me as a consultant for a few races.

“It’s something I’ve always enjoyed. I’ve got along with Jay well for a few years. We saw a great opportunity for me to step up more on the technical and commercial side of the team.”

Will Servia’s managerial role prevent him from a possible Indianapolis 500 appearance? The answer, definitively, is no.

“We’ve had some good conversations… it’s looking good,” Servia told this writer with a smile, but without giving anything else away.

Servia’s two drivers this weekend are his aforementioned replacement, Duval, and Belgian ex-Formula 1 driver Jerome d’Ambrosio.

Dragon Racing enters the weekend fifth in the Team’s Championship, with 38 points.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.