Minardi dismayed by Monza’s uncertain F1 future

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Former Formula 1 team owner Gian Carlo Minardi has expressed his dismay at the uncertain future faced by one of the sport’s most iconic circuits: Monza.

Located on the outskirts of Milan, Monza has hosted all but one Italian Grand Prix since the formation of the F1 world championship in 1950, and welcomes Ferrari’s loyal ‘Tifosi’ fan club to the race in their thousands each year.

With the sport taking a more global approach to its scheduling, the race at Monza is at risk of being cancelled upon the expiration of its contract in 2016.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said last July that the race had been “disastrous for us from a commercial point of view”, paving the way for events such as the Qatar Grand Prix to take its place on the calendar.

A number of figures within F1 have spoken out against such a move, with Minardi – owner of the popular Minardi team that raced between 1985 and 2005 – becoming the latest to express his dismay following the demise of the German Grand Prix.

“We are talking about circuits that are part of a nation at the height of motor racing, not only in sport,” Minardi said, referring to Hockenheim and the Nurburgring in Germany.

“However, they will not have a grand prix. This should make us think.

“Formula 1 represents a real economic benefit for state assets. Precisely for this reason, Formula 1 must be treated like the World Swimming Championships, the Olympics or World Football Championships – events in which not only the Sports Federation but also the Government can intervene.

“Do not forget that Italy has the number one cultural heritage in the world, which is envied by all. Therefore, we should use Formula 1 as a magnet to attract tourists, including holiday packages, before and after grand prixs, with worldwide tour operators. Besides, we are talking about a city which is easily accessible by plane and high-speed trains.”

Minardi continued to wish Ivan Capelli, the man tasked with saving the Italian Grand Prix at Monza, the best of luck in his challenge.

“I want to wish the President of Milan Automobile Club, Ivan Capelli, good luck for the start of negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone and our ACI President Sticchi Damiani, who cares about the existence of Italian Grand Prix and Monza’s security,” Minardi said.

“He will make every effort to find the right funds and agreements. Monza, along with Silverstone and Monte Carlo, is Formula 1.”

An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

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IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”