At the end of May, no one will likely remember who had the fastest car on the third day of Indianapolis 500 practice.
The record will show that Carlos Munoz was the fastest with a speed of 230.121 mph thanks to a tow, followed by Townsend Bell (228.969), Tony Kanaan (228.172), James Davison (228.043) in his first full day at the track in the No. 19 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing, and Sage Karam (227.822).
The lasting impressions from Wednesday will be those of relief that Helio Castroneves and Pippa Man both walked away from scary wrecks during the six-hour practice session.
Castroneves, the three-time Indy 500 winner, got loose exiting Turn 1 during his second lap of the day and after hitting the wall, flipped up in air before landing on its wheels.
The Team Penske driver quickly exited his No. 3 Chevrolet and would be cleared in the infield medical center. With under 15 minutes left in the session, Castroneves returned to the track in a backup car, running 12 laps for the 15th best speed at 226.670 mph.
Mann wrecked her No. 63 Susan G. Komen Honda for Dale Coyne Racing coming out of Turn 4 with about 55 minutes left in the session. She slid into the inside retaining wall before also hitting the attenuator on the wall of the pit entrance.
Mann was cleared in the medical center but did not return to the track, finishing the session 21st fastest at 226.301 mph.
The session’s top 10 was made up of four Honda engines and six Chevrolet engines.
The driver with the most practice time was Bryan Clauson (31st fastest) in his No. 88 Chevrolet, who logged 97 laps, followed by Charlie Kimball with 93.
Team Penske’s fastest driver was Simon Pagenaud, who was P1 for much of the session, but wound up P7 at 227.478 mph.
Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.
It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.
“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”
In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.
With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.
In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.
“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.
“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”
Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said. “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”
Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.
“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.
“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”
Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.