Maldonado and Ericsson left frustrated by Spa practice crashes (VIDEO)

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Pastor Maldonado and Marcus Ericsson made no secret of their frustration after both suffering hefty crashes during practice for the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday.

During FP1 at Spa-Francorchamps, Maldonado ran wide at Malmedy and lost control of his car before sliding back across the track and into the wall.

The Venezuelan driver walked away unharmed, but the same could not be said of his car which had sustained a large amount of front-end damage in the impact.

“Today wasn’t the start to the grand prix weekend that we wanted,” Maldonado conceded.

“I lost the rear end in FP1 and unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep the car off the barriers. My crew did a great job to get everything back together for FP2, but then there were a couple of red flags to interrupt that session too.”

In spite of the incident, Maldonado seemed encouraged by Lotus’ performance in practice and general pace at Spa.

“I think we can have a good weekend from now,” he said. “There’s good potential in the car and we know what we need for a strong result.”

Ericsson’s crash came just minutes after FP2 had resumed following Nico Rosberg’s tire blowout, prompting a second red flag period on Friday afternoon.

Heading through Pouhon, a high-speed left-hander, Ericsson touched the kerb and lost control of his car, causing it to spear off-track and into the wall at high speed.

Like Maldonado, Ericsson was unharmed, but was quick to apologize to the team for making a mistake.

“Unfortunately at the end of the session I made a mistake in Pouhon,” Ericsson said. “I touched the grass, the car snapped and I hit the wall.

“I want to apologize to the team for this incident, which has given them a lot of extra work. It is racing, sometimes it happens, but when it happens it is, for sure, frustrating.

“Before the accident it had been a good day for us, and some of the outcomes from what we were doing were positive.”

Qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix is live on CNBC and Live Extra from 8am ET on Saturday.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”