IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tristan Vautier

AP
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Tristan Vautier. From not having a ride at the start of the year to being on the verge of one again with Dale Coyne Racing next year, Vautier made the most of most of his opportunities.

Tristan Vautier, No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2013: 20th Place, Best Finish 10th, Best Start 3rd, 1 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 16.5 Avg. Start, 16.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 22nd Place (11 Starts), Best Finish 4th, Best Start 11th, 1 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 10 Laps Led, 20.3 Avg. Start, 16.5 Avg. Finish

A strange odyssey of a year for Vautier saw him lose rides he thought he had, gain rides he wasn’t expecting, make a couple mistakes, but ultimately deliver enough consistency and stability to produce results.

Vautier became the latest top-level driver to enjoy a stint with Dale Coyne’s team, which isn’t a bad thing. Talented shoes such as the late Justin Wilson, Bruno Junqueira, Oriol Servia, Cristiano da Matta and Alex Lloyd – who like Vautier all won championships in junior open-wheel formulas – have passed through those halls. Considering he was in a poor spot after a rookie 2013 season with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports that failed to meet expectations, re-entering with almost zero expectations in the friendly confines of the Illinois-based team’s operation was a great thing for him.

As such, he got better as the year went on. After his car rotation at Indianapolis, a fluke fourth occurred at Detroit and a similarly good sixth happened at Mid-Ohio after leading, both thanks to typically brilliant Coyne fuel gambles that played out. But even more than those two, the drive that stood out to me was Iowa, where he finished on the lead lap in 12th, having finally felt comfortable on the whole with the car, the team, and with ace engineer Michael Cannon.

A glaring mistake came at Pocono, when Vautier got a run on championship contender Graham Rahal going into Turn 3 and took them both out. In hindsight, it was a move he probably could have avoided making, but you understand why he went for it.

Comparing results in Coyne cars must be viewed differently – a 16th or 17th in this field is the equivalent of say an ninth or 10th for other teams – with anything beyond that a bonus. Usually, Vautier exceeded the equipment at his disposal, and he was the perfect driver to stabilize the lineup after a rocky first few races as the team rotated drivers. It was a significantly better second season for him than his first in 2013.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing
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Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.