Matchett: Mercedes may be keen to let their drivers race more in 2016

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One of the challenges Mercedes AMG Petronas may face in 2016 is how much their drivers can race each other this year, if the Mercedes W07 is as unassailable in races as it was in testing.

It’s a point NBCSN Formula 1 analyst Steve Matchett addressed Tuesday night during a taping of “Trackside” on 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis, with NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter Kevin Lee and the Indianapolis Star‘s Curt Cavin.

“Mercedes has been very proactive in trying to help the sport because they are aware if they, Mercedes is constantly winning, people start to complain that they are constantly winning,” Matchett said Tuesday during the show.

“In a way they are caught between a rock and hard place when the team is designed for the fundamental purpose of finishing one-two in every Grand Prix and when they do, people still don’t like it.”

Given the choice in different tires – Mercedes are among three teams that see their drivers split their tire choices heading into the weekend – this could be an area where Mercedes opens up the option to race harder.

“So Mercedes have acted and said to their drivers that within reason you guys are going to be allowed to race and also within reason the drivers are going to have much freer reign over their choice of tire.

“By that I don’t just mean the somewhat convoluted tire regulation itself, which will give them a greater choice of tires, but merely that the drivers themselves will have a greater input over that of the strategists so I’m led to believe.”

Matchett also thinks Ferrari could pose a bigger threat this year, to continue to build and grow on what they did last year.

“That will change in a heartbeat should the guys from Maranello with the 2016 Ferrari chassis get close to Mercedes’ outright pace.

“And we still aren’t really sure prior to qualifying, which is really going to be the litmus test of course, how fast that Ferrari is. I suspect it’s going to be much better than the old car. The question then is how much faster the Mercedes is than last year’s car.”

You can listen to the full show, here. Matchett’s portion starts at roughly the 53:00 mark.

Fascinating stuff, then, heading into this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. You can see TV times for all sessions, here and the Australian Grand Prix edition of the NBC Sports original digital series, “Paddock Pass,” here.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.