Photo: IndyCar

Andretti leads, but true speed hard to gauge at IMS test

Leave a comment

As the Verizon IndyCar Series tested new aerodynamic components Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in advance of this May’s 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, speeds weren’t as important as comfort level with the new components.

Between the domed skids and rear wing beam flaps, devices have been installed on the chassis fielded by both Chevrolet and Honda to try to keep the cars more on the ground to avoid an encore of last year’s week of practice, where three cars had airborne accidents.

For what it was worth, Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay led the combined timesheets during today’s test, but whether that’s an actual gauge of anything beyond a comfort level today only on a sunny but blustery day at the Speedway remains to be seen.

Andretti certainly didn’t, judging by his immediate reaction on Twitter:

Lest Andretti be the only one to make a sandbag remark, so too did Simon Pagenaud’s engineer Ben Bretzman – Pagenaud drives a Chevrolet.

With various downforce configurations and a mix of both qualifying and race runs, speeds are just what they were for the day.

“We ran through quite a bit of different combinations as part of the aero kit configuration test,” Bill Pappas, INDYCAR vice president of competition, race engineering, said in a release. “The conditions weren’t ideal, but we did get a lot of information to go over and look through over the next couple of days to get ready for the month of May.”

Notable elsewhere was the return of James Hinchcliffe to IMS after his accident in practice last year. The Canadian clocked 46 laps in his first large oval running at IMS, after also running the short oval at Phoenix last week.

“The good news is we all seem to be working toward the same thing,” Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 5 Honda, said. “We are all genuinely trying to make a safer car but a car that still races well. I think there is a way to appease both sides of that argument.”

The 15 cars that tested completed just over 500 laps on the 2.5-mile oval. Despite being listed to test, neither Mikhail Aleshin nor Jack Hawksworth did. Sebastien Bourdais and Conor Daly saw their teams bow out for different reasons, as noted earlier today.

Times and speeds are below:

IndyTest040616

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.