Getty Images

Servia set for a copious amount of prep time for SPM Indy 500 run

Leave a comment

The last two races he’s driven in the Verizon IndyCar Series, under less than ideal circumstances, Oriol Servia has performed admirably with barely a day – if that – of preparation in each case.

As he’s now been confirmed for the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ third car with more than a month before race day, it’s a slightly different situation.

“It feels great to have a little more than one night to prepare to jump in a car,” Servia joked during a media teleconference on Monday.

“But it actually is the one race that’s probably the easiest to find chemistry because you’re going to be there running many days, where you get to know the team many hours a day, on track, off track. There’s going to be some rainy days, as there usually is in May in Indy, and those days we get to spend a lot of time with our engineers, mechanics.

“Obviously, it’s not as good as being a full season or many seasons with the team, but it’s the closest thing because we end up spending more time probably in the month of May with the team than the rest of the season combined almost. So I’m not worried there.”

Indeed the preparation comes from Servia’s past years of competition. SPM will mark his 14th different team he’s driven for in his 16-year career dating to 2000, but only his fifth at Indy.

Servia raced for KV Racing Technology in 2008, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in 2009, 2014 and 2015, Newman/Haas Racing in 2011, and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (as Panther DRR in 2012) in 2012 and 2013.

Servia and SPM’s paths crossed in 2011, when Servia qualified third and Alex Tagliani, in what was then SPM’s No. 77 car (same number Servia will drive this year), took the pole position.

“I had great races in the past at this little place, and it’s coming at a point in my career that I feel the most prepared. So I couldn’t be happier. I also couldn’t be happier to join Sam’s team and organization, who we actually shared the front row in 2011. I know they’re going to give me probably the best shot I could have in a one-race entry program.”

Will Marotti, the Connecticut pastor, and team co-owner Sam Schmidt also joined the conference call. Several partners were announced for the Marotti Racing consortium; an Indianapolis-area construction firm called ABC, a firearms concern called Carson Firearms and a fitness application called FITCOM were identified during the call.

Further commercial partners are expected to be revealed at a later date.

Servia and Schmidt also strongly hinted, without naming him directly, that a past engineer in Yves Touron could be on board to engineer the car.

Touron, who worked with Servia at DRR, currently serves as Team Pelfrey’s race engineer in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series.

“That question should be answered by Sam, but a name he brought up in an earlier discussion is a name that I did like. I don’t know if that’s going to be him. So I don’t know if Sam can answer that,” Servia said.

Schmidt followed, “Yes, we’re negotiating a little bit, I think. Oriol’s got someone he’s worked with before that we’ve worked with before, that would be a perfect storm, but he’s just trying to clear his schedule.”

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
Mark Sutton - Pool/Getty Images
Leave a comment

SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

YOU’RE INVITED: Bubba Wallace hopes to see Lewis Hamilton at Daytona

History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.