INDYCAR

Bourdais helping Coyne drivers at Toronto, eyes return

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TORONTO (AP) Sebastien Bourdais is trading in his helmet this weekend for the IndyCar race in Toronto. And he is looking ahead to a possible return near the end of the season.

The Frenchman is returning to the race track in a mentorship role for Dale Coyne Racing just two months after a crash during qualifying for the Indy 500. The two-time Toronto winner will help out team rookies Ed Jones and Esteban Gutierrez. Bourdais finished seventh in Toronto last year.

Bourdais fractured his pelvis , a hip and two ribs when his car exploded into pieces and spun through Turn 2 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway after hitting the wall at 227 mph.

“If I see something, then I’ll try and help, and if I don’t, then I’ll just shut up and see what happens,” Bourdais said Thursday.

“I’ve been around this place a lot, but there’s only so much you can do from the outside so we’ll see how I can help them. It was important for me and the team to show up for the first time since the accident and just get to see everybody and try and contribute to the effort.”

Bourdais, 38, was walking without crutches and says his progress is ahead of schedule. He is not ruling out a return this season.

“Unless I get in the car in testing and call it quits because I’m not ready, the plan is to do Watkins and Sonoma,” Bourdais said of the final two races of the season. “That’s been my goal since really looking at the time frame and where we were going to be at the six weeks weight bearing, the eight weeks walking.”

Seeing the four-time IndyCar Series champion back around the track was a welcome sight. Will Power stopped to chat with Bourdais after the news conference.

“It’s great to see him back, can’t wait to see him in a car,” he said.

Bourdais, who started the season with a win at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, said that he has been starting to exercise again, which includes some cycling.

“It’s kind of a weird feeling because there’s some groups that are fairly equal side to side and one little thing that you feel very vulnerable,” Bourdais said. “But it’s all coming back nice and slow, but it’s going to be a bit of a process for sure.”

Being in a coaching position is nothing new for Bourdais, but it’s never come at the expense of him being sidelined. He said he’s fine with the mentorship role even though it’s tough not to be in the car.

“I’ve tried to be a good patient, not trying to rush things and do anything stupid,” he said. “But obviously now that I’m feeling not 100 percent but not far from it either, it’s definitely kind of itching to get back into the car.”

 

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.