Kubica ‘could become an option’ for 2018 Renault F1 seat

Renault Sport

Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul has admitted that Robert Kubica could become an option for a race seat in 2018 following a successful second test at Paul Ricard earlier this week.

Kubica raced in F1 between 2006 and 2010, claiming one grand prix win, before injuries sustained in a rally accident to his right hand and arm cut his single-seater career short.

The Pole made a return to motorsport in the World Rally Championship, but began to move towards a return to single-seaters earlier this year with tests in GP3 and Formula E machinery.

Renault gave Kubica a relaxed test in a 2012-spec F1 car last month, only for his performance to prompt the French manufacturer to give him a proper run earlier this week at Paul Ricard to assess his ability.

Abiteboul confirmed on Friday at Silverstone that Kubica’s second test had been successful, but did not want to get ahead of himself when discussing a possible racing return.

“We decided after the first test he’s done for fun just to get a feeling for a single-seater Formula 1 car, we decided to go one step further which is the other test that we’ve done in Paul Ricard this week,” Abiteboul told NBCSN.

“He has completed a lot of mileage, consistently, with lots of methodology, lots of enthusiasm as always with Robert.

“But one thing I don’t want is to get carried away by what we’ve done. There is a big step between doing a private test somewhere with an old car, a V8 that is turned down, and a modern car in a racing context. Let’s go step by step.”

Abiteboul did, however, concede that Kubica could be an option for Renault in an F1 race seat for 2018, but that more progress would need to be made.

“Robert is someone we could be envisaging for next year. It’s clear that we have to look at options for the future,” Abiteboul said.

“He could become one option for the future. It is not what is being discussed right now, so I don’t want to create more speculation than this.”

When asked what the next step in the plan with Kubica was, Abiteboul said: “No plan. It’s a bit too early.

“We need to look at the data from the last test and look at how we could be moving forward for next season, but there is plenty of time.”

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.