Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI Toronto Notebook: Sunday

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Sunday’s races for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda were significantly more chaotic than Saturday’s, as big crashes took out several cars in both races and several heavy hitters encountered trouble.

In the end, each series saw a driver survive the carnage to complete a weekend sweep. Reports for both races are below.

 

INDY LIGHTS: KAISER SWEEPS AS TITLE RIVALS FALTER

Kyle Kaiser was atop the podium again in Race 2 at Toronto. Aaron Telitz was second with Zachary Claman de Melo third. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Kyle Kaiser had been the model of consistency during the 2017 Indy Lights campaign, but admittedly felt like he needed more race wins to build momentum heading into the season’s home stretch. And that’s exactly what happened, as Kaiser won Race 2 on Sunday to back up his Race 1 victory on Saturday, completing a sweep of the weekend at Toronto.

In Victory Lane, Kaiser revealed that he had high expectations ahead of the weekend, but was still beside himself with sweeping both races. “I knew this would be a good weekend for us because the team has always had a good setup here – Spencer won both races two years ago. But it’s really been a dream weekend – I’ve never had a double win weekend before. Actually, I can’t believe it,” Kaiser quipped afterward.

However, Sunday’s outing was not nearly as straightforward as Saturday’s. Colton Herta led from the pole to start race 2, with Kaiser going three-wide with Santi Urrutia and Nico Jamin entering turn one. Jamin, on the outside, was the odd man out and got pushed into the outside wall on corner exit. Shelby Blackstock then rear-ended Jamin and went up and over the right side of Jamin’s car, resulting in an immediate full course caution. Neil Alberico and Garth Rickards also were collected, with Jamin, Blackstock, and Alberico all falling out.

A lap 7 restart saw Herta lead Kaiser while Urrutia battled Aaron Telitz and Zachary Claman De Melo for third. Urrutia’s day would soon come to an end, though, as his car rolled to a stop on the front straightaway on lap 12 with mechanical issues, forcing a second full course caution.

Herta again kept Kaiser at bay on the restart and seemed poised to claim his third victory of the year. But, a damaged rear suspension that surfaced early in the race came back to bite Herta, as it finally broke as he was venturing through turn 6 on lap 26. He dropped out on the spot and was credited with 10th.

Herta’s problems left Kaiser all alone out front. Kaiser described afterward that he was content riding in second, with the knowledge that he would score good points be in position to capitalize on any mistakes.

“I know it sounds weird, but I was OK with the points for second,” Kaiser revealed. “But I saw Colton getting close to the wall a couple times and I thought if he made a mistake, I would be ready. I’m usually on the bad end of luck but this year I was rewarded. I am definitely more confident and more relaxed heading into Mid-Ohio, having a little bit of a cushion in the championship.”

Behind him, Telitz outdueled Claman de Melo in the battle for second, while Claman de Melo hung on for third, his second podium of the weekend. Juan Piedrahita was fourth while Matheus Leist rebounded from early trouble to finish fifth. Leist, running inside the top ten at the time, gently nosed into the turn 3 tire barrier on lap 10, but was able to quickly rejoin the fight without losing much time.

Kaiser now leads Leist by 51 points leaving Toronto, with Herta still in third. Claman de Melo has climbed all the way up to fourth, while Telitz sits fifth. Coverage of Indy Lights from Toronto airs on NBCSN Monday 7/17 at 7:00 p.m. ET.

Full results for Indy Lights Race 2 can be viewed here.

 

USF2000: THOMPSON SWEEPS AS ASKEW GETS COLLECTED IN PILEUP

Parker Thompson flew the Canadian flag again in Victory Lane on Sunday. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Race 2 was a case of “Right place, right time” for Parker Thompson. Running fourth in the early laps, he made it through a big pileup in front of him as Alex Baron, David Malukas, and Oliver Askew all crashed out together while battling for the lead.

Malukas tried an inside pass on Baron in turn 3, but the two made contact and crashed up against the inside wall on corner exit. Points leader Askew, running third at the time after both Baron and Malukas passed him in the opening laps, was left with nowhere to go and piled into the back of them. Malukas and Baron were out on the spot, while Askew managed to drive his wounded Tatuus USF-17 back to the pits, only for the team to find too much damage to continue. Askew was credited with 12th, with Baron and Malukas 13th and 14th.

Up front, Thompson held off Rinus van Kalmthout on the restart, while a big scramble for third place between Robert Megennis, Devin Wojcik, and Kaylen Frederick saw Frederick eventually emerge in third after making a pass on Wojcik in the final laps. Darren Keane came home fourth after a late charge, with Megennis coming home fifth as Wojcik fell back to sixth.

An elated Thompson was beside himself in victory lane after his weekend sweep. “I’m surprised I still have a voice! What a feeling, to get two in ‘TO’ in front of the Canadian fans! I’d say this is unbelievable, but it’s passed that now and into its own new realm,” Thompson quipped.

Thompson detailed that he was confident he had the pace to challenge Baron, Malukas, and Askew, but elected to play it safe early on. “I knew I had the pace so I hung back to let things string out before I attacked,” he explained. “I saw the three of them lock up so I backed off and I had just enough of a gap to squeeze through. And after yesterday, I was really calm on the restart. I had my team owner, Michael Duncalfe, talking to me on the radio keeping me prepared, so I just got a good jump on the restart and worked to keep Rinus behind me the rest of the way.”

Van Kalmthout, meanwhile, was enveloped in a battle for second that prevented him from mounting a challenge on Thompson. However, he was happy to end the day with a strong points haul.

“Once we went green, I had a good restart and I wanted to pass Parker for the points, but Robert (Megennis) had a great restart and he was right on my gearbox,” detailed the 16-year-old Dutchman. “I had to defend, and there was some wheel-banging, and that let Parker get away. I had the speed, getting the quick lap late in the race, but I got the most points I could and that’s what’s important.”

Leaving Toronto, Askew’s once insurmountable points lead is down to 18 over van Kalmthout, while Thompson now sits third, ahead of Kaylen Frederick and Calvin Ming.

Full results for USF2000 Race 2 can be viewed here.

Indy Lights and USF2000, along with the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, are back in action at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 28-30.

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F1 Preview: 2018 German Grand Prix

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The German Grand Prix continues its biennial presence on the Formula 1 calendar – it’s hosted F1 events in even numbered years since 2014 – as Formula 1 returns to the Hockenheimring this weekend.

The German fans will undoubtedly be joyful in Sebastian Vettel entering his home race in the championship lead, by nine points over Lewis Hamilton. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, Vettel despite being one of the most successful and decorated drivers of his generation, Vettel has won in Germany only once (2013, at the Nurburgring) and he has never won at Hockenheim.

Conversely, Hamilton has won in Germany three times, including twice at Hockenheim (2008 and 2016).

As such, Vettel will hope to add to his points lead over Hamilton with a win on home soil, though Hamilton may be equally as motivated after watching Vettel his own home race at Silverstone two weeks ago.

Nevertheless, their 2018 championship duel will most certainly continue to be closely fought.

Talking points ahead of the German Grand Prix are below.

A Different World in 2018 vs. 2016

Nico Rosberg during the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 31, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany. Photo: Getty Images

The Formula 1 landscape looked completely different back in 2016, the last time Formula 1 visited the Hockenheimring. Bernie Ecclestone was still the chief executive of Formula 1.

Nico Rosberg was partnering Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes team, and was on his way to a driver’s championship that year.

Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were in the midst of a slump as Ferrari went winless in 2016.

The world was still getting to know a then 18-year-old Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman having won the Spanish Grand Prix in May that year.

And the cars looked completely different, with skinnier and taller rear wings and taller rear tires highlighting the appearance differences.

In 2018, Vettel and Ferrari might be the strongest combination. Rosberg is long from Mercedes, and Valtteri Bottas is doing his best to shine in the wake of Hamilton’s enormous shadow.

Verstappen is still a rising star, though he has come under fire at times for overly aggressive driving and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has garnered more headlines this year, with a pair of race wins alongside his status as an F1 free agent after 2018.

In short, the Formula 1 landscape is hardly recognizable from what it was back in 2016. And even though Hamilton won that year, followed by Ricciardo and Verstappen in second and third, very little will carry over from that race two years ago.

Hamilton, Mercedes Look to Take Back Momentum from Vettel, Ferrari

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 08: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 leads Sebastian Vettel of Germany driving the (5) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 8, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

The seesaw championship fight has tilted back in the favor of Ferrari, with Vettel leading Hamilton after finishes of third and first in Austria and England. Hamilton, meanwhile, DNF’ed in Austria and came home second in England after spinning on Lap 1.

Hamilton trails by nine points, but this is hardly an unfamiliar position for Hamilton in 2018 – he started the year trailing Vettel until he took the championship lead for the first time after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Both teams have had multiple swings of momentum this year – Vettel won the opening two races before finishes of eighth in China (he spun after contact with Verstappen) and a pair of fourth place efforts in Azerbaijan and Spain before getting two more wins in Canada and England.

Hamilton, meanwhile stumbled out of the gates somewhat with finishes of second and third before taking a fortuitous win in Azerbaijan and two dominant wins in Spain and France before the misfortune in Austria.

All told the ebb and flow of the 2018 season seems to change with every race, and while Vettel now leads Hamilton again, things could change this weekend.

Raikkonen Trying to Fend off Ricciardo, Bottas

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 06: Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF71H on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 6, 2018 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Kimi Raikkonen is somewhat of a forgotten man this Formula 1 season, but he does rank third in the championship at the moment, 10 points ahead of Ricciardo and 12 points ahead of Bottas.

However, both Ricciardo and Bottas are likely thought to have had better seasons – Ricciardo has the aforementioned wins (at China and Monaco) and the only thing that has kept Bottas from the top step of the podium is a string of horrendous luck.

However, Raikkonen, to his credit, has picked up the pieces whenever others around him have faltered, and he has six podium finishes through 10 races.

However, in order to fully silence any critics, and maybe even keep his Ferrari drive, Raikkonen would do well to get a win in 2018.

Misc.

  • The driver challenging Raikkonen’s position within Ferrari is Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari junior driver has five points finishes, and that could have been six if not for a pit stop error at Silverstone that caused him to leave his pit stall with a loose wheel – it forced him to retire. Leclerc’s star is on the rise, and he could shine again in Germany.
  • Nico Hulkenberg is the “other” German driver on the grid. And though he has a 24 Hours of Le Mans win to his name, he is yet to finish on the podium in an F1 race. The Renault package may not be a podium threat in usual circumstances, but if he stays clean and others falter, he could sneak in there…and doing so in his home race would make that overdue podium even sweeter.
  • After a pair of eighth place finishes, Fernando Alonso has helped McLaren at least stop the bleeding after a dismal stretch of races from Monaco through France in which the team scored zero points. However, the team still has a long way to go, and Germany could be another weekend of struggles.

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