Ed Jones Racing

Strong Phoenix test, driving for Chip Ganassi, has Ed Jones eager for IndyCar season to begin

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Ed Jones hasn’t just climbed the ladder of success in Indy car racing the last three seasons, he’s been on a high-speed elevator to potential stardom.

He finished third in his first Indy Lights season in 2015, won the series’ championship in 2016, and then was named INDYCAR rookie of the year in 2017 with Dale Coyne Racing (helped greatly by a season-high, third-place finish in the Indianapolis 500), his first season in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

That elevator ride has now reached one of the top teams in the sport, Chip Ganassi Racing. And Jones wants to keep riding upward and forward with arguably the best ride of his overall racing career.

Photo courtesy IndyCar

Jones, who turned 23 on Monday, got off to a good start with his new team in last week’s open IndyCar test at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Raceway).

The Dubai-born British citizen said the test was both “extremely positive” as well as had the team “heading in the right direction,” particularly with IndyCar’s new aero package for 2018, he said in a media release.

Jones said he likes the new bold of the IndyCar chassis, especially that it has significantly less downforce than last year’s car and puts control of the car more in a driver’s hands, an aspect he calls refreshing.

Jones has already had two tests with the new 720-horsepower Dallara-Honda car. First was last month at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.

And then there was the major test last week in Phoenix, one that bodes well with promise for the season-opening race at St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 11.

Jones logged a total of 12 hours on-track in the No. 10 NTT Data ride during both day and night conditions, running a total of 283 laps around the 1.022-mile low-banked oval.

He was as high as seventh on the overall speed charts before ending the test with the 12th-fastest average speed of 187.696 mph, less than one-tenth of a second behind four-time IndyCar champ and CGR teammate Scott Dixon.

It was good preparation for the second race of the season on April 7 at the same track.

Jones has one more test coming up late this month, back at Sebring, before the season kicks off on the temporary street course in St. Petersburg.

“The test went really well,” Jones said of Phoenix. “It was my first time running with the new aero kit on an oval, so there was a certain degree of adapting to do as we worked on finding the best set-up for the car, but we logged a lot of very solid laps and by the second day I felt much more comfortable and able to attack more.

“The new package is very different to last year, when we were pretty much flat the whole way round the lap on ovals. Now, due to the reduction in downforce, there is more lifting involved, which makes it more difficult to hold onto the tires over longer stints. That will introduce more of a technical and tactical element into the driving, which I think will suit me well.

“We made a lot of changes over the two days and learned and improved a great deal. Although we still have more pace to find and plenty to pick up in a short space of time, we’re heading in the right direction and I believe we left Phoenix in a much stronger position than when we arrived, both in terms of single-lap speed and race simulations, which is all extremely positive.”

And he hopes to keep that positive feeling going when things are for real, starting at St. Pete.

“I am confident we can be competitive from the outset at St. Petersburg,” Jones said. “I’m really looking forward to the season.

“I feel completely at home inside the team and while I’m under no illusions that it’s going to be tough – because the level in IndyCar is sky-high right now – I have a great opportunity with Ganassi this year and I fully intend to make the most of it.”

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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