Formula 1: Recapping the past week’s news

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McLaren, Alonso Looking to Enter IndyCar?

The most dominant news story from Formula 1 this week revolves around Fernando Alonso and McLaren.

The first domino to fall came with news that McLaren, as an entity, was seriously considering a move to the Verizon IndyCar Series next year, in addition to continuing its Formula 1 program.

Such a rumor is buoyed by the fact that McLaren team principal Zak Brown and Gil de Ferran, who recently joined the operation in a consulting manner, are meeting with IndyCar teams at this weekend’s Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, according to several reports.

Those rumors were ignited further in an interview that Sky Sports F1 commentator Martin Brundle did with The Express, a news outlet based in the U.K.

Brundle asserted that two-time world champion Alonso is unhappy with the situation at McLaren, and is re-evaluating his options for next year.

“I had a long sit down interview with Fernando Alonso pre-race (at Monaco) and he gave me a distinct impression that he likely wouldn’t be on the F1 grid next year,” Brundle said of Alonso, who dropped out of the Monaco Grand Prix with mechanical issues.

Brundle added, “You never know with him, he could retire then un-retire very quickly, but I think even his relentless energy and motivation is fading.”

Alonso, himself, was highly critical of the racing at Monaco, outright calling it “boring.”

“At least (watching the Indy 500) was fun, especially because the people who watched this race were a bit numb. Monaco was probably the most boring race in the history of F1 (in 2018),” Alonso said after Monaco.

Alonso, of course, famously sent shockwaves across the racing world last year when he skipped the Monaco Grand Prix to contest the Indianapolis 500, in a joint effort between McLaren and Andretti Autosport.

Given that Alonso had previously asserted his desire to add wins at the Indy 500 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans to his resume – he is also contesting a full 2018 slate of events in the World Endurance Championship, including Le Mans, with Toyota Gazoo Racing – Alonso’s Indy 500 effort immediately kicked off speculation about whether or not he would make the move to the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time.

And the reports of Alonso’s unhappiness in F1 at the moment along with McLaren’s apparent interest in going IndyCar racing will only add to that speculation.

Mallya Steps Down as Director of Force India

LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 11: F1 Force India team boss Vijay Mallya walks through the press as he arrives at The City of Westminster Magistrates Court on January 11, 2018 in London, England. The Indian liquor tycoon is wanted in India on charges of fraud and money laundering. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Vijay Mallya, co-owner for Force India, has stepped away from the team according to a report from BBC Sport.

Mallya has been embroiled in legal troubles recently – he was arrested last fall on charges of money laundering, following an arrest earlier in the Spring on charges of fraud – and is in the midst of fighting on extradition request from the Indian government.

Mallya’s son, Siddarth, will fill in his role with the Force India team, though the elder Mallya is staying on as team principal.

“There was no compulsion anywhere to resign. It’s just that I decided my son should replace me. I have my own legal issues to take care of, so it’s better that the company remains unaffected,” Mallya said of his decision.

Force India is currently sixth in the constructor’s championship, with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon sitting on 17 and nine points respectively.

Williams Parts Ways With Head of Aerodynamics

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO – MAY 26: Lance Stroll of Canada driving the (18) Williams Martini Racing FW41 Mercedes on track during qualifying for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 26, 2018 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Amidst a very disappointing start to the season that sees them last in the constructor’s championship with four points – courtesy of Lance Stroll’s eighth place in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Williams has parted ways with Dirk De Beer, who had been their head of aerodynamics, per BBC Sport.

According to the BBC, the FW41 chassis has been suffering from a significant aerodynamic issue in which the air is not flowing cleanly over the car when the front wheels are turned, hampering the car’s grip level when it enters corners.

Chief engineer Doug McKiernan will take over that role.

The next event on the 2018 Formula 1 calendar is the Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 10.

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How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).