INDYCAR Photo by James Black
INDYCAR Photo by James Black

Andretti signs Rossi, Honda to multi-year contract extensions in INDYCAR

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STEAM CORNERS, Ohio – The most sensational combination in the NTT IndyCar Series will stay together for at least the next three years as Alexander Rossi and Honda both re-signed with Andretti Autosports.

The agreement was finalized Friday morning at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, site of Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. It will be publicly announced at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday.

Watch the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on NBC on Sunday at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.

Team owner Michael Andretti has been working diligently with Pieter Rossi, the driver’s father and agent to get a multi-year deal completed by the end of July. But several other things had to happen before that could be finalized.

“We’ve been working hard on this, and I’m happy to see everything come together,” said Andretti Autosport Chairman and CEO, Michael Andretti. “Since 2016, we’ve built a strong relationship with NAPA AUTO PARTS – they’re such a natural fit for the series, Alexander and for the team and we’re pleased to be able to continue working with them into 2020 and beyond. We first met AutoNation through Ryan Hunter-Reay – and we can’t thank Ryan enough for his support and efforts in helping the continued growth of that relationship. It’s been exciting to see AutoNation grow within the sport, and to see them now welcome Alexander to their family is just great.”

The most important was reaching a new agreement with Honda Performance Development (HPD) to supply engines to the team. Honda wanted Rossi to sign a four-year deal instead of the standard two- or three-year agreement because Honda wants Rossi to be the lead driver in the development of IndyCar’s new engine 2.4-liter engine formula that is currently set to debut in 2021. The new engine platform will feature an increase to 900 horsepower.

The Rossi’s wanted a two-year or three-year deal because the 27-year-old NTT IndyCar Series star is about the begin the prime years of his career.

Ultimately, they agreed to a three-year deal with one option year being held by the driver.

That means Rossi could be with Andretti until 2024 before a new contract would need to be negotiated.

“It feels good to continue with Andretti Autosport,” Rossi said. “Over the past four years, we’ve built a very strong team with great chemistry and I believe that we have the tools necessary to win races and championships. I’m looking forward to not just calling this my team, but my home in the IndyCar Series. Michael [Andretti], J-F [Thormann], Doug [Bresnahan] and the entire team have been working very hard to put all the pieces of this deal together and it’s definitely a relief to have the future settled and be able to focus on the championship fight ahead of us.

“It’s fantastic to have NAPA AUTO PARTS, AutoNation and Honda supporting the 27 program. I’ve had the pleasure of developing a great relationship with both NAPA and Honda and couldn’t imagine not having them in my corner. AutoNation has always had a strong partnership with the team through Ryan [Hunter-Reay] and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to represent the Drive Pink campaign and getting to know the AutoNation team better.”

Andretti was considering a move back to Chevrolet, which would have helped the team align with McLaren on a potential full-time IndyCar Series program. Honda and McLaren cannot do business together because of an edict from Japan after McLaren’s acrimonious departure from Honda in Formula One.

The balance of power in the NTT IndyCar Series is very important and currently Chevrolet features the powerful three-car combination at Team Penske with points leader Josef Newgarden, reigning Indianapolis 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud and 2014 IndyCar champion and 2018 Indy 500 winner Will Power. Ed Carpenter Racing is Chevy’s No. 2 team with Carlin and AJ Foyt Racing the other Chevrolet teams in the series.

Honda features the four-car effort at Andretti Autosport led by Rossi, 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay along with Zach Veach and Marco Andretti. Chip Ganassi Racing is another Honda power team with five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon and rookie driver Felix Rosenqvist. Other Honda teams including Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dale Coyne Racing.

Rossi won the 100thIndianapolis 500 as a rookie driver in 2016. Counting that initial victory, Rossi has seven victories, including two this season. He is currently 29 points behind Newgarden entering Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio.

Together, Andretti Autosport and Honda Performance Development have captured three championships and five Indianapolis 500 wins. In addition, the team has collected 55 Indy car wins with Honda power. In 2018, Honda won the NTT IndyCar Series manufacturers championship with 11 wins in 17 races. Honda currently leads Chevrolet in a tight battle for the 2019 championship – Honda with 976 points and Chevrolet with 930.

“This is an important moment for Honda Performance Development,” said Ted Klaus, President, Honda Performance Development. “Andretti Autosport is unquestionably one of the premier teams in the NTT IndyCar Series, and we are gratified to earn their confidence for the foreseeable future. At HPD, our first goal every season is winning the Indianapolis 500, and Andretti Autosport has won more ‘500s’ for Honda than any other team.  That said, HPD is fortunate to work with multiple high-caliber racing organizations.  This commitment from Andretti Autosport strengthens our entire effort, as we move into the next era of Indy car competition.”

Andretti also spoke of the team’s long and successful relationship with Honda.

“We have a longstanding relationship of success with Honda and we’re happy to continue to build accolades together” Andretti said. “All five of our Indy 500 wins have come under Honda power, and I’m looking forward to working with the entire HPD team to add to that count.”

With only five races remaining in the NTT IndyCar Series season, Rossi continues his quest to capture his first championship at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend. NBC will cover Sunday’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio live at 4 p.m. ET.

 

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.