Rinus VeeKay rebounding well from ‘the biggest setback in my career’

Leave a comment

Rinus VeeKay was unfamiliar with oval racing before his inauspicious IndyCar debut June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, where he wrecked two cars in roughly seven hours.

But the rookie Dutchman was familiar with the consequences for “the biggest setback I’ve had in my career.

“It’s like being young: you do something wrong and your parents, they make sure you don’t do it ever again,” VeeKay, 19, said Tuesday in a news conference via Zoom. “Yeah, we had a month to work on it, make sure my preparation was as good as it could get.”

BEAT THE HEAT: Drivers try to improve cooling after stifling Indy race

SATURDAY’S TV INFOHow to watch the race Saturday

ENTRY LISTWho will be racing at Road America

The youngest driver in the NTT IndyCar Series rebounded from the last-place finish in his debut with an impressive fifth place (after starting 18th) last Saturday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

After a month of poring over onboard data, VeeKay made sure to avoid overstepping the boundaries as practice began at Indy – learning from his mistake of going below the white line 15 minutes into practice at Texas.

“I just started off with braking points that were safe for me,” the Ed Carpenter Racing driver said. “I started easy. Moments where I thought, ‘If I go further, it will snap or I will lose the car,’ I just built it up very slowly.

“At the end of the weekend, I got a top five in my second INDYCAR race. Very happy with it.”

Certainly happier than Texas, where VeeKay went into the high lane against the advice of teammate and car owner Carpenter, who delivered a nationally televised scolding in a politely firm and very public manner.

“Everything I kind of asked Rinus to do, he didn’t really do,” Carpenter said in the NBCSN postrace show. “I wanted him to just be patient, be careful. Last thing I told him before the race was, ‘Don’t go high.’ So we’ve got a little work to do there on the sponginess of him, but he can drive the car. He was coming forward with virtually no practice and never running an oval IndyCar race. He’s going to get there, it’s just going to be challenging here at times. But we still love him.”

VeeKay’s first season in IndyCar already had gotten off to a rough start before he climbed behind the wheel of the No. 21 Dallara-Chevrolet.

He was in Europe in May when IndyCar confirmed its 2020 schedule would begin at Texas. Because of travel restrictions from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, VeeKay was unable to enter the United States.

He flew to Mexico instead and spent two weeks quarantining in Cancun while desperately trying to secure an entry visa through the help of his ECR team and IndyCar (which enlisted the help of Indiana Sen. Todd Young).

The stressful ordeal meant “many weeks of no sleep” for VeeKay, who arrived in Texas only a few days ahead of the race.

“That wasn’t ideal,” he said. “I think that kind of affected my focus throughout the (Texas) weekend.”

Road America will be a much more welcoming environment — it was the site of his first U.S. victory in the USF2000 Series in 2017 (part of a weekend sweep that kicked off a string of 16 victories and 36 podium finishes in 48 starts over three seasons in the Road to Indy ladder series).

Last year, he started on the pole position in both Indy Lights races at Road America, winning the second.

“Road America is my all-time favorite track,” he said. “I cannot wait to go there and drive one of the quickest cars in the world on that track.

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
Laurent Charniaux/Pool via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.