IndyCar drivers Colton Herta, Jimmie Johnson focus on new cockpit hydration systems

IndyCar Colton Herta hydration
Greg Doherty/Getty Images

Colton Herta had two significant firsts this season in the NTT IndyCar Series that somewhat are intertwined – a career-high in victories (three) and career-low in hydration system failures.

The Andretti Autosport driver made it through all 16 races without having a problem with staying hydrated, which often is an overlooked issue for drivers.

“It’s the same thing with everybody,” Herta told NBC Sports during the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, where he ended the 2021 season Sunday on a two-race winning streak. “They have these systems, and all of them break at some point, and you end up with having a race where you don’t have water.

“For me, it’d happened at least once a year in my career, sometimes even more. Obviously, my career is fairly short, so I can’t imagine what other guys have been through.”

After a 2019 failure at Portland that “really beat me up” (finishing fourth after starting on pole position as a rookie), Herta put a greater focus on conditioning and hydration. He switched to a new “cool shirt” that made headlines after his first April 25 victory in the oppressive humidity of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

He also ran the FluidLogic hydration system that delivers precise bursts of fluid through a nozzle integrated with his helmet microphone. Herta is reminded by a steering wheel light to hit the steering wheel button (a Michigan State study earlier this year concluded that drivers’ reaction times suffered and errors increased because of inconsistent hydration by those relying on a traditional water bottle and hose setup).

“Throughout this whole year, I haven’t had any failure from the FluidLogic system,” Herta said. “It’s worked great. The pump is outstanding, and that’s the biggest thing is usually you use windshield wiper pumps to pump the fluid in, but they never quite work well enough. The other reason is just how easy it is. You don’t need an extra tube. It’s kind of hooked in with the radio. So it makes it really simple.”

Though Long Beach is the shortest race on the schedule (and wasn’t as hot as St. Pete), Herta estimated he still lost 3-4 pounds over 85 laps.

“You’re still working really hard, so it is just as important,” Herta said.

FluidLogic hydration          Herta’s Andretti teammates also used the system this year, and it’s spread to other series (NASCAR Cup Series drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Tyler Reddick and Anthony Alfredo have implemented FluidLogic while others are testing it while awaiting the new NextGen cockpit layout in 2022).

Jimmie Johnson also has been using FluidLogic in IndyCar after trying it several years ago in stock cars. The system, which now weighs about 2 pounds, drew resistance because it was heavier (which is viewed as hindering performance).

“I’m involved in it both in the business and using the product in helping develop it,” Johnson told NBC Sports. “We had some things to work through adapting it to IndyCar, but it’s been in the car, and it’s a great system. The engineering/crew chief requests for weight and where they can put it is a pretty tough challenge, to have it so small and light and survive

“I actually started using the Fluid Logic system at least five years ago in the Cup car. we’ve really tried to help get it off the ground and get it going. We’ve had some issues, and (former Cup crew chief) Chad (Knaus) didn’t have the patience to try to help develop it, so we kind of moved on, and now we’re back to it. So helping them develop it and make it more readily available for all the drivers is something we’re aggressively working on now.”

Johnson said the more cramped confines of an IndyCar cockpit create some hydration challenges as he’s faced calf cramping “especially on the braking leg because you push the pedal so hard.

“It’s more than just volume,” Johnson said about staying hydrated. “It’s the ratio of what you put in and with electrolytes. These cars, although it’s a shorter race, the intensity is so much higher, and I’ve had to change my solution that I’m drinking to prevent cramping more here than the Cup car. The Cup car was easy just about volume and having a large enough bag to put in the car. But with our issues in space, I have to run a much smaller bladder, and that’s changed it for me.”

Herta said his team has been receptive to the system because it’s simple to implement.

“Yeah, it’s not something you typically worry about, but it’s one of those things you just know is going to work perfectly,” Herta said. “The water pressure is always good and is always consistent.”

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing

Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.