Category Archives: Indycar

Formula One: Zak Brown’s strategic masterstroke?

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McLaren Honda’s announcement that Fernando Alonso will compete in the 101st running of the Indy 500 this week came at the perfect time for both the team and driver. After a more than challenging start to the 2017 season the team were in dire need of some positive press coverage. The move towards Indy, initialed by Zak Brown (Team Principle) has achieved exactly that.

There are a plethora of reasons as to why this move will be a positive for McLaren Honda moving forward, this article will seek to explore these from driver, commercial, and team perspective.

Driver: Fernando Alonso’s contract with McLaren expires at the end of the 2017 F1 season. Mclaren Honda’s failure to provide Alonso will a car capable of challenging for regular points let alone podiums or wins has been seen by many as a waste of Alonso’s talent. Should Fernando seek to remain in Formula One beyond his current agreement McLaren Honda will have their work cut out to convince him they can deliver a car that will allow him to challenge for a 3rd world championship. Zak Brown and the team realise this, and as such have begun to explore other ‘benefits’ they can bring to the table that other teams may struggle to offer. Running at the Indy 500 is one such benefit. With Honda power supplying half the grid in Indycar, slotting Alonso into a front running team was not a challenge. Realistically only McLaren could offer an active works F1 driver this opportunity.

Will this alone be enough to convince Alonso to stay? Beyond money, which at this point in his career may not be an incentive,  what else could they offer him? Running in LMP1 at Le Mans for the foreseeable future would prove very tough for McLaren to offer to Alonso. With only Porsche and Toyota capable of challenging for a win, it is doubtful a manufacturer drive would be open.

Through Zak Brown’s involvement in the Motorsport Network he has a connection to Formula E (Motorsport Network are minority shareholders of the championship) in addition McLaren supply ECU units. Could the team offer him a drive in Formula E alongside F1 from 2018 and beyond? Equally Zak Brown runs his own endurance racing team, could this be used to entice Alonso to events such as the Daytona 24hrs.

If McLaren can find Alonso success in other categories could they convince him to remain with the F1 team whilst they rebuild? Or could it show him there is more to life than Formula One.

Of course this assumes Alonso would perform well in other categories. The flip side of this strategy would be if Alonso struggles at the Indy500 or other events the team ‘allow’ him to compete in, he will devalue his own stock. He may make himself less appealing not only to F1 teams but also to other championships. In running at Indy Alonso risks limiting his own options when it comes to negotiating new a new agreement with McLaren.

Commercial: McLaren Honda’s recent struggle to retain and entice new partners has been well documented. With another underperforming season in prospect the team’s ability to ‘stop the rot’ is unlikely. Partners join Mclaren on the basis of front running exposure. They are not receiving this. Media coverage the team does receive is largely negative or not focused on racing.

Alonso running at the Indy 500 has created a good news story for the team, media coverage has been extensive and positive. This will continue into Indy. Through running a McLaren livery at the Indy 500 with all Mclaren’s partners gaining exposure, Mclaren will be able to make up for any exposure shortfall they may have faced as a result of disappointing performances in Formula One. Running at Indy will also give Mclaren’s partners additional exposure in the US, a key strategic market. This will help the team in future partner discussions.

The counter argument to this is that existing partners may realise they can achieve expansive coverage, greater than that of F1, simply by partnering with a top driver at a single event. Any partner / sponsor questioning a future with the team may be presented with a new strategic direction through this gimmick / project.

Team. There is no I in team. As fantastic as it is to see a current F1 driver taking part in the Indy 500, but Zak Brown and McLaren Honda management can’t for one second forget that they have fundamental problems to address within their own team. Issues that no PR stunt will overcome. There is talk that Mercedes have agreed to support to Honda in overcoming some of their Power Unit shortcomings, assuming the support leads to a turnaround in form, perhaps there is a light at the end of the Honda struggle. McLaren must focus on this. There is no point ploughing resources into keeping Fernando Alonso happy if the situation around overall team performance does not improve.

A side comment on the offer of Mercedes support. It is impossible to imagine a scenario in which Mercedes will give Honda sufficient information to enable them to challenge for outright performance. Will a Honda Power unit developed with Mercedes not just become an incredibly expensive customer power unit which similar to a Williams or Force India will not be allowed to win?

Could McLaren Honda heading to the Indy 500 also be a comment to the FIA ahead of discussions around future power unit regulations? If they find success in Indycar will Honda start to camping for the same power unit to be used in F1? Are McLaren in sufficient a position of strength to threaten to switch to Indycar should future F1 power unit regulations not shift in their favour?

In conclusion. Zak Brown’s commercial minded approach to management of McLaren Honda and their issues is hugely refreshing for the fan and for sponsors. I look forward to seeing this same dynamic approach being taken to resolving team performance issues.

Credit to Tim Holmes for the concept Mclaren Indycar livery imagery supporting this article. Follow Tim on Twitter here

 

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Indycar: Let the racing begin!

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After 2 weeks of intensive Formula One testing, the motorsport fans may be craving a bit of real open wheel to wheel action this weekend. Fear not! Indycar is here to satisfy your needs with the 2017 season getting under way at the famous street come airport circuit coming from St Pete!

Mobil One’s The Grid, preview this weekends racing and the season in prospect, with fantastic insights from the likely title contenders. With F1 drivers talking about increase fitness requirements to master their 2017 contenders, with retired World Champion Nico Rosberg referring to his former peers as gladiators, it’s worth remembering that Indycar drivers have to cope with heavier cars with no power steering! With Nico’s new found spare time perhaps he should head state side to see real gladiators at work!

Formula One: Indycar vs. F1. The Drivers Championship

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As a Driver, if you compare the gravitas of succeeding in Formula One to Indycar, on the face of it, Formula One is the ultimate accolade. Exploring the physicality of each series tells a slightly different story.

Current era F1 cars are both lighter and more powerful than an Indycar. They produce more downforce and utilise higher performing brake performance. However, they also feature power steering. An Indycar is heavier, less powerful, produces less downforce and critically has no power steering.

In recent interview for JWGP Felix Rosenqvist following his test for the Chip Ganassi team at Mid Ohio commented, “it doesn’t matter how fit you are, the first few laps in an Indycar destroy you. I’ve not driven in F1, but compared to my time in DTM, GT’s and F3, the physical strength required to drive those cars is much greater”

You see it in an Indycar driver’s physique, they train to build physical upper body strength much more than cardio work. Completing an Indycar race is far more physically demanding than an F1 race under current regulations. Current leading F1 drivers such as Daniel Ricciardo have acknowledged this and called for the 2017 regulations to place more emphasis back towards the driver.

The variety in circuits is another unique component to the challenge of Indycar. Over a single season driver’s will visit; street circuits, road courses, long ovals, and short ovals. Each configuration requires a very different style of driving ranging from man handling a car around St Pete, to driving like you re holding a cup of tea you can’t spill around Indianapolis. Drivers can’t afford to specialise in one style of racing. To win in Indycar you have to be strong in all circuits. As Will Power explains in the film below from Mobil One’s The Grid:

Ultimately Formula One elevates a driver’s profile to global super stardom, but is Indycar the real human test of raw skill? With former F1 driver, now Indycar winner Alex Rossi opting to complete his season in Indycar rather than return to F1 with Manor Racing this season perhaps the tide is turning. Indycar has created an environment in which driver skill and strength is key, the economics of the series enable drivers to earn a living with reduced pressure around finding a budget to race.  Has Indycar quietly become the new home of the real racing driver?

IndyCar: VIDEO -100th Running of the Indy 500

This weekend will see the 100th running of the Indy 500 take place. Mobil One’s the Grid explore the history of the event and interview previous race winners including; Juan Pablo Montoya, Vin Diesel Tony Kanaan, and Ryan Hunter Reay, Alongside drivers bidding to find success around the brickyard such as Marco Andretti.

In addition to sharing dates, the Indy 500 shares the accolade of the jewel in motorsport crown with the Monaco Grand Prix. With an expected track side audience of 400,000 and a global viewing audience in the 100 millions, wining the Indy 500, like winning around Monaco raises a driver to truly iconic status.

 

Indycar: The Indycar Mobile App is going international.

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The 2016 version of the smartphone application puts Verizon IndyCar Series fans in the driver’s seat with a wide array of features that take the fan experience to the next level. It is available for both Android and iOS devices and is now available globally.

Previously available only via carriers in the United States, the INDYCAR Mobile App is now accessible in all countries except Crimea, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria.

“The Verizon IndyCar Series has a large global audience and, thanks to our partners at Verizon, those fans are now able to get even closer to the action with the INDYCAR Mobile App,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, the parent of INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “As we prepare for a legendary season, we’re eager for our fans around the globe to experience the benefits of following Verizon IndyCar Series action with the INDYCAR Mobile App.”

Verizon customers in the United States are rewarded with the full range of features including live video streams of race weekend sessions (except the race broadcast), in-car video streams from 360-degree cameras, an interactive three-dimensional “Live View” with real-time leaderboards and car telemetry, two-dimensional “marching ants” with a leaderboard and car telemetry, radio chatter between drivers and their pit crews, streaming audio from the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network and other content exclusive to the INDYCAR Mobile App.

Non-Verizon customers in the U.S. and international customers have access to exclusive video on demand, a timing and scoring leaderboard, social media feeds and other exclusive content.

To download the INDYCAR Mobile App, go to the applications store on a smartphone device or visit http://www.verizonwireless.com/mobile-living/inside/indycar/.

Formula One: Rossi to combine F1 & Indycar roles

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Alexander Rossi is back in the Manor Racing fold as Official Reserve Driver. Although he’ll be racing in the 2016 IndyCar Series, he will also be making history as the first driver to perform a Formula 1 role simultaneously.

Alex will attend 11 Grands Prix with Manor Racing, where he will work with the engineers and drivers to help develop the MRT05, contribute to team and partner marketing activities and be available to deputise should he be required to compete at short notice. His first F1 event will be the Russian Grand Prix in May.

Dave Ryan, Racing Director:

“We’re very fortunate to have someone of Alex’s calibre in the role of Official Reserve Driver. The fact that he’s racing full time in the IndyCar Series this year was simply a challenge to be overcome; something we’re pretty good at. We need a safe pair of hands for the role, which always carries the potential to have to step up to race, but also someone who can really contribute to the development of the car. For Alex, F1 is still unfinished business. He did a great job when he drove for us in five of last season’s races and he’s a highly rated and valuable part of our line-up. He does have one heck of a schedule ahead of him and it’s a commitment that only the most disciplined of drivers would be able to manage. We’re confident he’s the man for the job.”

Alexander Rossi:

“I’ve invested most of my career in F1 and I’m not one to kick my heels and wait for things to happen, so this is my way of staying sharp and prepared. It was disappointing to miss out on a race seat with Manor Racing this year; everyone knows I pushed and worked hard for it. As Official Reserve Driver though, I have a very complimentary dual program at the highest level of motorsport. IndyCar Series is the premier category of open wheel racing in North America and extremely competitive. I also have the privilege of racing with a championship winning team, Andretti Autosport. I’m confident this experience will add to my role as a very important cog in an F1 team’s wheel. My schedule this year is demanding, but no more than a full time F1 schedule. I will attend 11 Grands Prix, only five of which take place during the IndyCar season, and I am certainly used to the travel demands of the F1 calendar. It’s great to be back with a team I know and with whom I share a mutual respect and passion for the sport we love.”

Formula One: VIDEO – Rossi discusses his future with Andretti

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During a seat fitting for his newly announced seat with the Andretti Autosport Indycar team,  Former Manor Grand Prix Team driver Alex Rossi took time out to share details on how the deal came together, what it feels like to be heading back to the United States and the excitement around participating in the 100th running of the Indy 500.

For full details on Rossi’s racing future with the #98 Andretti Autosport Indycar team click here

Formula One: FIA open calls for expressions of interest in the supply of alternative engines to F1

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The FIA have formally announced a  call for an expression of interest from candidates in becoming the exclusive supplier of the alternative engine to the existing competitors for the 2017, 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Candidates have until November 23rd 2015 at 17:00 CET to register a formal expression of interest. Allowing only 10 days for this process suggests the FIA have a number of possible candidates in mind already.

This initial process, or request for information, is being completed to assure credibility of possible candidates with details on the financial status, capacity, capabilities, and client support ability, required in this first phase.

To review the call for expressions of interest document in full please follow this link.

The technical specification under which engine will be developed is not detailed in the brief and is available only upon request to the FIA. It is understood the specification is likely to be a 2.2 litre twin turbo configuration similar to that seen in Indycar.

It should also be noted that the request for expression of interest makes no comment on desired end cost of the power unit or development expectations around the power unit.

The FIA formally launching this stage of the process serves to demonstrate the importance the governing body is placing of the future of power unit development in Formula One. In advancing this strategy the FIA can serve to undermine current power unit costs and manufacturer control of the sport.

Formula One: Opinion – Indycar Engine for Red Bull Racing?

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Last month I ran an opinion piece on my belief that Red Bull Racing will run an unbranded evolution of the current Renault engine under an Ilmor development programme. Whilst I maintain this is a possibility, the emergence of a client engine tender from the FIA presents another option.

The FIA have not publicly stated the intended specification of the client engine, but it has been mentioned on several occasions that the engine is likely to be a 2.2 litre twin turbo configuration. By coincidence this happens to be the same configuration of the current Indycar engine philosophy.

The existing Indycar engine weighs 114kg (compared to the minimum weight 145kg F1 engine) with power in the region of 650-700hbhp which would be 50-100 bhp less than the estimated F1 Power Units. Despite a power shortfall the Indycar engine has produced top speeds significantly higher than those seen from an F1 car, albeit racing on oval tracks.

With engine mapping developments to suit F1 track design and gearbox technology, the Indycar engine could pose a formidable threat to the F1 engine in the right car.

There are currently two engine manufacturers supplying engines to Indycar teams, these are Honda and Chevrolet. Whilst Honda produce their engine in house, the Chevrolet engine is developed and manufactured by Ilmor Engineering.

As mentioned in my earlier piece Mario Illien, Co-owner of Ilmor Engineering, has had extensive involvement with Red Bull Racing in proposing a development route for their current engine predicament.

Could it be that Red Bull though Ilmor have privately petitioned the FIA to introduce the existing Indycar engine specification into F1 under the banner of the client engine?

If this is an option the only real question is why the FIA would suggest a tender for 2017 and not 2016? There is an essentially off the shelf solution waiting ready to go. Could the threat of the client engine for 2016 be the weapon the FIA’s arsenal in the fight against engine manufacturers control of Formula One?

Could Red Bull Racing, possibly with the support of Bernie Ecclestone, have engineered this entire situation? Leaving  the  FIA with no real alternative than to allow the Ilmor design Indycar specification engine into F1 for 2016 or face losing two teams from the grid?

Another factor to consider with respect to the Client Engine possibility is that Indycar engine manufacturers supply teams with engines through a leasing model at a cost of less than $4 Million per car per season. This is a fraction of the cost of current F1 engine supply agreements. If a client engine programme could be introduced into F1 with the performance parity the Indycar engine specifications suggest, then engine could be hugely attractive to all non-manufacturer backed / owned  teams.

Finally, the Honda engine in Indycar is a  fast and reliable race winner; the FIA approving a shift towards this specification initially through the client engine could be music to the ears of the Honda Racing F1 engineers in Japan.

INDYCAR: GoPro Join Forces with Indycar to Create 360-Degree Video

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On Aug. 27, GoPro and INDYCAR joined forces to produce an interactive 360-degree video of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ ambitious endeavor to send cars across one of the world’s most iconic locations – the Golden Gate Bridge.


Watch the video on the GoPro’s YouTube page here.

Viewers can manipulate the video (available in select browsers) by clicking on the screen and dragging their cursor to view different angles of the event.

Four competition Indy cars that competed in the season finale GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 30 participated, piloted by Josef Newgarden, Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal and Will Power. Andretti led the procession in the No. 25 Andretti Autosport Honda driven in six Verizon IndyCar Series events by the late Justin Wilson, who passed away Aug. 24 due to injuries sustained in a crash. The event was dedicated in memory of Wilson.

James Hinchcliffe drove the INDYCAR Experience street-legal two-seater with the series’ championship trophy, the Astor Cup, as his passenger in the rear seat. Holmatro safety trucks followed behind the procession bearing flags with a logo created to honor Wilson.

OPINION:  Showcasing 360 Degree Video Technology from GoPro in the filming of Indycar’s procession for Justin Wilson first and foremost gives fans an opportunity to feel part of the tribute.  Moving beyond this GoPro offer insight into the possibilities of immersive viewing for motorsport in the future. As audiences shift towards streaming of live events this level of personalisation of the viewing experience could set Indycar and GoPro apart from the rest. F1 take note… And WOW the Golden Gate Bridge looks spectacular!