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Formula One Open Wheel

Bottas Signs Extension with Mercedes

Ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, it was announced on Wednesday that Mercedes driver, Valtteri Bottas, has signed a contract extension retaining the Finnish driver through the 2018 season. Bottas was originally inked just before the opening race of 2017 to replace the reigning world driving champion Nico Rosberg who quite unexpectedly retired after his victory.

The timing of this extension along with the original contract offered by Mercedes strongly suggest that the team attempted to engage the services of other competitors before settling on Bottas. However, the decision has proven to be an excellent one, with the new Mercedes driver racking up two race victories in Russia and Austria, nine podiums and two poles. He has also built a solid relationship with his teammate, multiple world champion Lewis Hamilton.

“We gave Valtteri a big challenge this year: joining the team at the eleventh hour, stepping up to the forefront of F1 and pairing with the sport’s best driver as his team mate. With that in mind, his results have been probably even more impressive,” said Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “There have been ups and downs – more ups, fewer downs – and some great highlights like his two race wins in Russian and Austria. Overall, the balance of his performances and his upward trajectory made it a no-brainer for us to continue with him into 2018. For our team, the bonus factors are the respect and sportsmanship that have grown between our two drivers. The chemistry and dynamic between Valtteri and Lewis work and are what we need to take the fight to our competitors.”

It is imagined that Hamilton will be pleased with the signing, as he is known not to get along well other potential teammates that the Silver Arrows considered, such as Fernando Alonzo. The two drivers have blended seamlessly, and that must make team management must easier.

According to Valtteri Bottas, “When the team hired me for the 2017 season, they took a leap of faith by putting their trust in my skills. This new contract for 2018 shows that I’ve earned that trust. I’m happy to have celebrated my first race wins in a Silver Arrow. However, there’s always room for improvement and I still have not shown my full potential. I will continue to work hard on and off the track, to further improve my driving, get even better results and show that putting their trust in me was the right decision.

“As a driver, I’ve been able to learn and grow massively, and we have already enjoyed some really good moments this season that I will never forget. I’ve been very impressed by the mentality, commitment and the team spirit this team holds. Partnering Lewis has also been really good, and I’m enjoying the respect we have and the will to push this team forward together. I want to thank all the board members, the people at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth as well as the race team and all the fans for their support and trust. It means a lot to me.”

Competition in the Formula One Series resumes on Friday with First Practice for the Singapore Grand Prix.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement

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IndyCar Open Wheel

2017 GoPro Grand Prix at Sonoma Preview

Momentum?  Momentum has been all over the place in 2017. But regardless of how the race and championship turn out, this has been the year of Josef Newgarden.

Look Out For?  While eight drivers have a mathematical possibility of winning the Astor Cup, we should look out for Scott Dixon and Newgarden. If either or both go out and finish towards the back , the variables for a win will all change rapidly.

Sentimental Favorite?  The two drivers who have multiple wins, Will Power and Dixon, are both enormously popular in Sonoma.

Challenges?  That depends. Because it’s the last competition of the season, there is more pressure than usual as drivers scramble for rides in 2018. Since it’s a very tight championship, at times it can be easy to emphasize it rather than the race.

Quotes:

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet): “Sonoma is a beautiful place and the track is one of the best on the circuit. It’s also where I won the race last year and won my first championship, so it’s definitely a place that means a lot to me. We’ve worked hard this season in the No. 1 DXC Technology Chevy and have some things we’re excited to try at Sonoma. We have a great shot at the title, and we’re ready to challenge Scott Dixon and my Team Penske teammates for it. My team has worked hard to get to this championship fight, and they put together a strong car for Sonoma. I feel great about our chances. We’re ready to get on track and put everything we can into the race.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 hum by Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The whole hum by Verizon Chevrolet team is looking forward to Sonoma with the championship on the line. The Watkins Glen weekend wasn’t the best, but we’ve quickly moved on from that. A great thing for us was to get back on the track last week for a Sonoma test. Our session was great. We were able to gain some information and start to formulate our plan of attack. We have another (series open) test day later this week which will help us as well. Overall, we’ve been good on the road courses. I really like the Sonoma course and the No. 2 team is definitely capable. The points are tight. It’s going to be a fun weekend with all of the scenarios that are out there. We have a championship-caliber team, and we’re going to do everything we can to bring another title to Team Penske.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet) : “It all comes down to this. We had a strong car at Watkins Glen and were able to run toward the front of the pack. We’re ready to take what we learned at that race and all season to apply to the No. 3 Hitachi Chevrolet. I want a championship so bad and all of my guys definitely want one, too. We’ve worked hard to have strong finishes this season and know if we have a great race and win, we just might win the championship, which is really exciting. Sonoma is always a great race, and it will definitely be a challenge with (Scott) Dixon and my Team Penske teammates also battling for the title. We got some track time last week with a test day and some more this week. Every team’s goal at the beginning of the season is a championship and we’re in a position to realize ours.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda) : “I think it’s been a total team effort for the No. 9 NTT Data team all season. I think Chip Ganassi Racing is very strong at these high-pressure, coming-down-to-the-wire situations, and not just for myself, but other championships they’ve won through the years. I remember being right there for many of Dario Franchitti’s, too, that worked out in similar fashion. I think it’s not necessarily a situation we thrive on. We would clearly like to be many points ahead and not having to worry about the last race, and you can go into a final just having to start or something like that. I don’t really speak to my competitors on that front or hear what they have to say or read up on it. For us, we’ll just go out there and try and get the job done and treat it as an ordinary race, even though there is a lot on the line.”

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Singapore Grand Prix 2017 Preview

Momentum? That’s a tough one. Sebastian Vettel has four wins at Marina Bay, but three of them were when he was with Red Bull. And arguably, no one has more “big mo” than Lewis Hamilton with his six victories in 2017. We’re calling it even Steven.

Needs A Good Run? Among drivers, that’s pretty much anyone without a contract for 2018. So cross Ferrari off that list. Maybe.

Sentimental Favorite?  Singapore Airlines is the sponsor, so continuing the race will depend on economics, not sentiment. They’re the first street race and the inaugural night competition in Asia, but if there is an extension beyond the current year, we haven’t heard of it.

Challenges? It’s incredibly hot there, even in September at night, and cockpit temperatures can reach 130 degrees Fahrenheit.  So, everyone needs to be in top condition to avoid extreme dehydration. And, it’s under the lights. Each year the race has been run, there has been at least one safety car.

Quotes:

“I’d say Singapore is probably the toughest race on the calendar, not only because of the demands of the circuit itself, but also because of the physical stresses regarding the driver. The physical stress of driving at more than 50 or 60 degrees inside the cockpit due to the heat and humidity is enormous. The air doesn’t flow, as the city skyscrapers don’t allow it and you really feel the hot air inside the car! The track itself is really long, very tight and extremely demanding. There’s no time to rest during the lap and you have to be 100% focussed at all times, as the walls are all very close. We stay on European time while in Singapore, which can sometimes be a bit weird: We wake up at around 2pm every day and leave the track at 3am, which is strange but also makes it more special. As we come from Europe I don’t usually struggle with this unusual timetable. I sometimes find it more difficult to adapt to the Malaysian or Japanese time zones for example. Last year I performed one of my best qualifying sessions of the season, something which is very important to do in Singapore as it’s difficult to overtake during the race. Unfortunately, the good qualifying didn’t count for much in the end, as I had a frustrating start when I got hit as the lights went out… It was a very tough moment, as I was expecting to fight for points. We probably lost a chance of scoring a strong result! Let’s see if we can do it this year…” Carlos Sainz, Toro Rosso driver

“We knew the double-header of Spa and Monza would be difficult for us, but three DNFs out of four was still really disappointing. Still, we showed better pace than we anticipated, even though we could convert that into points. We’ve now put the European season behind us and we turn our attention to the fly-aways which signal the final chapter of the season. Singapore is a great place to start, as it’s one of the circuits on the calendar that suits our package better than others, and gives us a real chance for a more positive result. Singapore is a bit like the Monaco of the East. It’s a glamorous street circuit right in the centre of the city and the atmosphere is incredible. It’s tough – hot and humid, and hard on the cars and drivers. It’s really fun though: bumpy, tight and challenging, but exhilarating when you get it right. You need a car with good traction on the slower corners and a high downforce set-up, so we definitely have a better chance there – we just need to make sure we also have the reliability.” Fernando Alonzo, McLaren driver

“I believe Singapore won’t be our only chance but is one of our best chances of a win in the second half of the season. You have to build up speed a little slower in the practice sessions on a street circuit like Singapore. At some point you have to start taking risks but to do that straight away doesn’t make sense. I always prepare for the race with some acclimatization training. You feel the heat when you’re in the car, but when you stop after the race and the adrenaline decreases you feel it even more. After the race I will easily sink five litres of water to rehydrate before I go to bed. I’ve started second and finished second at this track in the last two years, with fastest lap both times, so my aim this year is definitely to start on pole and try to go one better in the race.” Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull driver

“As a track, it’s really tough and physically demanding – arguably one of the hardest of the season. The lap is long with lots of corners and some tight and sharp bits. The high temperature and humidity, combined with the fact that it’s a street circuit, makes it quite hard. It’s important to be in top physical shape due to the harsh requirements. Safety cars usually come out which makes strategy hard to call. [Racing under lights] takes a little getting used to, but it’s not so bad. It’s been on the calendar so long that it feels like a normal race. It’s a very special Grand Prix and the only real night race we have. We don’t really see the day there! We sleep until lunchtime, and then it’s off to work, so there isn’t much of a social life for us drivers. The venue is amazing, how they’ve built it all is fantastic, especially as it’s right in the middle of the city.” Nico Hulkenberg, Renault driver

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

What We Learned Italian Grand Prix 2017  

THE BIG PICTURE:  The Italian Grand Prix was one of the 1950 group of original events and is still one of four actively run; they are Monaco, British, Belgian and the Italian. While the venue could change, it has not to date, with Monza Park, also known as Autodromo Nazionale Monza, hosting each time except for 1980. This one is a keeper.

EVENT:  In its current configuration, Monza runs about 3.5 miles around the lush European forested Villa Royale, once an estate of the Imperial Hapsburgs. It features fast corners and long straights, which makes for an exciting race. This is especially remarkable considering that Monza was just the third purpose built race track constructed in the world. The track is often called “The Cathedral of Speed,” And lest anyone feel this is too dignified for car racing, we need to remind you this is also home to the Tifosi.

 IN OUR LAST EPISODE: Lewis Hamilton powered to his fifth win of the year at Spa-Francorchamps, ahead of second place Sebastian Vettel by less than three seconds.

 QUALIFYING:   This was almost as interesting as the race. For starters, the time what was supposed to be qualifying was red flagged due to rain. So, the famous track at Monza was a soupy mess when the multi-million-dollar cars finally hit the grid to determine who was fastest. Immediately, Hamilton showed us that once again, he was the quickest of all, for the record 69th time. And he remained so. There is little point in reviewing the other positions as they got jumbled up due to half the field sporting grid penalties. Stupid.

 START:  The start was nearly as stupid. Lance Stroll and Esteban Ocon are competent mid pack drivers and normally not a hazard to anyone. But, with their current equipment, they had no business starting second and third.  It was only through the skills of their fellow drivers that there was no tragic accident. And so it was all the way down the grid. More thought should be given to the millions of race fans who pay hard earned money to see these events throughout the world. Instead, under the current system thought is given to the potentates who control the sport. Boo.

 RACE:  There was little to no suspense in this race. Lewis Hamilton led from the start and only went out of the lead to pit and retook it to win his sixth contest of the season. It was also the first back-to-back victory this year. The action at Monza all happened behind the leader. Ferrari was, unfortunately, celebrating their 70th anniversary, but it was not a particularly successful for them, with a weak finish by Vettel in third, a full 36 seconds behind the leader. Daniel Ricciardo, on the other hand, was gridded back in the 16th spot and charged to the front, finishing a well-deserved fourth. Max Verstappen, who has been sharing the role of DNF King this year with Fernando Alonzo, managed to place tenth and earn a single championship point. And of course, both McLarens DNFed, likely so that they could make car repairs for Singapore instead of incurring those annoying grid penalties.

BEST TEAM:  Once again, it was Mercedes, with their cars finishing one – two.

WHAT WE WILL REMEMBER: Most memorable will be that 45% of the field had grid penalties mostly due to equipment changes. While the intention of the grid penalties was to be punitive, the reality is this many makes the event downright dangerous, not to mention, stupid. The purpose of qualifying, after all, is to keep faster cars in the front. With slower cars gridded as far up as second, the start was unusually ridiculous, even for Formula 1.

QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND:  “This is obviously an incredibly exciting season; the last two races have been really strong for us as a team. The way things have come together in the second half of the season is exceptional. Today, the car felt fantastic, particularly on that first stint. As we had a bit of breathing room behind us, it was easier for us to extend the life of the tyres. Valtteri did a fantastic job to get through and get this one-two. It is amazing to have the first back-to-back wins in a long, long time and claim the lead in the championship. But the fight will continue, the Ferraris have been really quick this season, especially on the high-downforce tracks. It will continue to be really close between us, so it will be ‘ beast mode’ all the way to the last chequered flag.” Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes driver and race victor

 QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND RUNNERUP: “I’m very, very happy about the result and loved it out there today. It was good fun. Two of my favourite races this year have been starting from the back. Silverstone and this one. Some good overtakes in the race kept me excited and I had some real pace in the end. I could see Seb and the thought of a podium was tempting me, so I was obviously trying to catch him right up to the end. The boys did the quickest pit stop and I also got the fastest lap so that’s very cool. You can almost call it a perfect day. We couldn’t have done much more from where we started. Of course I wanted to be up there on the podium as it looked unreal, but I believe it will come next year. Today has been a really good boost for everyone and we’re looking ahead to Singapore.” Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull driver and fourth place finisher

 SCHEDULE:  In two weeks, the fly-away races begin with the Grand Prix of Singapore, at night on a street circuit on September 17th.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

What We Learned from the Grand Prix at the Glen 2017

The Big Picture:  The Verizon IndyCar Series and Watkins Glen International have a kind of understudy relationship with one another. Back in 1979, the series began to race at the iconic road course. By 1981, Formula One was turning its nose up at the Glen due to low attendance. So, IndyCar stepped in and filled F1’s traditional October date. In 2016, Boston was yet another US city who thought starting a street race would be easy. Upon the Boston contest circling the drain when instant riches were not forthcoming, Watkins Glen stepped in on a moment’s notice to return to the IndyCar schedule on Labor Day weekend.

Event:  And so the Grand Prix at the Glen was reborn. Of course, drivers love the natural terrain road course spanning 3.377 miles in length. It has the famed bus stop and the boot to make it unique in North America, and maybe the world. The series regularly fills the grandstands, but is also perceived to have “low attendance.”

Qualifying:  Alexander Rossi took his first series pole of his career with Scott Dixon starting next to him on Row One. Andretti Autosport had the best set up with Honda having the advantage on this track.

 Race:   As with most road course competitions, a great deal of this contest was decided in qualifying. The first and second place qualifiers also finished that way in the race. The third and fourth place starters were unable to continue this as Newgarden choked on a pit exit and Sato had a spin that threw him way down the leader board.

Biggest Surprise:  When Rossi was able to recover the race lead by Lap 29 after he had a fuel probe issue. Great recovery.

Biggest Disappointment:  The bad call made by Team Penske to go with a wet set up when the rain was over.

Best Team:  Andretti Autosports because they took the pole, the win, and the final spot on the podium and the Penskes didn’t.

Sponsor of the Weekend:  NAPA is good to motorsports. They just re-signed Rossi, and he delivered a win within days.

What We Learned:  That even Team Penske can make bad calls on set up. That Scott Dixon must be setting record for finishing second in so many races this year, and this may win him the championship

Schedule:  The season finale is in Sonoma, on September 17th!

Quotes of the Weekend:

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “The Hitachi Chevy was so awesome today, and it was a great job by the No. 3 car guys. We were really fast out there – it’s been a long time since I was able to go flat out through the carousel in the race, but we were doing that today. We had some issues on the black Firestone tires, but we were able to recover and really pushed hard there to finish fourth. I feel really bad for Josef (Newgarden) with his incident. It’s unfortunate for the team, but it’s mixed feelings for me because it tightens up the championship. We definitely have a good chance heading into Sonoma and I feel really good about our setup there. We’ll be ready to go for it and finish strong.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): “It was definitely an exciting day for the No. 9 NTT Data car. I locked up the tires on the first stop and I don’t think we got any fuel. We had to save fuel on the next stint as a result and battled our way back. I think we passed a lot of cars today and it was fun to contend with (Alexander) Rossi there for the win. Big congrats to him and good to see Honda run strong at Watkins Glen.”

TAKUMA SATO (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda): “We made a good start. Coming up to the hill P2, we were all set very nicely and I felt, basically, no power. We tried to figure out what was going on. I tried to reset the car on the track, it failed. Everything went zero. We pitted, then came back a few laps down and found a waste gate problem. After that, we were back up to speed, but I think at the time we were three laps down. Nothing we could do, but at the end of the day, we had one of the fastest laps. Big congrats to my teammate Alex (Rossi) for his win on the road course and to Ryan (Hunter-Reay) for getting a strong showing. It’s a shame, but as a team, I think we showed trim in the speed so that was a good weekend.”

ALEXANDER ROSSI (No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda): “An amazing job by the whole team today. We had an issue in the beginning with some fuel, the fuel (probe), but whatever. It doesn’t matter, the team recovered. We had the pace to do it, but it’s pretty amazing. It’s a huge team effort. I’ve talked so much about how much we’ve improved, I’m so happy we’re finally able to win.” (About battle with Scott Dixon at end of race): “We had a fast car. I knew we had a fast car because we were hitting a fuel number before the final stop and we had pace. I knew he was going to be pushing like hell at the end, and so it was really 12 qualifying laps, and I had the car to do it. We had time, we had the pace, the performance, the tire life, everything was going our way. A huge hats off to Andretti Autosport. Thank you to NAPA Auto Parts, thank you to Honda. We’re coming really hard for 2018.”

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Italy

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Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in Formula 1 following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

Team Rankings

2017 Constructor’s Championship After Italy

  1. Mercedes (NC)
  2. Ferrari (NC)
  3. Red Bull (NC)
  4. Force India (NC)
  5. Williams (NC)
  6. Toro Rosso (NC)
  7. Haas (NC)
  8. Renault (NC)
  9. McLaren (NC)
  10. Sauber (NC)

The Rankings reflect no movement in following the last race at Spa.

Driver Rankings After Italy

  1. Lewis Hamilton takes the number one spot in the Driver’s Championship for the first time in 2017 thanks to his sixth win of the season at Monza.
  2. Sebastian Vettel appears in second place for the first time this year, but he’s only three points out to Hamilton, for now.
  3. Valtteri Bottas remains third, looking less like a title contender and more like Best Supporting Driver. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
  4. Daniel Ricciardo still fourth but is only six points over fifthplace Kimi Raikkonen.
  5. Kimi Raikkonen stays in fifthplace, again.
  6. Max Verstappen – very popular for a sixth-place driver with the fewest laps run.
  7. Sergio Perez leads his teammate Ocon by only three points.
  8. Esteban Ocon looks poised to step up to seventh. Woo hoo!
  9. Carlos Sainz, still ninth, but may be tenth if Hulkenberg keeps finishing so well.
  10. Nico Hulkenberg holds onto tenth only two points from Sainz.

Our rankings resume in two weeks, after Singapore.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel Power Rankings

POWER RANKINGS: Belgium

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Throughout the season, POPULAR SPEED will rank the top-10 drivers in Formula 1 following each event. Feel free to comment on the story at the POPULAR SPEED Facebook page.

Team Rankings

2017 Constructor’s Championship After Belgium

  1. Mercedes (NC)
  2. Ferrari (NC)
  3. Red Bull (NC)
  4. Force India (NC)
  5. Williams (NC)
  6. Toro Rosso (NC)
  7. Haas (NC)
  8. Renault (NC)
  9. McLaren (NC)
  10. Sauber (NC)

The Rankings reflect no movement in Ranks from the last race in Hungary and the Summer Recess.

Driver Rankings After Belgium

  1. Sebastian Vettel’s lead over Lewis Hamilton is cut in half to seven points. In spite of the season long see-saw, Vettel has been first place all season. So far.
  2. Lewis Hamilton is still in second with his advantage ahead of  Valtteri Bottas  now at 14 points.
  3. Valtteri Bottas appears to have a lock on third-place, maintaining his position as the number two Mercedes driver.
  4. Daniel Ricciardo remains in fourth but is only four over fifth-place Kimi Raikkonen.
  5. Kimi Raikkonen stays in fifth-place.
  6. Max Verstappen – still in sixth.
  7. Sergio Perez leads his teammate Ocon by nine points.
  8. Esteban Ocon remains solidly in the number eight position.
  9. Carlos Sainz, still ninth.
  10. Nico Hulkenberg holds onto tenth only two points from Sainz.

Our rankings resume in one week, after the Italian Grand Prix.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

What We Learned from Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway 2017

The Big Picture:  The story goes that the new owner of Gateway Motorsport Park, Curtis Francois, walked into Verizon IndyCar Series offices several years back, and told them he wanted to host an IndyCar race. Since then, the man has pretty much moved heaven and earth to bring back the track that was open-wheel-less from 2004 through 2016, after being was dropped originally due to small crowds.

Event:  Fast forward to 2016, and Francois and his sponsors have a sold out event. If there was a problem, they fixed it. IndyCar had several testings there, and when drivers said the track was bumpy, Curtis Francois had the whole thing repaved. The result is that everyone’s happy now except his accountant. Here’s to many more successful years!

Qualifying:  First, the good news. Will Power took his 50th series career pole with  a new track record of 189.709 miles per hour which has stood for over 20 years. Congratulations, Mr. Power. In what was probably bad news for the rest of the field, his teammates Josef Newgarden, Helio Castroneves, and Simon Pagenaud qualified right behind him! So Chevy got the pole with extreme prejudice.

Race:   And it took the race, too. After a sloppy start as described elsewhere, Newgarden would lead 170 of 248 laps to a decisive victory at Gateway, his fourth win of the season. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon finished second, with the other two Penskes taking third and fourth. Five cars were lost to the inevitable carnage that comes with short track ovals. And so it goes for the ovals for IndyCar’s 2017 season.

Biggest Surprise:  Will Power spinning out of the lead on Lap 1 from pole position.

Biggest Disappointment:  The unfortunate season that Brazilian racer Tony Kanaan is having continued when he spun on the formation lap, going three laps down. When he finally retired after completing 168 of 248 laps, he refused to speak to the press. We have covered TK for 20 years and never have we known him to do this.

Best Team:  This has become very dull, but once again, it’s Team Penske.  CGR, who lost  some primary  sponsorship coming into the season, has done a great job to grab the points when they can with the leadership of Mike Hull and their veteran driver, Scott Dixon and thus deserves a mention.

Sponsor of the Weekend:  The Bommarito Auto Group, a local concern in the Midwest, stepped up to the plate as the named sponsor of the race, in its return to the series.

What We Learned:  That the gloves are off at Team Penske, which could have a significant impact on the championship, and that Scott Dixon remains a tenacious competitor. That Conor Daly may have that special something that makes a good driver.

Schedule:  Next weekend, the series travels to the legendary track at Watkins Glen, on Sunday, September 3rd.

Quotes of the Weekend:

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet): “We had a great race with the Menards Chevrolet. All of the adjustments left us with a great car at the end. When we needed to come up with a great pit stop, we did. Those guys really are the best. They always come through when they have to. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out there at the end. I can’t say that I’m overly pleased, but that’s racing. We still have the championship out there, so we’ll get ready for Watkins Glen.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 2 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet): 
“It was a great night. First off, we had an awesome crowd. It was amazing actually what was out here tonight. I felt like the energy for this event, it really spurred everyone on. You should have seen all the drivers. I felt like everyone was a little extra nervous tonight because of the energy in this place. I remember watching this race when I was younger. They stopped coming here, I think 2003 was the last race. It’s fun to have it back in 2017 and see it so well supported for the first year. It was a great night to go racing. I felt like the PPG Chevrolet was going to be good tonight. We had four good cars at Team Penske. Happy to get the win on the No. 2 car side because I felt like we had the car to beat. I didn’t want us to be denied tonight for sure. Simon (Pagenaud) gave me a lane to work with. I had a good tow on him, put my car inside in the opening, got about halfway alongside of him. One thing I didn’t want to do was touch him too hard. I think if I would have stayed too far left, I would have jumped the curb and that would have taken both of us out. I tried to get Simon to move over a little when we were coming to the opening of the corner. We both had to slow up. Fortunately worked out well for us. Pagenaud, didn’t get up into the wall or anything like that, so I would say it worked out okay for him, too.”

CONOR DALY (No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet): “We had a good car all weekend. I was really upset with myself after qualifying, just had a big moment at the exit of (Turn) 1, but we redeemed ourselves. Then I tried to screw it up for myself again in the pits, but we were able to drive back. The car was just fantastic. I have to thank the team, I have to thank ABC Supply for sticking with us. I know it’s been a tough year, but I know we can do it. I know this team can do it. We’re just improving and it takes time. This is a hard sport.” (About close call with Charlie Kimball): “I won’t say anything bad about (Kimball), but it was just one of those really late moves that, being on an oval it’s not great to do. I mean everyone’s racing hard, it’s obviously tough on a short oval to make ground, but I mean that could have ruined my race right there. I thought the wing was gone going into the next corner, but it was still there. So thank you Chevy, for making strong pieces. But, yeah, I’m just happy to be here, and just hope I can be here for many more races.”

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 NTT Data Honda): “I guess that’s the best we could have hoped for. It was definitely going to be a tough race for us, but the car was actually very good. I think we had a better mechanical grip than the group we were racing with, with the Penskes, and especially toward the end of the run. We could sort of come back towards them. We had so much drag. We could get to them, but we couldn’t pull out and pass them. Definitely pretty hard to defend right there at the end with Simon (Pagenaud). It was pretty exciting to watch Josef (Newgarden) and Simon with that pass into Turn 1, which was pretty interesting, pretty tight. I was hoping it went a little bit different than what it actually did and could have picked up two spots, but huge credit to everybody on the NTT Data No. 9 car. Strong tonight. Strong pit stops. And how about the fans, man? This was awesome to come back to St. Louis and see the fans and how excited they were for this race.”

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

What We Learned from the Belgian Grand Prix 2017

The Big Picture:  If the drivers could vote, most would select either Spa-Francorchamps or Monza as their favorite course in the championship. As one of the inaugural races in modern Formula One, Spa is an important race for the series.

The Event:  A record crowd of 265,000 watched the race this year in person. Spa is contracted with Formula One through 2018. We see no reason the contract won’t be extended for many years to come by new owners Liberty Media.

In Our Last Episode:  Sebastian Vettel took his fourth win of the season at the Hungaroring with the two Finnish drivers, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas filling out the podium.

Qualifying:  Lewis Hamilton took his 68th career pole, tying Michael Schumacher’s all-time series record, and setting a new track speed record in the process. Sebastian Vettel’s final lap was one of the best of his career.

Start:  We have mentioned this before, but Formula One is supposed to be the premier auto racing series in the world. But, if so, why can’t they get their 20 cars all through the first lap?

Race:  It was a tight race at the front between Hamilton and Vettel, with the Briton managing to stay in front due to qualifying better, strategy and determination. Behind these two, both Bottas and Raikkonen were out driven by Daniel Ricciardo on the restart on Lap 34 and ended up on the podium instead of the Finns. Elsewhere, the Force India drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez managed to crash together not once but twice!

Best Team:  This one is hard to call. No team had both drivers finish at the front. Hamilton was first, but Bottas came in fifth. Ouch. Vettel scored a second-place finish, while teammate Raikkonen had a fourth. So, we are going to say no one this week.

What We Will Remember:  It was Hamilton’s 200th Formula One start. He and three other drivers won their two hundredths races: Michael Schumacher (2004), Jenson Button (2011) and last year’s champion Nico Rosberg (2016). Hamilton notched his 58th victory, his fifth this season. Max Verstappen fared poorly this race as is becoming the norm. He’s now DNFed six times, all within the 12th Lap of the start. As a result, he has run fewer laps in 2017 than any of the 20 full-time racers.

Quote of the Weekend: “It’s amazing to come back into the season and start on the right foot. The Ferrari was very strong today and they put on a fantastic fight. We were both pushing every single lap and there was no room for error or mistake. The Safety Car was driving so slow that keeping tyre temperature was very difficult. On the restart, Sebastian got a good tow, it was very close. It is fun to be racing against another team and Sebastian at his best and the car at its best – that’s what racing is all about. I want to thank the team, I would not have been able to win today without them.” Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes driver and race victor

Runner-up Quote of the Weekend:  “If we had ended up ahead in qualifying, then we would have had a good pace to stay in front today! I was surprised how close I could follow through the whole race. So I am a bit angry at myself, because, when the race restarted after the safety car, I was probably too close to Lewis out of Turn 1. I tried to open the gap down Eau Rouge but it’s a difficult compromise. You see the cars coming behind and you know that you need to defend, instead of focusing on attacking. At the same time I know that down the straights we are not as quick as Mercedes. So, I am not entirely happy, but after all it’s been a great weekend for the team. We don’t need to be afraid of any circuit, I believe we have the best car in terms of package. There’s still something missing but the guys in Maranello are very motivated. I think we have done the biggest improvement and a big step forward. Now we turn the page on and move on to Monza: let’s see what happens there.” Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari driver and second place finisher

Schedule:  The circus goes to Monza next weekend for the Italian Grand Prix on September 3rd.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

2017 Italian Grand Prix Preview

Momentum? Lewis Hamilton has a slight advantage over his title opponent, Sebastian Vettel, with five wins to his four. However, we have seen momentum change directions so frequently this season in Formula One that we are positively dizzy.

Needs A Good Run? Speaking of Ferrari, the Tifosi, those passionate race fans of Ferrari have very high expectations and are not afraid to boo any Ferrari driver who doesn’t do as well as they think he should. The Scuderia has not won at Monza since 2010, so they are likely to be ravenous for a win.

Sentimental Favorite? Italian race fans are among the most vocal and passionate in the world, so we can’t call it “sentimental.” If we had to name one though, it would be Fernando Alonzo, former Ferrari driver who brought the Tifosi their last Monza victory.

Challenges? Concerning outright speed, Monza is the fastest of all Formula One circuits. It has wickedly fast straights and challenging corners. Need I spell it out? Tire management!

Quotes:

“With the new generation of 2017 cars, we may see lower or similar top speeds to last year, but with more energy going through the tyres because of the extra downforce under the new regulations. This combination of speed and downforce defines the amount of work that the tyres have to do. The tyre choice has also been influenced by the risk of blistering at Monza, as there are plenty of braking areas in a straight line. This means that the cambered shoulder area of the tyre can easily overheat and so cause more blistering compared to other circuits. In the past Monza has given us many different types of weather, but following a very hot summer, it’s reasonable to expect more high temperatures over the weekend. How this influences tyre behaviour is likely to be a focus of free practice as the teams examine different potential strategies.” Mario Isola, Pirelli Head of Car Racing

I love Italy and I love Monza! It’s one of my favourite weekends of the season and the tifosi are amazing – they make such a special atmosphere. All the passion you feel throughout the weekend is very special. Also the track is great – you get to experience truly high speeds; you arrive very fast into the corners, with very low downforce, and it’s going to be very interesting in these 2017 cars. In many ways Italy is quite similar to the Mexico race in terms of the atmosphere and passion of the fans at the circuit. I’ve had some special days in Monza too, when I finished on the podium in 2012 and beat both the Ferraris. I guess that wasn’t great for the tifosi but I still received a lot of support when I was standing on the podium.” Sergio Perez, Force India driver

“Like Spa, Monza is one of those legendary tracks where everybody loves watching cars going racing. With the new wider, faster cars this year, it will definitely be another circuit where we’ll see a new fastest lap and some incredibly high speeds on the straights. It’s the fastest circuit on the calendar in terms of outright speed, and for a driver it’s an incredible feeling racing down those iconic straights punctuated by the tight chicanes and big, fast corners that require a huge amount of commitment. We’ve always said this circuit wouldn’t suit our package, and we expect a tough challenge. Although it’s power-hungry like Spa, it’s also different in many ways. Spa is a long race; the Monza circuit is short and sharp and the race always feels like it’s over very quickly. The thing I love most about Monza is the fans. Even when you’re not dressed in tifosi red, the fans come out in force and they’re all super passionate about racing and motorsport. The Italian Grand Prix is a favourite for many people and it really deserves its legendary reputation as a magic circuit for race fans.” Fernando Alonzo, McLaren driver

“I grew up in Italy and it’s a country I know well; it’s like a second home for me. I lived in Rome for some time when I was younger and I’m fluent in Italian, so I always enjoy going back! This race has been on the F1 calendar for many years and it’s a legendary circuit: it has very long straights, which means we drive at very high speeds, and it’s always an interesting race. The only thing I don’t like is the fact that the Parabolica doesn’t have a gravel trap any more… It’s now all asphalt, so it’s not such of a challenge and a compromise if you go off track; in the past it could end up meaning that your race was over! I have very good memories from Monza, as I won a few times while racing in junior categories, so it’s always special to go back there every year. Having said that, I also have a negative memory from 2014, when my brake disk broke at Turn 1 compromising my race to finish in P11: Starting from the last position on the grid I was able to make my way up, but not enough to score points… A big shame, as we were doing a very good race! I hope to create more good memories this year!” Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso driver

“The atmosphere in Italy is pretty awesome. I normally like more technical tracks, but Monza is still fun. It’s a track I’ve always enjoyed and it’s quite unique. The drivers’ parade in Monza is always special as well. Everyone is shouting Ferrari, but it’s still pretty awesome to experience it.” Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing driver.

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management, or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.