Sebring Test Concludes Aeroscreen Testing

Photo: Pato O’Ward testing at Sebring today. Thanks to Vincent Anderson for the photo and his comments below:

On seeing the drivers in the cars: “The glove colors will be more important this year. mandatory white or neon gloves?”

He could see the drivers”More than i thought but less than last year. Pato’s white gloves were working the wheel today. his white gloves stood out.”

sebsebring

Sebastien Bourdais tries out the aeroscreen. Photo: Vincent Anderson

 

From Indycar:

Aeroscreen passes its final 2019 test
at Sebring International Raceway

SEBRING, Florida (November 5, 2019) – INDYCAR continued its Aeroscreen development program Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway with Arrow McLaren SP and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan participating in the fourth and final test session of the year.

The conditions for the one-day test could only be described as ideal for testing the safety innovation, with the weather unseasonably hot and humid like the NTT IndyCar Series teams will face through the summer stretch and the track was predictably bumpy in replicating a street course.

Amid all that, the Aeroscreen, scheduled for its race debut at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 13-15 in St. Petersburg, Fla., performed as designed once again.

“And we checked boxes with drivers who had not previously experienced the Aeroscreen,” said Bill Pappas, INDYCAR’s vice president of competition and engineering.

Four-time Indy car champion Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, Patricio O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP and Santino Ferrucci of Dale Coyne Racing, who utilized Bourdais’ car in for the session, were the latest group of NTT IndyCar Series drivers to have the opportunity to test the Aeroscreen.

The steamy Florida weather allowed for trying various driver cooling options and further validate the anti-fogging mechanism. Bourdais, who wears glasses, had no visibility issues in his first experience with the Aeroscreen. O’Ward, in his first on-track experience with Arrow McLaren SP, similarly adapted quickly to his new cockpit surroundings. Ferrucci had no issues while driving Bourdais’ car.

Pappas said INDYCAR and its suppliers are on schedule to deliver Aeroscreens to all full-season teams next month as preparation builds for Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The Aeroscreen was announced in May and developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies in conjunction with INDYCAR.

Arrow McLaren SP and Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan became the fourth and fifth teams to work with the Aeroscreen. Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport participated in tests last month that were held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Barber Motorsports Park and Richmond Raceway. Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing and Will Power of Team Penske took part in the test at IMS; Ryan Hunter-Reay of Andretti Autosport and Simon Pagenaud of Team Penske tested at Barber; and Josef Newgarden of Team Penske and Dixon handled Richmond.

These tests were designed to replicate the various conditions competitors will face during the 17-race season. IMS is the largest (2.5 miles) and fastest oval on the schedule while the .75-mile Richmond layout is the shortest of the five oval tracks. Barber Motorsports Park is a permanent road course like INDYCAR will use on seven occasions next year, and there will be five street-course races where Sebring-like bumps must be navigated.

In consultation with drivers, INDYCAR will offer standard cooling options at each venue in order to keep the playing field level.

“These will be areas with specific parts,” Pappas said. “Teams won’t be free to develop their own ductwork.”

Bourdais said the utilization of a helmet duct likely will be the best option for particularly hot days.

“It’s figuring out what’s the best (cooling) option,” he said. “But it’s nothing we can’t work through.

“In races, we drive through clouds of debris, particularly on speedways and superspeedways, so I think this is a massive step (in protection). It’s a much safer place for us IndyCar drivers – I think everyone is pleased with it.”

The drivers said it took very little time to get acclimated to it.

“You can barely tell the screen is there because it’s pretty clear,” O’Ward said. “Obviously, it’s a bit more enclosed, but you see everything you usually see. The eyes kind of look around the halo, so you don’t really notice it. Once you’re pushing, you don’t really see the Aeroscreen.”

Schmidt: “An Opportunity That We Couldn’t Pass Up.”

Sam Schmidt explained why the newly formed Arrow McLaren SP team decided to go with Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew  for 2020 and let James Hinchcliffe go.

“…it’s a gut-wrenching decision, but we were faced with an opportunity to pick up these two young guns coming out of Indy Lights that already have 13, 14, 15 years worth of experience…” Schmidt said.

Hinchcliffe is still under contract, which the team will honor. If Hinchcliffe needs a release to drive for another team, it will be granted. Schmidt has no doubt that he will find a ride somewhere.

Robert Wickens is still part of the team as a consultant and driver coach. The car number 6 is still reserved for him, and Schmidt expects him at the majority of races next season. AMSP still has rights to the numbers 5 and 7, but hasn’t determined which driver will will have which number. No decision has been made on who will drive in next week’s aeroscreen test at Sebring.

The drivers are looking forward to their opportunities.  O’Ward has run eight Indycar races and Askew debuts at St. Petersburg. O’Ward is excited to restart in Indycar with a newly organized team.

IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas

Pato O’Ward at Sonoma in his Indycar debut. Photo: Stephen King, Indycar

“I think we’re going to make a really good  team. We’re both hungry for all the success. I think at his point both the team and we are growing, we’re
starting a new chapter in our careers and I think thesky’s the limit. So we’re going to be pushing, pushing, pushing and I know that with hard work and really
dedicating lots of time and thinking into our future and into our season we should be, we should definitely be up there,” O’Ward said.
askew
Oliver Askew at Indianapolis. Photo from OliverAskew.com
Askew added, “I’m very excited to be partnering with Pato for 2020. I think we both get along very well and we have a very, like you said, a very similar driving background and very similar driving style coming from the Indy Lights car and working with Andretti Auto Sport as well. Our — we have the same drive to be successful, as does the team, and we plan on working very closely with one another to help each other grow and help each other get better in the series.”
The team plans to run a third car at the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 as they have done for the past 12 years. Fernando Alonso “remains an option” but nothing is confirmed.

My Thoughts

AMSP could be an exciting team to watch in 2020. We have an idea of what O’Ward can do, and I’m interested to see how Askew adapts to Indycar.

The team has a lot of PR work to do with the fans. I think they could have handled the Hinchcliffe situation better, but this is a business, and tough personnel decisions happen a lot.

McLaren especially needs to demonstrate that they can run an Indycar team properly after last year’s Indianapolis debacle.

While Schmidt seemed to be the team’s lead spokesman during the teleconference today, I still wonder how much he and Ric Peterson will be involved in 2020 and beyond. I’d feel better if their names were more a part of the the team name and logo.

An Arrow Through the Heart

I just love it when I have an article in mind and have to do a 180 degree spin in the middle of a turn. As I began setting up my post on the current status of the 2020 NTT Indycar Series grid, the grid experienced a seismic change. James Hinchcliffe, one of the most popular drivers in the paddock, lost his seat at Arrow McLaren SP. The team will announce Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward as their drivers for next season. The news from Racer magazine’s Marshall Pruett and Robin Miller around 9:15 Monday night sent an earthquake of outrage through the Indycar fan community.

There have been whispers since Labor day that Hinchcliffe’s job was in jeopardy. The rumors persisted despite team owner Sam Schmidt saying at Portland that Hinch would be back with the team.  Everyone knew Marcus  Ericsson would not be back and that the team was interested in O’Ward. In the last month, Askew entered the picture.  My thought was they will pick one of the two rookies and keep Hinch for his experience.  Now, we have essentially a combined new team consisting of  McLaren, which didn’t qualify for the Indianapolis 500 in 2019 and Arrow Schmidt Peterson, which barely squeaked in.

Hinchcliffe’s choices of a ride are very limited.  His Honda choices are cars that  currently don’t exist. Dale Coyne looks committed to Santino Ferrucci’s return in the 19. Coyne has said he will not run a third car and is not interested in an alliance. Ganassi has talked about a part time  fourth car. I’m not sure that interests Hinchcliffe. Rahal has third car in mind but is still looking for funding.  Hinchcliffe and Honda Canada probably don’t have enough money to pull that deal together. Will HPD help? Rahal seems like the best fit at this moment on the Honda side. Hinchcliffe needs to stay in a Honda car for a couple reasons I’ll discuss in a minute.

Chevy rides available are Carlin, Foyt, and the Ed Carpenter road course only car. None of these rides are great options for him other than keeping Hinchcliffe in the series.

The Honda Indy Toronto may take a bit of a hit without a Canadian driver on the grid. Hinchcliffe’s contract with Honda Canada and his Honda commercials in the United states are also on the line here. On a fan basis, Hinchcliffe is a good river who can races, he’s generous with is time, and ha a sense of humor the paddock and the fans enjoy. He has always taken time to talk to me and i appreciate his time.

Conor Daly may be squeezed out of the paddock again. He was looking to be the last driver left with a decent amount of experience.  Now there is a six time race winner on the market who has had a full time ride for several years.

I really like O’Ward and Askew. I hope they have  great seasons next year. . At the same time, I will  find it hard as a fan to root for Arrow McLaren SP as a team. McLaren has entered the team and from my view, they have been a PR disaster already. The new logo left me cold with its starkly corporate look and the exclusion of the SP from the official team name. While I understand the business side of choosing drivers, Hinchcliffe could have been told a month ago and had more time to put something together.

It is sad to see what looked to be a rising team that in 2018 seemed to have found its soul when Robert Wickens joined but  lost it in his’ horrific crash at Pocono that summer and never found it again.

 

 

Is O’Ward Now the Big Domino?

Oliver Askew’s time as the NTT Indycar Series top Silly season domino appears to have been short lived. With Friday’s announcement that Pato O’Ward was now free to pursue an Indycar ride, speculation revved up that he would sign with Arrow Mclaren SP. Askew had been considered as a possibility either for that seat as well as a possible part time ride with Chip Ganassi Racing .

Zak Brown, President of McLaren, has been interested in O’Ward for a while. I think it is highly unlikely both Askew and O’Ward would be hired by AMSP. I doubt if the team would want two rookie drivers. While I’m still not sure veteran James Hinchcliffe will return, despite what the team and Hinchcliffe have said, a veteran needs to be in the 5 car. Since the 7 car is looking pretty much to have a rookie in it, this makes a stronger case for Hinchcliffe staying.  This will be the third straight year Hinchcliffe will have a rookie teammate. In 2017 his good friend Robert Wickens joined the team. Last year Marcus Ericsson was in the second car.

Let’s presume O’Ward does join Arrow/McLaren and Askew goes to Ganassi on a part time basis. This scenario virtually assures O’Ward Rookie of the Year. In fact, O’Ward could be the only full time rookie driver in the series in 2020.  Rinus VeeKay may end up in the road course only car at Ed Carpenter Racing, which would limit his chances for top rookie honors for the season. VeeKay could also go to a third car at Dale Coyne Racing. I haven’t heard much about where he is in securing a ride.

For O’Ward, getting a full time Indycar ride would complete a wild roller coaster 2019 for him. He thought he had a full time drive for 2019 with Harding Steinbrenner racing, which fell through at the last minute. After a couple of drives with Carlin and failing to make the field for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500, O’Ward signed a contract with Red Bull. He an a few races in Japan Super Formula before his early release last week. Stay tuned.

Carlin Wants Limits on Bigger Teams

An article by David Malsher Sunday on motorsport.com discussed concerns  Trevor Carlin of Carlin Racing has of the Big Three (Penske, Ganassi, Andretti)  getting too big. Carlin fears there won’t be enough room for teams like his to post good results. Andretti and Ganassi are both planning on an extra car next season.

The link to the story: https://www.motorsport.com/indycar/news/carlin-warns-indycar-multi-car/4560809/

I understand his point, but the competition in Indycar is close and the Big Three don’t sweep every race. In 2018, 14 of 51 podium spots, 27% had drivers representing teams outside of the Big Three  The just completed season had similar results with 13 non Big Three podium spots. Last year Penske cars won 9 races, Ganassi 2 and Andretti 2. If you count Colton  Herta as an Andretti car, they won 4. Rahal won the other 2 races. 2019 also saw fewer different winners than the series has had in a while. Wins were limited as the seven winners in 2019 each won multiple races.

Of the four Andretti cars, most weekends Alexander Rossi was the only one in contention. Zach Veach and Marco Andretti  were not factors most places. Felix Rosenqvist had a few good races for Ganassi, but he wasn’t always fighting for a podium. Penske driver Will Power didn’t win a race until Pocono in  August.

Opportunities are there. A top ten finish against good competition is a decent result. A. J. Foyt Racing and Dale Coyne Racing show up every week knowing their chances are limited. I thi nk the more cars, the better. Every sport has its dominant teams. You don’t see the lesser teams folding.

There have been season when just two teams won all the races and there have been years where almost every team has won a race. Winning in Indycar isn’t easy. It takes time for newer teams to put everything together just to contend for a win.

 

O’Ward on Road America Entry List

Photo: Pato O’Ward will again drive car 31 as he did in Detroit.

Pato O’Ward returns to Carlin Racing for this weekend’s REV Group Grand Prix at Road America. O’Ward, who originally was thought to have a full season ride at Harding Steinbrenner Racing, signed a 12 race deal with Carlin after St. Pete.  It has since been announced that he will not run Gateway or Iowa. O’Ward is looking for funding to complete the NTT Indycar season.

His new contract with the Red Bull Junior program is awaiting approval of his super license. He may not be fully eligible for it at this time.

Also returning to the paddock is Jack harvey in the number 60 MSR entry. This race race is the seventh of Harvey’s 10 race program in 2019. He will also race at Mid Ohio, Portland, and Laguna Seca. Harvey had a career best third place finish at the Indycar Grand Prix in May.

Twenty three cars are on the entry list for the fourth race at Elkhart Lake since Indycar returned.

Look for a full preview on Thursday.

 

Quick Thoughts on Sonoma Qualifying

Hunter- Reay may have won the pole but Pato O’Ward was the star of the show. What a great job in his first Indycar weekend.

A non title contender winning the pole helps Dixon and pretty much knocks Power and Newgarden out of contention.

This was Dixon’s best road course qualifying of the year and only his second Fast Six on a natural road course. He could win the championship without winning a pole.

Power regrets not running another lap.

Wind will be a significant factor in the race tomorrow.