O’Ward Leads Laguna Seca Test; Grosjean 3rd Fastest

Photo: Chris Owens, Indycar

Pato O’Ward had the quickest time in Monday’s test at Weather Tech Raceway Monday. The private test The private test session included seven drivers from four teams. It was the first test day in an Indycar for Juan Pablo Montoya, who will drive for Arrow McLaren SP in the Indianapolis 500.

Montoya will be in car number 86 at Indianapolis. The number is a tribute to Peter Revson’s 1971 500 pole winning McLaren.

Romain Grosjean, who recently signed with Dale Coyne Racing with RWR, was third fastest on the day. Grosjean said in an earlier interview that this track was the one he was most looking forward to driving. he had Laguna Seca on a video game when he was younger.

Helio Castroneves also partticipated in the test for Meyer Shank Racing. Castroneves will drive in six races, including the 500, for Meyer Shank Racing.

Indycar’s next official test will at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway April 8-9 for all entries in the Indianapolis 500. There is no word yet if this test will be open for public viewing.

Results:

RANKCAR NO.DRIVERTEAMENGINEFAST LAPDIFF.TOTAL LAPS
15Pato O’WardArrow McLaren SPChevrolet71.293 83
218Ed JonesDale Coyne Racing With Vasser-SullivanHonda71.529-0.236104
351Romain GrosjeanDale Coyne Racing w/Rick Ware RacingHonda71.571-0.278109
67Felix RosenqvistArrow McLaren SPChevrolet71.600-0.30792
560Jack HarveyMeyer-Shank RacingHonda71.688-0.39581
421Rinus VeeKayEd Carpenter RacingChevrolet71.797-0.504104
886Juan MontoyaArrow McLaren SPChevrolet72.219-0.92675
706Helio CastronevesMeyer-Shank RacingHonda72.812-1.51991

Grosjean’s First Indycar Test: ‘Felt Like Home’

Photo: Romain Grosjean getting ready for his first run in an Indycar. Joe Skibinski, Indycar

Tuesday Romain Grosjean got his first taste of Indycar as Dale Coyne Racing joined four other teams at Barber Motorsports Park in a preseason test. Barber is the site of the NTT Indycar Series opening race on April 18.Overall, he was happy with the day. This was Grosjean’s first time in a race car since his November accident in the Formula 1 race in Bahrain.

The ,main differences Grosjean noticed between Formula 1 and Indycar were the mechanical grip and the lack of power steering.

“I discovered the joy of not having a power steering wheel, and I don’t regret all those hours in the gym, but maybe I’ll do some more just in case,” Grosjean told the media.

“But I observed that the mechanical grip of the car is pretty outstanding and therefore you can try different lines in the corner and you can actually make it smooth in the way you want it.”

Grosjean had no issue with the aeroscreen.

Overall, he felt yesterday was a good learning day. He even learned something from his spin in turn 1.

“…basically I just went too fast in. When I was on the brake I also picked up the throttle which you do in high speed, but because it’s a mechanica ldiff it does open the diff when you do that, and therefore it makes the car lose, whereas in Formula 1 it would actually stabilize the car, so I would say it was a learning experience and then I didn’t do it anymore, and it was better.”

Grosjean’s next test day will be at Laguna Seca. it’s a track he looks forward to driving since he drove it on a video game when he was tounger.

Other teams testing today were Ed Carpenter racing in their first test of the year; Team Penske, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and A. J. Foyt Racing.

Who Was Fastest?

I have seen two different speed charts from yesterday. On One, Rinus VeeKay had the quick time. I learned that this chart was for times with drivers using push to pass. The other chart, without push to pass, had Sebastien Bourdais at the top. Grosjean was the slowest on both charts, as expected. He was, however, within a second of the leader on both sets.

Grosjean Eager for Chance to Compete

” I think the excitement comes in the fact that in Formula 1, after turn one, you normally know what’s going to be the race result just because you know the pace of the car, Mercedes is going to pull away,maybe the Red Bull is going to be there. Some things can change, but nowhere as much in INDYCAR.”

Romain Grosjean summed up his excitement for joining Indycar as the newest driver in the series. He will drive car 51 for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing. Grosjean watch more than 18 hours of Indycar races on YouTube over the Christmas holiday.

“Mid-Ohio 2018 I watched recently was Sebastien Bourdais had an issue in qualifying and started back of the field. He came back like a bullet from the gun and finished sixth just behind Scott Dixon. The race was not over. The strategy was the alternative one. He started on the black tire, went for the reds, just came back from the back. That’s not something you’re going to see in Formula 1 unless Mercedes qualified in the back, which never really happens. That was great to see.”

Dale Coyne talked about why the team had interest in Grosjean despite his lack of wins in F1.

“…we’re impressed what he did before he got to Formula 1. He won the GP2 series by 35 points. It was a year that I think nine drivers in that series made it onto Formula 1. It wasn’t a light year. He won six junior categories before that. He’s a winner. Formula 1, it’s difficult to be a winner unless you’re with the top two or three teams. So we’re going to get him over here with the fourth best team and show that he can still be a winner.”

Grosjean likes that in Indycar the driver has more input into the performance of the car.

“Well, this is something I’m very,very much looking forward to. I’ve been watching the races. The way you can follow the car in front of you, the way you can slide the tires, the way you can either try to play with your ‘push to pass’, the fact that the cars in qualifying are within 6/10ths of each other. This is all really exciting.You need to get the details right and so on. I think, yes, as you say, you don’t have the differential you can move, you don’t have the recovery and all the shaping and the braking, the systems you can have in Formula 1.I think the racing, yes, the car a little bit slower, but the racing looks much better from everything I’ve been seeing.”

Grosjean realizes he still has a lot to learn, and he wants to start sending his engineer, Olivier Boisson, data from iRacing to see if he has the right approach.

“I also told him that I can run on iRacing the INDYCAR. I can send him the data so he can see if it’s completely off the reality or not. I can learn the circuits in that aspect.”

The last five years of Foirmula 1 struggles habven’t dampened Grosjean’s enthusiasm for racing. h eis very excited to try a more competitive form of the sport in the United States.

Grosjean Joins Coyne/ Ware for Road/Street Courses

Romain Grosjean will run the road and street courses in car 51 for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing in 2021. The former F1 driver escaped serious injury in a fiery crash at the Formula 1 race in Bahrain in November. He had severe burns to his hands.

Grosjean began his Formula 1 career with Lotus in 2011. He had 10 podium finishes and was in the top 10 in the season standings in 2012 and 2013. The last five years Grosjean drove for Haas F1, a team that struggled constantly. He is looking forward to racing in a more competitive series.

Grosjean’s first test will be February 22 at Barber Motorsports Park, site of the NTT Indycar Series opener April 18.

Grosjean becomes the sixth former F1 driver in Indycar. He joins Sebastien Bourdais, Alexander Rossi, Max Chilton, Takuma Sato, and Marcus Ericsson in the series.

“Although, I’m not ready yet to take on the ovals! IndyCar has a much more level playing field than what I have been used to in my career so far. It will be exciting to challenge for podiums and wins again. My left hand is still healing, but we are just about ready to get back into the race car and to start this next chapter of my career, Grosjean said.”

Grosjean said it was a familty decision to not run the ovals this year, but he hasn’t completely ruled out running at Gateway.

“If I were 25 and single with no kids, I’d run the ovals,” he said.

Team owner Dale Coyne is thrilled with his new driver.

“We’ve been talking to Romain for some time now, even before his accident at Bahrain. He has shown interest in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES for the past several months and we’re very happy that he has chosen to pursue his career with us and excited to welcome a driver with his pedigree to America, the Series and our team. We feel that he’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the Series.”

Team co-owner Rick Ware added, “We’re thrilled to be entering our first full season of NTT INDYCAR SERIES racing with Dale Coyne Racing, and to have a driver of the caliber of Romain Grosjean to run the street and road courses makes it that much more exciting for us. We’re looking forward to this season.”

Ware said the team will announce its oval drivers and sponsors in a couple of weeks. it sounds as though there may be multiple drivers in the 51 for the ovals.

A third car, number 52, is entered for the Indianapolis 500, and “probably 4-5 more races,” according to Coyne. He has no plans for a third full time team.

Coyne begins testing at Barber Motorsports Park February 22 and will also test at Laguna Seca March 1. Coyne said the team will have four test days before the first race at barber April 18.

Back later with some quotes from the teleconference.

Grosjean, Perez Looking for Work; Indycar Has Openings

Sergio Perez jubilant after winning the Sakhir Grand Prix

Yesterday was just one week after Romain Grosjean’s fiery crash at Bahrain. With all that happened in Formula 1 since then, it seems as if more time than that has passed. After last week’s race, winner Lewis Hamilton tested positive for COVID-19 and missed yesterday’s race. George Russell, who drives for Williams, replaced Hamilton and did a superb job, only to be thwarted by a tire mix up. Sergio Perez led Racing Point to the team’s first double podium and his first win in Formula 1 in one of the most exciting Grand Prix in a long time. The race resembled an Indycar race at times.

In a Twitter video early Sunday, Grosjean told fans that he would not be in shape to drive in the season’s final race at Abu Dabi next weekend. Grosjean is not returning to Haas F1 and has no prospects in the series. Perez will not return to Racing Point and is out of a job after the Abu Dabi race. Where might the two end up? Indycar?

There has been speculation that Grosjean is in talks with A. J. Foyt and possibly another team about driving next year. Foyt is still seeking to fill the seat in the 4 car. I have not heard Perez mentioned in conjunction with an Indycar ride, but he would be a great addition to the series.

With Perez and Pato O’Ward both in Indycar, the case for the series to hold a race in Mexico in 2022 is much stronger. I think a Mexican race would be a strong draw. But who will Perez drive for?

As far as I know the following Indycar seats are open:

Coyne-2

Foyt-1, possibly 2, but one of those will go to Dalton Kellett if he can fully fund it.

Carlin- possibly 1 and the oval portion of the 59

Carpenter- 1 road/street ride in the 20. Conor Daly might fill that role again unless he can find funding for a third Carpenter full time car.

My guesses right now? Grosjean to Foyt and Perez to Coyne. Pairing Sebastien Bourdais with another French driver who could learn from him just sounds like a good move.

Perez seems like the type of driver that is attractive to Coyne. Coyne tends to find drivers with little to no Indycar experience, and somehow manages to wring some success out of them. The key is funding, as it would be with Coyne’s second car.

Bottom Line: Two Formula 1 drivers need rides for 2021; Indycar has spots. Let’s see what happens.

Grosjean Release Delayed to Today; Hamilton’s Sub; Haas Sets 2021 Lineup

Formula 1’s busy week continues with driver announcements, musical chairs, and the latest update on Romain Grosjean.

Grosjean’s release from the hospital was postponed until Wednesday in order for him to receive more treatment for the burns on the back of his hands. He is responding well to treatment. In a compelling interview yesterday, Grosjean said that he “saw death” as he looked to escape from the burning car. Twenty eight seconds elapsed from the time of the car’s impact with the armco and Grosjean getting over the barrier to safety. It certainly seemed much longer than that as I watched.

Update- Grosjean has been discharged from the hospital.

Russell Fills In for Hamilton

George Russell

George Russell will substitute for Lewis Hamilton, who tested positive for COVID-19, in this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix at Bahrain. Russell has driven full time for Williams this season. Jack Aitken will drive the Williams car Russell normally pilots.

Haas Announces 2021 Driver Lineup

The announcements were probably already scheduled for this week, but in light of Sunday’s incident, perhaps they could have been pushed back a week. Haas had announced that neither Grosjean nor teammate Kevin Magnussen would return to the team next year.

Haas on Monday announced that Nikita Mazepin would fill one of the seats. Yesterday Mick Schumacher. son of seven time F1 champio Michael Schumacher, completed the Haas F1 lineup for 2021.

Nikita Mazepin

Mazepin currently is third in the F2 standings heading into this weekend’s finale on Bahrain’s outer circuit. he has won feature races at Silverstone and Mugello. He will be the fourth Russian driver to race in F1 after Vitaly Petrov, Daniil Kvyat and Sergey Sirotkin.

Mick Schumacher

Schumacher , also 21, is a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy and leads the Formula 2 standings by 14 points. He has 10 podium finishes in 2020, including a pair oft Feature Race wins at Monza and Sochi.

With pietro Fittipaldi racing for Haas this weekend and Schumacher full time in 2021, F1 looks to be on the verge of a second generation change. It will be nice seeing the name Schumacher on the pylon again.

Grosjean Update: Hospital Release Tuesday; Pietro Fittipaldi to Sub at Bahrain Race 2

Photo from Romain Grosjean’s Twitter account

Romain Grosjean, injured in a fiery crash in yesterday’s Gand Prix in Bahrain, is expected to be released from the hospital tomorrow. He is responding well to treatment of the burns on the back of his hands. Grosjean posted a video last night to reassure fans that he was okay, and posted another one this morning to thank everyone involkved in his rescue.

Pietro Fittipaldi, who is the Haas team reserve and test driver, will replace Grosjean for next weekend’s second Grand Prix in Bahrain. The course for the December 6 race is different from the one used Sunday. It has long straightaways and just four braking points. Fittipaldi, grandson of two time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, drove in six Indycar races in 2018. His best finish was ninth at Portland.

Haas has not made a decision about who will drive in the final race of the year at Abu Dabi on December 13.

Pietro Fittipaldi

There is speculation that both Grosjean and Fittipaldi are under consideration for the open seat at A. J. Foyt Racing. It is not known whether Sunday’s incident has changed anything in that regard.

Safety Innovations Star at Bahrain as Grosjean Escapes Fiery Crash

I had a flashback to May 30, 1964, this morning during the Bahrain Grand Prix. The fireball that erupted from Romain Grosjean’s car reminded me of that horrible day at the Indianapolis 500. I saw the entire fiery crash that day from my Tower Terrace seat. Eddie Sachs and Dave McDonald died in that crash. Fortunately, thanks to safety innovations, there was a more positive outcome today.

Romain Grosjean (behind guardrail) escapes his burning car. F1 photo

This column is the third iteration of what i had planned to write today. originally, i was going to discuss Romain Grosjean’s possible move to A. J. Foyt Racing in Indycar. When the crash happened, I thought I would be writing a very different story about Grosjean. Now I am happy to be writing about how the halo, maligned for its looks and with doubts of its worth still in some people’s minds, has quieted all the doubters.

The halo did its job. Grosjean encountered three of the things most drivers fear in an accident- a sudden stop, the car going underneath something, and fire. Yet, Grosjean escaped. I am eager to hear his version of the events later this week. Even more miraculous is that his only apparent injuries are burns on his hands.

The safety cell, which surrounds the cockpit, also played a role in keeping Grosjean alive. It remained intact, allowing him the chance to escape.

The remains of the front part of Grosjean’s car. F1 photo

Despite the many advances in driver safety like the halo and the new Indycar aeroscreen, which prevented a more serious outcome in Iowa this summer, racing is still dangerous ans can still have fatal results.John Andretti in Racer, his autobiography, said,”I like that racing is safer. The safety improvements have been good and we need to keep going. But, the perception of the dangers in racing has changed. “Yes, it is safer, but it’s not SAFE. Drivers crash, then thank everyone on Earth for making the sport safe. The media fuels that idea as well. [The fans] believe racing is safer than driving to the grocery store. Let me tell you: it’s not. It’s still very dangerous.”

We may not like the looks of some safety additions to the cars. I still don’t care for the appearance of the Indycar aeroscreen, and at first I thought the F1 halo took away from the sleek look of an F1 machine. I’ve become accustomed to the halo, and I will in time get used to the aeroscreen, which will look better when it is fully integrated onto the new chassis. I am for anything that can save lives and make racing safer. Sometimes function takes precedence over form.

An incident such as we had today doesn’t mean it’s time to relax, or that we have gone as far as we can. There is still room for improvement. I have never seen a car split in half like Grosjean’s car did. It has been quite a while since i have seen an F1 car burst into flames like that . There are still questions to answer.

Racing can take a deep breath that today turned out better than it appeared it was going to, but the sport also needs to keep up its guard to prevent worse incidents.