Ericsson: The priority is Indycar nat an F1 reserve

Formula 1 exile Marcus Ericsson looks set to take a step further away from the Grand Prix paddocks in 2020 as he commits to his second season Stateside.

This year, the Swede split his time between a full-time Indycar race seat and a reserve role at Alfa Romeo.

After F1’s summer break, Ericsson had to pull out of an Indycar race when Alfa Romeo ordered him to travel to Spa-Francorchamps, for the Belgian Grand Prix, to be on standby to replace an injured Kimi Raikkonen.

But ultimately, Raikkonen raced and Ericsson was left frustrated. So for 2020, Ericsson’s role looks set to change, according to his manager Eje Elgh.

“It took too much time with a lot of travel and so on. From now on, the full focus will be on Indycar,” he told Viasat.

Ericsson, however, told Expressen that he will maintain his links to Alfa Romeo but said of the Spa debacle, “It was a little silly. That’s the problem with social media today, Everything happened very quickly and Alfa Romeo chose not to say anything so it all came out in the wrong way.”

As for 2020, he admits that talks are still taking place, “I have a long relationship with Alfa Romeo and Sauber and I’m pretty sure I will have some part, but I have also said that I really want to focus 100 percent on this Indy season.

“The priority is not to be a reserve driver in Formula 1, the priority is Indycar. But I don’t want to say too much about what it will be because it is complicated, with various different factors. We will see what Alfa Romeo and even what (Indycar team) Ganassi wants,” added Ericsson.


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Could Alonso Return to Indy with Andretti?

Fernando Alonso, Michael Andretti

Fernando Alonso is reportedly negotiating with Michael Andretti for a return to the Indy 500.

In 2017, Alonso was charging for victory at the Brickyard in an Andretti-prepared McLaren entry when his Honda engine failed.

But last year, as McLaren went it alone without Andretti Autosport’s support, Alonso failed even to qualify.

So it is interesting that according to Spain’s AS newspaper, Alonso is back in talks with Andretti rather than McLaren.

That is despite the fact that McLaren will field two cars in the Indy 500 next year. McLaren supremo Zak Brown says it is possible Alonso will get a third car.

But citing ‘sources familiar with the negotiations’, AS correspondent Jesus Balseiro says Alonso is more interested in racing for Andretti next year.

“The deal is not done,” Balseiro said.

“The most important obstacle is that Andretti uses Honda engines,” he added, reminding readers of the “tumultuous past” of the Spanish driver and the Japanese marque.


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McLaren SP reveals 2020 IndyCar line-up – drops Hinchcliffe

Arrow McLaren SP has signed up Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew for its 2020 IndyCar campaign, the team parting ways with incumbent James Hinchcliffe.

O’Ward and Askew, who join the new entity as former and current Indy Lights champions respectively, will compete in the full 2020 IndyCar season.

“With our background in Indy Lights, I’ve followed Oliver and Pato closely over the last few years on the Road to Indy,” said Arrow McLaren SP co-owner, Sam Schmidt.

“I couldn’t think of a better pairing as we write the first chapter in Arrow McLaren SP’s story. They’ve proven their skills on the Road to Indy and with an Indy Lights championship each, they are ready and deserving of full-time seats in IndyCar.

“I have no doubt that Oliver and Pato are the right drivers to move Arrow McLaren SP forward.”

A former Red Bull junior, the 20-year-old O’Ward was released from the energy drink’s programme earlier this month.

The nomination means that Hinchliffe will move on from the team he joined back in 2015, having scored thee wins with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the past.

Hincliffe will remain contracted to Arrow McLaren SP but is free to secure alternative opportunities for 2020.

It was initially believed that the experienced Canadian would remain a member of the new McLaren SP entity, but Hincliffe’s close ties to Honda may have precluded the 32-year-old from continuing to race for a team that is switching its engine allegiance to Chevrolet for 2020.

Arrow McLaren SP’s late decision on its line-up is a blow for the Mayor of Hinchtown as good racing opportunities are scarce at this stage. But as a top class driver, Hinch might be tempted by a change of scenery. Could NASCAR come calling?

“James has been a great ambassador for our team, and for the sport, over the last five years,” said Schmidt.

“Our history dates back to his early days in Indy Lights and we’ve been on a tremendous journey together. Most impressive was James’s determination to come back after his accident in 2015.

“I have the utmost respect for James and would like to thank him for his hard work and accomplishments during that period and wish him well in his future endeavors.”

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O'Ward linked to McLaren IndyCar seat after Red Bull split

Mexican driver Patricio O’Ward has sparked speculation that he could be among the front runners in line to pick up a 2020 race seat with the new Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team.

On Friday, Red Bull announced that it had released O’Ward from its junior development programme, and that the 20-year-old would be replaced in the Team Mugen Japanese Super Formula line-up by Jüri Vips with immediate effect.

But O’Ward has now told RACER.com that there is no ill-will between himself and Red Bull over the split, and that it was part of a bigger plan.

“My release from Red Bull was going to be November,” he explained. “But Doctor Helmut Marko called and said, ‘Hey, you have options in IndyCar? Take it. That’s your future’.

“I really appreciated him doing that,” O’Ward added, who has made eight starts in the US open wheel series so far. “It showed me the calibre of person that Doctor Marko is and why he has so much success.

“Huge respect for him and whole team,” he added. “He cared about my future – that means a lot. Things didn’t turn out like we expected, but he was concerned about my future, and that is very cool.”

O’Ward said that the FIA’s decision to reduce the number of superlicence points for winning the IndyLights junior championship – which he did in 2018 – meant there was now no way he would be able to accrue enough points to make it into F1.

“The FIA threw us both under the bus,” he sighed. “I’ve learned that racing not always a nice sport [but] I’m very grateful to Red Bull for the opportunity.

“Now I need to go somewhere to earn good money, and F2 wasn’t going to be it. If I’m not going to make it in F1, I wanted to be in IndyCar.”

O’Ward made his IndyCar debut in the 2018 season finale at Sonoma with Harding Racing. This year he’s taken part in seven races with the Carlin team, with a best finish of eighth place at the Circuit of the Americas.

O’Ward’s decision to end his ties with Red Bull this week suggests that he’s confident of a chance of a big promotion in IndyCar next year, with the seat at the new McLaren team one of the biggest prizes.

While he wasn’t able to confirm what his plans were for next season, O’Ward teased: “Be patient, good things are coming.”

McLaren CEO Zak Brown – who had talks with O’Ward earlier this year before the youngster was signed by Red Bull – also resisted pressure to confirm or deny whether O’Ward was one of the names in contentino to race.

“We don’t comment on active driver matters,” he stated. “Rest assured when we are in a position to confirm further details, we will.”

However Arrow McLaren SP general manager Taylor Kiel did boost speculation by telling Motorsport.com that a delegation from the Indianapolis-based squad would be present at next week’s Mexican Grand Prix, as well as the United States Grand Prix at COTA.

“I think it’s really important to get our people down there and see how McLaren F1 operates on a race weekend.”

But Kiel also stated that no firm decisions had yet been made about the team’s line-up: “No, it has not. We don’t know who it is yet.”

McLaren is expected to hand one of its two full season seats to current Schmidt Peterson driver James Hinchcliffe. It will also add a third car for the Indianapolis 500 in May.

Colton Herta had initially been high on McLaren’s list of possibilities, but the rookie has since been signed up in a multi-year deal with Andretti after winning two races in a spectacular maiden season.

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Ericsson pursues IndyCar venture with Chip Ganassi!

Marcus Ericsson will pursue his career in IndyCar next season thanks to Chip Ganassi whose team will enter a third car in the series next season for the Swede.

After five years in Formula 1, Ericsson found a new home in the US in 2019, completing his maiden season of IndyCar racing with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and achieving a second-place finish in Detroit as his best result.

Ericsson will transfer to the Honda-powered Chip Ganassi Racing outfit where he will race alongside five-time IndyCar series champion Scott Dixon and fellow-Swede Felix Rosenqvist.

“First of all, I’m extremely happy and proud to get the opportunity to join Chip Ganassi Racing,” Ericsson said.

“It’s a team of winners and their history speaks for itself. I’m very thankful that they believe in me and I will do everything I can to make 2020 another successful year for the team.

“I’m also very excited to work with two of the best drivers in the series in Scott and Felix. I’m looking forward to putting what I’ve learned this year to use in my second year in the NTT IndyCar Series.”

Team owner Chip Ganassi underscored the diversity of his new recruit’s talent.

“I think Marcus brings a lot of unique experience with him having competed in several championships around the world,” said Ganassi.

“When you have someone with that type of background, it gives him other points of reference that helps his ability to develop and add to the overall racing program.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what Marcus can do alongside Scott and Felix.”

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F1 cars 'almost too good', says Indy 500 champ Pagenaud

This year’s Indianapolis 500 champion Simon Pagenaud says he’s fascinated by the technology in Formula 1 – but that the cars might be almost too good as a result.

“F1 was very interesting to watch because the technology is fascinating,” Pagenaud told RACER magazine after attending the Hungarian Grand Prix at the beginning of the month, where he waved the chequered flag at the finish.

“The aerodynamics on the car are absolutely stunning. Beautiful. I love little winglets here and there.

“I love to see the flow of the air,” he continued. “How the Red Bull has worked on the sidepods and almost sculpting to get the air flow going to the radiators is just phenomenal.

“The cars are fast, grippy,” he added. “Almost too good – making it look like they are on rails!”

Technology in motor racing is often criticised for hiding the ‘human dimension’ of the sport, but Pagenaud said that Lewis Hamilton’s determined drive to take victory away from Max Verstappen in Hungary proved that was not the case.

“When Hamilton went for it in Hungary, you could see the body language of the car change,” he insisted. “It seems like the drivers are having fun driving these cars.

“I love to see that. We had a great race there.”

And Pagenaud said he was a fan of the Hungaroring itself, often criticised for being too tight, twisty and dusty to allow for ‘proper’ on-track racing between drivers.

“I think the track actually helps racing because of the sequence of turn 1, turn 2,” he suggested. “You can run side-by-side, and then by turn 3 you have to decide who is going to yield.

“A lot of the tracks need a combination that helps running side-by-side, and you also need the grip on the outside to make it work.”

Despite starting his professional racing career with Frederic Vasseur’s ART Formula Renault team in 2003, Pagenaud has never had the opportunity to crack F1.

“IndyCar is very much about the show and making sure the fans enjoy watching,” he mused when asked about the differences between the two championships.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault F1 Team and Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team with Simon Pagenaud (FRA) Team Penske IndyCar Driver.

“The drivers and IndyCar work really close together to try to find the best formula for racing, to make a good show.

“That’s what IndyCar is about; it’s about being loud, pure racing and not about contact but about a muscle car. It’s not about technology as much.

“F1 is very sophisticated. It’s a very different market, it’s not the same sport. It’s like comparing cricket and football,” he commented. “I was impressed at how beautiful F1 is in the paddock, and how well organized it is.

“Obviously, F1 compared to IndyCar – there’s a lot more discrepancy between cars because manufacturers make their own cars,” he added. “It’s very different, but I think both have their advantages.

“The interesting thing is when they started Lewis’s Mercedes on the grid, I turned around and thought it was my IndyCar! It sounds the same; that idle sounds the same.

“That’s the way the sport’s been going – whether it’s sports car racing, whether it’s IndyCar, whether it’s Formula 1,” he added. “It’s the evolution of technology.

“Smaller engines and turbos are always going to make less noise than a V12 with no turbos. It’s just the way manufacturers are going these days, to save fuel and be more efficient.”

One thing that does link F1 and IndyCar is ongoing debate about aerodynamics and how to improve on-track competition.

“It’s not just the aerodynamics, in my opinion, that makes good racing,” insisted Pagenaud, who felt that this year’s IndyCar regulations had finally managed to find the right balance.

“It’s interesting you say Formula 1 is looking at aerodynamics that provide better racing,” he said. “I remember the years with the big front wing and the small rear wing, and they were horrible races too.

“I think the formula [in IndyCar] is actually perfect right now,” he said. “It’s the best formula IndyCar ever found.

“So I honestly don’t know what’s right or not for F1, but I thought Hungary was a fantastic race.”

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Horner sees new hope for aeroscreen in F1

Red Bull boss Christian Horner says that the aeroscreen concept might still have a shot of getting picked up by Formula 1.

The Red Bull Advanced Technologies design was dropped in favour of rolling out the halo cockpit protection system in 2018. This helps deflect debris and other solid objects away from the driver’s head in an open cockpit.

The halo’s value was demonstrated in a first lap crash at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso’s car was launched into the air and fell onto Charles Leclerc’s Sauber, with the young driver’s head escaping harm thanks to the device.

Red Bull proposed a more conventional ‘windshield’ type concept, but its on-track test in 2017 reportedly made Sebastian Vettel feel ‘dizzy’ due to the distorting effect of looking through the thickened material.

“Forward vision is not very good, I think it’s because of the curvature,” Vettel reported at the time. I tried it this morning [and] I got a little bit dizzy!”

With the windshield out of the running, the halo was formally adopted the following season and is now standard on all F1 cars. But the shield is back on the agenda after the US open wheel IndyCar Series opted to push ahead with its development.

Defending series champion Scott Dixon will try out the latest iteration of the device – now called the aeroscreen – at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next month. It incorporates an F1-style halo with a screen made from ballistics-grade material.

Dixon tried out an early version of the screen last year at Phoenix, along with additional testing in a simulator. If the new outing is successful then there will be further tests in October at the Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama to see how it fairs on a road course.

“I’ll be interested to see how it operates in IndyCar,” Horner told Autosport magazine this month. “How it’s received, some of the challenges that will inevitably happen.

“It will be a good test pit for it,” added Horner, who is also CEO of Red Bull’s advanced design company. “Hopefully it will work out well for them.

“And if it works, then why not look at introducing it to F1?”

©WRI2

IndyCar has seen a number of serious incidents involving head injuries in recent seasons. Former F1 driver Justin Wilson died in 2015 following an incident at Pocono Raceway, where a crash ahead of him sent debris flaying into his path and into his cockpit.

James Hinchcliffe was knocked unconscious by flying debris during the 2014 Indianapolis Grand Prix road race, and sustained a concussion that delayed his participation in qualifying for that year’s Indy 500.

“I should have been on the podium the year I got knocked unconscious,” Hinchcliffe said afterwards. “I remember very clearly that I wasn’t on the podium!”

Asked if the aeroscreen would have made a difference, Hinchcliffe said: “I would have got that podium, dammit!”

The initial push for a cockpit protection system came from an accident in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix in which a rear spring from Rubens Barrichello’s car detached and flew into Massa’s face.

Although protected by his racing helmet, Massa suffered a serious skull fracture and required immediate surgery, which sidelined him for the remainder of the season.

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Pagenaud beats Rossi to 2019 Indy 500 victory

Penske driver Simon Pagenaud successfully powered his way to victory lane in the 2019 Indianapolis 500, after starting the race from pole position.

Despite concerns about inclement weather, the race was untroubled by the elements and built to a thrilling climax following a dramatic multi-car crash, as Pagenaud battled to hold off 2016 race winner Alexander Rossi all the way to the line.

Pagenaud held the early lead over team mate Will Power, with ECR’s Ed Carpenter and Spender Pigot close behind. The French driver was able to stay in front during an early restart triggered by the retirement of teenage racer Colton Herta with a gearbox issue in turn 3 on lap 4.

Pagenaud pitted for the first time on lap 32 of 200, marking the first lead change of the afternoon. The sequence of pit stops also saw Helio Castroneves clash with James Davison on pit lane, the three-time Indy 500 winner earning a drive-through penalty after spinning the Dale Coyne Racing car.

The incident didn’t trigger a full course yellow and Pagenaud retook the lead once the other cars completed their own stops. The race remained green despite the retirement of Ben Hanley with a drive shaft issue, and Jordan King running into one of his pit crew members. That was serious enough to require the attendance of the safety crew.

The second yellow materialised when Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser – the driver who bumped Fernando Alonso off the grid in last weekend’s qualifying – spun out at turn 2 and took a heavy hit against the wall.

Drivers pitted under the caution, with Power the latest to suffer misfortune on pit lane when he too hit one of his pit crew for which he was sent to the back of the field for the restart.

When the race resumed, Pagenaud continued to lead but came under increasing pressure from Carpenter. He then pitted just before the halfway point of the race, but once again was back on top then the other stops were completed.

Now it was Andretti Autosport’s Rossi who was now leading the challenge to the Penske domination, despite frustration for the American with slow pit stops caused by a faulty fuel sensor.

His race was also affected by a new yellow flag on lap 138 for former F1 driver Marcus Ericsson, who spun out of eighth place while leaving pit road. The timing of the caution was unfortunate for those yet to stop, including Scott Dixon and his Ganassi team mate Felix Rosenqvist, as well as for Dale Coyne’s rookie driver Santino Ferrucci.

The race resumed on lap 149 with Pagenaud back in charge, having led 102 laps so far – the first time a driver had led more than 100 laps in the Indy 500 since 2010. But Pagenaud was immediately under pressure from another of the Penske posse, as Josef Newgarden took control two laps later.

Pagenaud was content to follow in his team mate’s tow which allowed him to save some fuel. Even so, he was the first man in for the next – and final – scheduled pit stop on lap 170. It meant he was still fuel saving when he came back out, allowing Rossi to make up lost ground.

The race then took a dramatic turn when a clash between Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal on lap 178 triggered a multi-car accident that caught up Zach Veach, Felix Rosenqvist, and Charlie Kimball, as well as resulting in an 18-minute red flag for clean-up operations.

The caution was good news for Pagenaud, whose fuel issues were now considerably alleviated in the final 13-lap shoot-out to the finish. Rossi looked the faster of the cars, but once back out in front Pagenaud worked hard to deprive him of the all-important tow down the long straights.

Simon Pagenaud wins the 2019 Indianapolis 500

© IndyCar Media

When the chequered flag came out it was Pagenaud in the lead, and an emotional Rossi had to settle for second. They were followed to the yard of bricks by Takuma Sato who had successfully pulled off some decisive late passed on Newgarden, Power and Carpenter.

Ferrucci – who had only just squeaked through that multi-car wreck – finished seventh ahead of series veterans Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan. Rounding out the top ten was former GP3 driver Conor Daly, with James Hinchcliffe, James Davison, Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot all finishing within ten seconds of the race winner.

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