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Filtering by Tag: Graham Rahal

Indycar at Texas Motor Speedway, F1 Belgium GP & Max Verstappen controversy

Stefan Johansson

JT – IndyCar staged the continuation of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway last weekend.  Suspended due to weather from its original June date, the race was very exciting, producing the closest finish ever at the Speedway. Graham Rahal edged James Hinchcliffe by eight-thousandths of a second with Tony Kanaan just .0903 seconds behind in 3rd place.

Unfortunately, Scott Dixon didn’t see the checkers due to contact with Ed Carpenter. Dixon spun after coming together with Carpenter’s left rear wheel with his right front. He hit the Turn 1 wall and his race was over. It’s another setback for Scott and with the DNF he falls to sixth in the championship standings, 132 points behind championship leader Simon Pagenaud who finished in 4th place.

What did you think of the race and the outcome for Scott?

SJ – Yes, it wasn’t a great race for Scott obviously. It just seems to be one of those years when everything that can go wrong will go wrong. He didn’t have a great car all race and was just hanging in there but not really in a position to fight upfront.

The show at Texas is always good and this years race certainly did not disappoint. There just isn’t any more exciting racing to watch, although it’s nerve wracking to watch.  Those last laps were just awesome and crazy at the same time. I couldn’t think of a better show in any form of racing, period! If there was ever a finish like that in F1 people would go absolutely crazy.

Can you imagine if you had anyone of Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen – the pure, good racers from Formula One out there duking it out with the IndyCar stars. It would be massively popular, incredible.

JT – Watkins Glen is the penultimate race for IndyCar. With the track’s recent repaving, it should be fast and challenging. The championship looks like a battle between the Penske teammates, Simon Pagenaud and Will Power but with a maximum 158 points available between the Glen and the final race at Sonoma, Scott still has a very slim chance for the championship. Amazingly, eight other drivers are still in mathematical contention.

SJ – Apparently the grip is just insane now with the repaving combined with all the downforce the current Indycars have. When the series tested there a couple months back the guys went quicker than they’ve ever gone before.

Pagenaud and Power, either one could win but with all of these guys still in with a chance... I mean, eight drivers! Remember, no one with two races to go even thought about Scott last year. It’s still do-able – highly unlikely but do-able.

JT – Formula One returned from their summer break to race the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. Mercedes GP’s Nico Rosberg took the win ahead of Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo and teammate Lewis Hamilton. The race had moments of drama, mainly due to incidents, but was otherwise not very interesting.

Max Verstappen drove erratically and in the first corner of the opening lap dove inside the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. Running over the curb right next to the wall, Verstappen made contact with Raikkonen who was forced into his teammate. Vettel spun. Raikkonen and Verstappen had to pit for repairs. Later, Verstappen aggressively blocked Raikkonen. What did you think of the race and Verstappen’s driving?

SJ – Really, the main thing to talk about from Spa is the Verstappen controversy again, and the various incidents that unfolded at the beginning of the race. I have to say, I thought it was a bit rich for Verstappen to blame the Ferrari guys for ruining his race.

He blew it at the start effectively, he got passed by the two Ferrari’s going into Turn 1 and then tried to recover by a very, very low-percentage move on the inside that had virtually no chance of succeeding.

There’s always a bottleneck into the first corner at Spa. It’s a fraction-of-a-second decision and he was understandably frustrated from making a poor start and trying to gain back the ground he lost on the drag into the braking area for the first corner. I’m sure Vettel turned in on what he thought was the right line outside. There’s no way he’d try to squeeze Raikkonen there. Kimi had to straighten up a bit when he saw Verstappen in his mirror. Then he got into Vettel who was on his line and the rest is history. These things happen and it seems more common than not at Spa that at least a few cars get into each other at the start. But to put the blame on the Ferrari guys and claim they somehow collectively ganged up on Verstappen to squeeze him out is a bit far fetched to say the least. As is often the case, the one who’s busted is often the one who screams the loudest.

But for me the worst part is the blocking. It’s outrageous that no penalty was handed out this time. At what point do you draw the line? If a driver has to hit the brakes on a straight to avoid contact something is clearly wrong. It’s sad to say and I’ve mentioned it before but this is typical of the new generation of open wheel racers. They think this is completely normal it seems – like it’s ok to completely turn into someone when they’re coming alongside on a straight. The fact that this is their mindset is sad.

The argument was “well, I was just defending my position”

You defend your position on the entry to the corners, in the corners and on the exits, not on the straights. If you’re slower entering a corner and you leave the door open wide enough for the other guy to have a go it’s fair game, or you can choose to defend the inside line, which will normally result in a slower exit which will then allow the opponent to accelerate out of the corner faster than you and by doing so outdrag you on the following straight into the next corner. This is basic stuff. Now it suddenly seems acceptable to just pull out right in front of the car that’s significantly faster than you and by doing so force this car to effectively lift or even worse, hit the brakes in order to avoid hitting you. That’s like allowing a boxer that’s on the ropes to pull out a knife to stop his opponent making the knock out hit.

If a guy behind you is quicker and he’s come out of the previous corner with a better exit speed, at some stage you have to be able to pass.

I know for a fact the same thing happened in F3 a few years ago, at more or less the same spot where the driver trying to pass him had to apply 100lbs of brake pressure in order not to hit him. It would be very easy for the FIA to pull the data from Raikkonen’s car to see if the same thing applied this time too. If you have to brake because someone’s blocking you on the straight then something’s fundamentally wrong, especially when they stewards let you get away with it.

More than anything, this is now a philosophical problem that I believe needs to be dealt with swiftly. This is not something that is unique to Verstappen only, although Max is the poster child for the new generation of drivers and as such is getting all the publicity for obvious reasons. If you look at the Junior Formula’s this stuff goes on in almost every race, and sometime with some horrifying accidents as a result. I’m a huge proponent of drivers being brave and being willing to risk their lives to get the maximum out of the car. After all, that’s the essence of what a great driver has always been perceived to be and what it’s all about, but when you purposely put other driver’s lives at risk then it becomes the exact opposite of that. Blocking has nothing to do with racing. There is zero skill involved. There is nothing good about it. It requires no skill, no race craft, no bravery. It’s just an indication where the drivers moral compass is as far as I’m concerned. It’s just dirty, dangerous tactics that should be penalized immediately and consistently until it stops. I urge Charlie Whiting, the FIA and all the so called experts up in race control to go to youtube and watch the battle between Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux at Dijon in 1979.

This is real racing, between two real men giving it everything they’ve got, but still giving each other enough room, not once did either of them try to block each other. It’s pure hard core racing between two of the best ever. No one ever thought of blocking then. This is something that gradually crept into the system by some of the best drivers in history, and sadly, because of this the generations that followed now think this is the way to do it and it’s become the norm and completely accepted.

I personally think that Lewis Hamilton and Alonso are maybe the best and purests racers out there, and you never see them pull these kind kind of stunts. But if you open the door by half an inch to wide they will take the gap immediately, every drivers knows that and both respect and admire them for it, even if they will never admit it in public. Verstappen is potentially every bit as good as both of them, maybe even better, time will tell. I just hope he will at some point understand that you don’t need to win every battle to win the war.

As I’ve mentioned several times before, here we go again with a different race and a different steward in race control who has yet another different view from the one in the previous race, and on and on it goes. I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but until you have a guy who is 100% dedicated to the job, with a strong character that can handle the pressure of the job, is current with the modern F1 cars, is respected by his peers and understand what’s going on at the track, this saga will just continue and cause more and more frustration among the drivers and the fans. Some of the ex drivers that show up for this job I frankly don’t think have a clue what they’re doing, or even care about it. They’re just there to add this job to their portfolio or use it to give themselves some added credibility in certain circles. I have no idea how the selection process works but it seems to be more or less “who’s around this weekend” when you look at some of the names. Considering how important their decisions ultimately are, it’s almost irresponsible on the part of FIA to not be more selective in whom they place in this role.

 

SJ chats with Jan Tegler: F1 Chinese GP, Indycar GP of Long Beach & Alabama, and WEC at Silverstone

Stefan Johansson

Photo by: motorsport.com

Photo by: motorsport.com

JT – Two weeks ago, F1 made the third stop on its 21-race 2016 calendar, visiting Shanghai for the Chinese Grand Prix. The race had more than the usual amount of action due to a shuffled grid and first-lap contact for a number of cars. Lewis Hamilton was forced to start from the back of the pack after mechanical woes in qualifying.

On the first lap, Sebastian Vettel made contact with Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen, damaging Raikkonen’s car while setting off a chain reaction incident that brought other cars to the pits for repairs including Hamilton. Rosberg started cleanly and vanished, leading flag to flag for his third consecutive win of the season. Hamilton was only able to climb to 7th place while Vettel came home 2nd. Kimi Raikkonen recovered to 5th place. Meanwhile Daniel Kvyat and Daniel Riccardo looked strong for Red Bull Racing finishing 3rd and 4th. What did you think of the grand prix?

SJ – Well it seemed as if everyone blamed everyone else for the start incidents. Rosberg got the job done and it’s funny how the dynamic changes so fast. Now everybody’s on about how Rosberg is dominating. But that’s not exactly the case, just as it wasn’t the case when Hamilton was winning last year. Small nuances always make the difference. This year, luck hasn’t been on Hamilton’s side so far. But we’re only three races into the season.

It’s hard to put the blame on anyone for what happened in the first corner after the start. I’m not sure who hit who at first. Vettel blamed Kvyat for coming from nowhere and left him nowhere to go, but looking at the video replay, the door was left wide open and Kvyat took the opportunity to gain a few places. What happened after that is the normal chain reaction where a driver is either trying to avoid someone else or taking the opportunity to pass someone if there’s a gap left open.

There’s no question that Red Bull has a very strong car. Adrian Newey and his team of designers always comes up with a good chassis and I think things will be even more interesting when F1 gets to some of the European tracks that are more demanding in terms of balance. Shanghai is a horsepower track with a very long straight. Red Bull could definitely be a threat on some of the tighter circuits.

JT – Though Vettel and Raikkonen finished well given their troubles, Ferrari still doesn’t seem be able to put together a clean weekend.

SJ – Exactly, I don’t think we really know the truth of their potential yet. Various circumstances have come up at the races so far that have created challenges for them. There hasn’t been a real apples-to-apples comparison between them and the other teams. That will be worth watching.

JT – If you consider the other top teams, I think it’s fair to say that McLaren-Honda still isn’t progressing the way you would expect. Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren’s substitute for Fernando Alonso in Bahrain, is the only team driver to have scored a point. They may be closer to the pace than they were last year but clearly they still have a long way to go.

SJ – They’re definitely getting closer. It’s hard to say exactly what the circumstances are for the team but I still believe they’ll get a lot stronger and will eventually get things together. It’s just taking longer than expected.

JT – Another meeting of F1’s Strategy Group takes place this week, supposedly the final opportunity to define the rules for 2017 and beyond. Mercedes GP boss Toto Wolff says he doesn’t want the rules to change because “performance between the teams is converging to create great racing.” Other teams want changes, arguing that the racing isn’t that terrific and that Mercedes has an interest in keeping the rules the same given their performance advantage. Do you think anything of substance will result from the meeting?

SJ – I don’t think we’ll see anything of any substance. I’ve been saying it for three years now but it will be the same old thing. You have to get the teams out of the decision making process or nothing will happen. They can’t agree on anything.

If something does come out the meeting it will be a half-baked compromise that will drive costs even higher and make the racing even more complicated. There won’t be a simple solution. It will be something so convoluted and expensive that it would be better if they did nothing. Frankly, I think they’re better off not doing anything. Whatever they might decide to do will inevitably be more expensive and we all know that F1’s business model is unsustainable. Rules stability will always bring the costs down and eventually also level the playing field if you keep the rules consistent for a long period of time.

JT –Bernie Ecclestone recently drew criticism for saying he didn’t “know whether a woman would physically be able to drive an F1 car quickly, and they wouldn’t be taken seriously.”

F1 world champion Mario Andretti offered a slightly different but similar view commenting that, “Formula One has been in existence for what, 66 years, and we've only seen five women try and compete and none have really been successful.… Saying women can do it - bottom line, they have to prove it.”

What’s your take?

SJ – Frankly, I don’t necessarily agree with the fitness aspect because F1 cars today aren’t that physical to drive. I don’t think it would difficult for a woman do to the physical training required to get to that level but the point is that motor racing is a fairly pure culture. It’s survival of the fittest. If you’re not good enough, you won’t make it. There are, mostly, no hand-outs, no favors, unless of course you’re one of the pay drivers but assuming all things are being equal.

But the second there is a female driver who is good enough to get to F1 on sheer merit they would have a much better chance of getting an opportunity than any of the men would. What’s really important to recognize is that the likelihood of a female getting to the level you need to be at to compete in Formula One is very small because there aren’t enough females pursuing it.

I don’t know the exact number of professional drivers worldwide right now but let’s say there are at least 2,000 each year. How many of those are females? Ten maybe? What are the chances that one of those ten is going to be competitive with the best of the rest? Sheer statistics are against it.

My point is that once there is a female good enough they should and will have to prove themselves. There are many men who are very good but not good enough. There is a lot of noise being made about female drivers but if you look at the results, the facts… that’s all you need to see. You’re not entitled to something until you prove yourself. May the best driver win, independent of gender.

JT – IndyCar has raced twice since we chatted for the last blog with races at Long Beach and last weekend’s Barber Motorsports Park round. Penske’s Simon Pagenaud took the win at both events. Scott Dixon finished second at Long Beach and 10th at Barber. Controversy broke out at Long Beach when Pagenaud was warned but not penalized for crossing the line at pit exit in an effort to stay ahead of Dixon in the final stage of the race. The lack of a penalty for the infraction did not sit well with many and highlighted flaws in IndyCar’s new three-man committee of race stewards. Pagenaud finished in front at Barber after a spirited battle with Graham Rahal. No penalties were issued for contact between the two drivers.

Both races ran under green flag conditions from start to finish - impressive and nearly unprecedented, particularly at Long Beach. What did you make of both races?

SJ – Long Beach was interesting and confusing. I ended up having a long conversation with Max Papis (one of the three stewards along with Arie Luyendyk and Dan Davis) about it because no one could understand their illogical decision. As stupid as it may sound, I think the bottom line is that they’ve been handed such a convoluted set of rules that they just couldn’t act because there wasn’t anything in the rulebook that applied to this particular situation. Which is totally bizarre as this must be one of the easiest rules of all to enforce. If you cross the yellow line with more than two wheels, you have broken the rule. It couldn’t be more clear than that. There are probably 25 drivers every weekend in some race, somewhere in the world that get’s a penalty for doing just that.

I just wish they could make decisions and then stand behind them rather than the wishy-washy situation we have now. No one knows where they stand.

At Barber, what can you say? Unfortunately Scott always seems to be in the right place at the wrong time and gets tapped from behind. Every time that happens to him the race always seems to go green the whole way and he had no chance of recovering. It’s frustrating because his pace was definitely good. He was almost a second per lap quicker on his fastest race lap than anyone else. He would have definitely been in the hunt at the end of the race if he hadn’t gone to the back of the field after the contact.

The racing between Pagenaud and Rahal was just that, hard racing. To me, their contact was a racing incident. In this case, I’m glad IndyCar didn’t issue a bunch of penalties. You have to let drivers race sometimes.

JT – Felix Rosenqvist returned to the U.S. to resume racing in the Indy Lights championship last weekend after two races in Europe – both in a Mercedes AMG GT3 – in the Blancpain Sprint Series and the ADAC GT Masters championship. Things didn’t go quite as expected for Felix at Barber Motorsports Park where he finished 14th in race one after contact with Santiago Urrutia and 8th in race two.

In their Sprint Series debut at Misano, Felix and teammate Tristan Vautier were very competitive, running fast laps and holding a podium position in the late stages of the main race before cruelly running out of gas. Rosenqvist finished well at the GT Masters round in Ochersleben, earning 10th in race one and 4th in race two. His schedule is challenging, going between open wheel racing and sports car racing.

SJ – At Barber, I think the team (Belardi) had a bit of a struggle from the moment they unloaded. They had massive tire wear and they were fighting the car the whole weekend. They never really got on top of it. It’s a tough championship. Indy Lights has some very good talent right now.

If you look at racing in America overall, there’s pretty good depth in all of the categories. IndyCar is really quite impressive. Take a guy like Alexander Rossi who was super promising coming out of GP2. He’s running on the last two rows of the grid. I think that says a lot. It’s a very tough field now.

Misano was good because Felix was almost half a second quicker than anyone else and everyone was quite impressed. But unfortunately they didn’t make to the end of the race.

JT – The first race of the 2016 season of WEC took place at Silverstone two weeks ago. It was a rather fraught race for several drivers and teams with Brendon Hartley crashing out in his Porsche 919 and the sister Porsche making contact with one of the Ford GTs. The No. 8 Audi went up in smoke due to hybrid system failure.

Meanwhile, the No. 7 Audi took the checkered flag in first place. However, a post-race penalty for excessive wear on a front skid block led to the car’s exclusion. The No. 2 Porsche 919 therefore took the win. Some saw the ruling as harsh and Audi initially appealed the ruling then withdrew its appeal. What’s your view?

SJ – A rule is a rule. It might seem a stiff penalty but it is what it is. Apparently, the car wasbouncing and wore down the skid block but that’s not the rule makers’ fault. That’s an element that those running the car have to manage.

If you have rules, you have to adhere to them. A car might be 300 grams too light and you could argue whether that was any kind of advantage but if it’s too light, if it violates the rule, that’s it.

JT – Last winter Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne suggested Alfa Romeo might return to F1 as a constructor to gain publicity for the brand and compete at the highest level. When asked if Alfa might consider racing at Le Mans, he said he preferred F1. You differ with his view.

SJ – Yes, he said that F1 is the maximum of technological expression in the automotive world and that’s where Alfa should be.

But that’s actually not true anymore. I think the WEC is significantly more technologically advanced than Formula One is today. At least you have some technical choice in WEC. F1 is incredibly restricted with a complex and expensive engine formula which only allows one approach at a massive cost.

Everybody has to build exactly the same engine and chassis. You’re not allowed to do anything outside of their very restricted little box. Consequently, all F1 is, is optimizing a very strict rules package. There’s little room for innovation. In the WEC there is at least room for a bit of innovation with the freedom to try different versions of the P1 concept.

On the other hand, the P1 cars now require Formula One level budgets and that’s for just six cars and three teams spending stupid money. You can’t really even count the Rebellion non-hybrid P1 cars. Why they’re running in P1 and not P2 is beyond me. And of course, if the VW Group decides it wants to do something different than sports car racing it’s game over for the whole thing.


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SJ chats with Jan Tegler: Hungarian GP, Indycar at Mid-Ohio & LMP1

Stefan Johansson

Jan Tegler - The Hungarian Grand Prix proved interesting primarily because of the performance of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen - particularly at the start. Both Ferraris got away from the line well with Vettel vaulting past Mercedes GP pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg.

Raikkonen was able to slot into second place behind Vettel, getting past both Mercedes as well in the first corners. Unfortunately, Raikkonen was forced to retire with a failing MGU-K energy recovery system. Otherwise, it might have been a Ferrari one-two. What did you think of Ferrari's perfomance?

Stefan Johansson - It was definitely impressive, especially the start where both Ferraris just took off from the line. I’ve heard through the grapevine that Mercedes got caught out because all their calibrations were done assuming the lights would go green the first time.

As it was, they had to do another start when the first one was abandoned. Apparently their clutches were now hotter and therefore whatever parameters they had programmed for launch did not work as well.

Why no one else had the same problem is another story of course. Maybe it’s just that the boffins at Merc are better at setting the ultimate launch control, maybe they forgot to anticipate for a restart? One thing is clear, it had most likely very little to do with the drivers and more to do with what dials and switches were put in certain positions.

Hungarian GP 2015 - Start

JT - Mercedes on the other hand, did not cover itself in glory. Lewis Hamilton bogged down at the start and lost place after place. He followed that up by going into a gravel trap and later hitting Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, incurring a drive through penalty. Despite his poor performance, Hamilton finished in sixth place and actually gained points on teammate Rosberg. Meanwhile, Rosberg cut a tire while racing Ricciardo, dropping him from second position to eighth place at the checkered flag. Hamilton's luck seems to be carrying him forward in spite of his mistakes. What did you make of the Mercedes drivers and team performance?

SJ - It seems that once their original plan goes out the window Mercedes has a hard time recovering. More or less the same thing happened at Silverstone where they were able to recover, but at least a small part of that was thanks to the freaky weather conditions there.

It looks like their cars are struggling once they have to run in dirty air and a lot of their advantage is gone. Hamilton was certainly lucky that Rosberg did not score big this time but what struck me as rather weird was the amount of contact between all the drivers throughout the field. It’s unusual to see that much contact even when people race hard as they certainly did this time.

I know the track surface in Hungary is very strange with a very low grip level. It feels like the tires never dig into the surface, just kind of skimming on top of it all the time. Maybe that had something to do with it. But then, it’s been the same surface since 1985 so why it would be so different this time is still a bit strange.

Red Bull Racing - Hungary GP

JT - Red Bull Racing had its best outing of the season at Hungary with Daniil Kvyat finishing second while Ricciardo finished third. Both had some interesting battles during the race. Is their success an indication that RBR is finally improving or simply the result of circumstances during the race?

SJ - I’m sure they are improving. But this track helped all the teams that have a horsepower deficit which showed also in the performance of the McLarens and Toro Rosso - all helped of course by the poor and unusual performance by Mercedes.

ToroRosso - Hungarian GP 2015

JT - Toro Rosso and McLaren did have reason to celebrate with Max Verstappen coming home just off the podium in fourth place and Fernando Alonso taking the checkers in fifth with Jenson Button also in the top ten. It was McLaren's first points scoring race for both cars this season. Again, circumstances surely played a role in the trio's finishing positions but both teams may gain slight momentum from Hungary. What's you view?

SJ - The results for both were greatly helped by the circumstances that developed in the race and the unusual character of this track. Toro Rosso has been strong all year and it seems their chassis is probably one of the best this season. McLaren have huge resources and they’re relentless in trying to improve, so sooner or later they will be competitive, but I doubt very much we will see any huge improvements this year. Whether Hungary was a real turning point remains to be seen.

Pat Symmonds - Williams F1

JT - Williams F1 had a poor outing at Hungary. They don't seem to be capable of finding consistent form, even with the benefit of Mercedes power. What has to happen for the Grove, U.K.-based squad to finally run at the front routinely?

SJ - I think they simply need more resources and funding in order to be a consistent player in the top 3-4 group. There’s no doubt they made a huge leap forward starting last year when they switched to the Mercedes engine. But maybe more importantly, they had a major shakeup in the design department.

Pat Symmonds is one of the top three Technical Directors in the business in my opinion and it’s kind of a mystery to me that he’s not working for one of the top teams already. But even with a guy of his caliber, you’re limited if you don’t have the budget to spend on all the development that the leading teams do. So in the circumstances, they are still doing an incredible job. It seems they have a harder time to always stay on top of the tire situation and their performance in the wet has been very poor, however.

Scuderia Ferrari - Vergne

JT - Formula One silly-season is in full swing as the teams take their summer break. Speculation by an Italian publication says Kimi Raikkonen will be given a contract by Ferrari for 2016.

Meanwhile, Haas F1 principal Gene Haas has admitted that the team is considering Jean-Eric Vergne, Esteban Gutierrez and Nico Hulkenberg as top prospects for filling the team's seats next year. Two of the three - Vergne and Gutierrez - are Ferrari reserve drivers while Hulkenberg is a Force India pilot.

Finally, Toro Rosso principal Franz Tost says that talks between the team and Renault about a takeover by the manufacturer have "gone quiet" and that Renault may now be looking elsewhere - Lotus F1 - for a team. What do you think of all this gossip?

SJ - It makes sense to me for Ferrari to keep Kimi for another year. His results have not been what any of them wanted but at least 50 percent of that has been down to either poor reliability or poor decision-making on the team’s part whether it’s race or qualifying strategy. I don’t see any reason to change the drivers until they have a car that can consistently fight for wins. It’s more important to focus the effort on that.

Considering how close Vergne and Gutierrez are with Ferrari it makes sense for Haas F1 to run one of the reserve drivers so they can at least evaluate how good they are in a racing situation as opposed to spending endless hours in a simulator which effectively is what they do now. I don’t know if it would make sense for Hulkenberg to switch teams if it’s not a huge leap forward. He deserves a shot in winning car.

I really don’t know what Renault is considering. I’m sure they are looking very carefully at all the options in front of them. The one that makes most sense to me would be Lotus I suppose. I’m sure Lotus’ current owners have had enough of dipping into their own pockets every year to keep the team going. They are clearly short of funds but they have a good infrastructure and good people.

Indycar Mid-Ohio - 2015

JT - The 2015 IndyCar season continues to be unpredictable. Graham Rahal scored a popular win at last weekend's Mid-Ohio round, closing the gap to points-leader Juan Pablo Montoya to just nine markers. Fuel strategy and caution flags played a major part in the race but Rahal drove well.

Scott Dixon grabbed the pole for the race with a record lap and led from the start but an early caution flipped the field. Scott was mired in the pack for the mid-race but then came back close to the front before Ganassi Racing teammate Sage Karam spun on lap 68.

Rahal pitted on lap 66 just as the caution flag came out for Karam's spin, effectively putting him in front of the field when the rest pitted under the caution. Scott ultimately finished fourth. What did you think of the race and how does Scott view it?

SJ - Well, it looks like this year’s Championship might be decided on pit strategy more than real performance the way things have been going the last three or four races. Rahal was nowhere in the championship, and frankly nowhere in most of the races. But through some circumstances and some great calls on pit strategy he’s now a major contender to win the championship.

It’s obviously very frustrating for the guys who’ve been running up front but it’s the nature of the beast with Indycar. I always used to say it evens out over the course of a season. But this year it certainly seems those who have more or less been out of contention have benefitted. As such, they’ve been able to roll the dice on strategy more so than the guys up front who are more limited to stick to one strategy only.

From Scott’s point of view it was obviously extremely frustrating. He dominated the whole weekend and then got caught out by the yellow on the first safety car, making it hard to recover. Rahal’s pit-stops were timed perfectly. Whether that was luck or skill I don’t know but they sure timed the stops well and by doing so moved him to the front after the final stop.

Mid-Ohio has always been a tough track to pass on but with this new aero kit it has made it almost impossible as there is such a big wake behind each car now. Once you get in the dirty air the aero is completely ruined.

Sage Karam - Mid Ohio 2015

JT - Sage Karam's spin is under review by IndyCar and was quite publicly called into question by Montoya following the race. Montoya was leading when Karam caused the caution and ultimately finished in eleventh spot. What's your take?

SJ - I definitely don’t think for one second it was done on purpose. It was just coincidental that it happened the way it did.

Mid Ohio Podium 2015

JT - Andretti Autosport's Justin Wilson finished second behind Rahal at Mid-Ohio, driving well as usual. I think most observers agree that Wilson deserves a full time ride again for 2016 with a top team. Do you agree?

SJ - Yes, I agree, Justin has done enough to warrant a full time drive with one of the top teams. Hopefully he has shown enough to convince one of them to give him a shot.

Pocono Indycar

JT - Just two races remain in the IndyCar season. What do you think of the championship battle and Scott's position in third? Pocono could be a bit of a lottery in terms of standings post-race but Sonoma has long been a track where Penske performs well. It will be interesting to see what kind of strategy Ganassi, Penske and Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan choose for the remaining events.

SJ - Pocono will be very important of course. The championship is a long-shot for Scott now but with double points in the last race anything can still happen, assuming that Pocono goes well. I just hope the title won’t be decided on pit strategy but on outright performance.

Derrick Walker - Indycar

JT - Among other developments, IndyCar announced that it will have a longer season for 2016 with more races on the schedule including some at tracks the series hasn't visited for a while and the possibility of a new venue.

SJ - I’m happy to see they have finally abandoned the crazy idea of the season ending in August. It’s been a nightmare for everyone involved. Let’s hope the new venues will be great and eventually become permanent fixtures on the calendar.

JT - Simultaneously, IndyCar competition director Derrick Walker announced his resignation. Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull has been very outspoken about the departure of another series official and has been suggested as a candidate to replace Walker. Whether that's likely or not, what do you think of Walker's move?

SJ - Walker’s departure has been expected for a while now. I don’t know all the details so I don’t think it would be fair for me to comment but I have a lot of sympathy for whoever is in that position as it’s pretty thankless job. No matter what decision you make you’re almost certain to piss someone off.

Toyota LMP1 - WEC

JT - In sports car racing news, some WEC teams have been taking advantage of the long post-Le Mans break to test. Toyota is the most recent, having tested at the Nurbugring last week.

Toyota technical director Pascal Vasselon said that measures have to be taken to make the team's P1 cars more competitive and that the test was helpful. He also admitted that the team is basically working towards 2016 now, revising its suspension and braking systems and planning a new powertrain for next season.

Vasselon said further, "There was a need for a reaction and we will have a supplementary budget for the coming season, even if it won't be at the level of others." Is this an indication that LMP1 is becoming too expensive, even for manufacturers?

SJ - I don’t for a second think the budget for LMP1 is a problem for a company like Toyota. The numbers were talking about are barely a rounding error for them in the overall scheme of things and still a fraction of what they spent each year they did F1, for example. It strikes me more like they’re not 100 percent committed from the top for this project.