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F80P9707The all-electric Formula E open-wheelers weren't particularly fast during their debut on the streets of Beijing in September, and most people hated the techno music bed that was used to compensate for the missing exhaust notes, but I'm confident in saying Alejandro Agag's ambitious concept surpassed most expectations at Round 1. The field of cars took off from the starting grid, raced for 25 laps, and a winner was declared.

Granted, it lacked excitement, barring Nicolas Prost's attempts to launch his World Endurance Championship teammate Nick Heidfeld into orbit on the final lap, and with a thorough list of improvements to make, Formula E has a chance to show the world it listened and learned from Beijing when Round 2 kicks off on Saturday in Putrajaya, Malaysia.

If Round 1 was Formula E's opportunity to show us what this new brand of eco-friendly racing had to offer, I see Round 2 as a critical test for whether the concept can make the transition from the fringes – a curiosity – to something worth following on a regular basis.



e3Everyone involved with the series will tell you Formula E is different; it can't be categorized like any other form of motorsport. They'll also tell you they aren't trying to appeal to the traditional racing fan – they're after a brand-new fan base of their own. Those beliefs and ambitions are fine, but like every other derivative sport, Formula E still has Formula 1, NASCAR, the WEC, WRC, IndyCar, and plenty of other established series to contend with as it seeks industry-wide legitimacy.

Until Formula E creates its own army of fans, has legions of dedicated reporters telling its story, and commands the market segment they desire, they'll be subject to the same criteria applied to other professional racing series. And that's what makes the Putrajaya ePrix such an important event.

Formula E was given a pass at Beijing, but if it doesn't look and feel like something real in Malaysia, the series will have a much harder time carving out a space of its own. Simply put, if traditional racing fans and outlets turn their backs on Formula E, the Wall Street Journals, Popular Mechanics and Bloombergs of the world aren't exactly clamoring to evangelize all-electric racing on a regular basis.

e2If Formula E faced a dozen hurdles at Beijing, the number is much lower in Putrajaya, but I'm still concerned about some of the obstacles they're facing.

To start, Formula 1 ends its season this weekend in Abu Dhabi and will crown a new champion on Sunday. Formula E's single-day format won't necessarily compete head-to-head with F1 when they practice, qualify and race on Saturday, but it's fair to say racing fans will be focused on F1's practice and qualifying at the same time.

Formula E team owner Michael Andretti doesn't believe F1 will take interest away from the happenings in Malaysia.

"It's not about being in competition with Formula 1 – they are two different types of racing so I don't think it will hurt us," he said. "I think Beijing was a great start to the Formula E season, but there are more races to come that will help play a part in growing the commercial side of the sport."

Dragon Racing Formula E driver Oriol Servia sees Saturday's F1-vs.-FE situation a bit differently.

"Not ideal. We offer a very different product than F1 does but it still is racing and we know that these days it is very hard, with all the entertainment offerings we all have, to get and keep the attention of the spectators for too long. The F1 finale with the championship on the line will get the most focus. With our race being Saturday, though – Friday night in the U.S. – we may get away with murder..." he wrote while on his flight to Round 2.


 

 SBL5712My other concern involves a gap of more than two months between Beijing and Putrajaya. Imagine seeing the first episode of an interesting new TV series and having to wait 70 days until the second episode aired. Would you forget about the series after a few weeks, much less remember when it was meant to return? In 2014, seven days is more than enough time for people to forget about Formula E...70 days is begging for anonymity and invisibility.

servia eAsked if he thought Formula E would be forced to essentially re-introduce itself at Round 2, Servia (LEFT) said yes, but sees the situation improving once they leave Malaysia.

"In a way, absolutely. We had a great start. I think it was not only a total success from the sporting point of view, especially considering it's a brand-new series; we also had a lot TV viewers tune in – 25 million households, so the last thing you want to do after getting everyone excited is letting them cool down again," he said.

"The original schedule had the second race three weeks ago but the Malaysian government asked for a change. On the other hand, though, it's going to help carry the momentum from here on as we have the next three races much closer together, with the advantage of almost no other racing at all going on anywhere else in the planet."

andretti eAndretti (RIGHT) pushed back when I posed the same question.

"I don't look at the Malaysia race as being a 're-introduction' for the series. We are racing all over the world and there are added logistics involved – we're on to a once a month schedule now," he said. "It's good for us to have that extra time in between events, and especially after the first race. We've now experienced the first race and the time allows us to evaluate and prepare both as a team and a series; we can take what we started in Beijing and do an even better job in Malaysia," he said.

I then asked Oriol to share his thoughts on what lessons Formula E could take from Beijing, and in turn, how those lessons could be used to improve for Round 2. The IndyCar veteran chose improved promotions for the one thing that makes the series different from its competitors, and another item that was universally annoying.

Formula-E-cockpit-at-Trulli-test-courtesy-FEH"As a driver, I had a lot of fun and honestly wouldn't change much a part from ironing a couple details," he said. "After watching the broadcast, I thought they did a great job but also a couple little things can help the overall show, mainly explaining some of the amazing technical nuances like power regeneration systems – we have three! And two of them adjustable from the cockpit – that will make the audience better understand what is going on and get them totally interested. And maybe little lower the volume on the electronic music to make it more suitable for all audiences..."

Compared to other racing series, Formula E is an infant, and deserves the time and space to grow. Formula 1 has a massive head start on Formula E; it began in 1950 and has a giant audience locked in place. Indy car racing made its debut in 1911, the 24 Hours of Le Mans started in 1923 and NASCAR held its first race in 1949. However, times have changed since those series were formed.

Attention spans are shorter than ever, and whether it's in sports, business, government or entertainment, we tend to judge new entities in terms of instant success or instant failure – there's no middle, and no patience to watch something like Formula E gain acceptance at a glacial pace.

Servia hopes tech-minded fans and auto manufacturers will become the conduit to move Formula E from the margins to front-page material.

"On our end, we feel that without a doubt it has a great future. Not only all car manufacturers either have an electric car or in the process of having one but many more electronic-related industries like phone companies, computers will want to participate and showcase their technology," he declared. "With only two American teams on the grid and with us being based in L.A. – the city with the most electric cars in the world – we think we are in a great position for a bright, race-relevant future.

"And you know, I believe it's not a question of trying to be different or getting different fans. It is very different in almost every way to any other type of racing – the technology used, the aim of the show, the audience target, being green and relevant and city friendly. Not only can all racing fans find something to like, but all the techies out there will have a natural interest and will pay at least a minimum of attention to it. If the show is decent and entertaining, they will be more naturally hooked than other TV offerings out there."

Will Putrajaya result in Formula E advancing their product, having to re-introduce it, or taking a few steps back with the long layoff and F1 dominating the headlines? We'll have the answer in the next few days.​

e5

Red Bull, Ferrari eye new engine rules

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Mercedes' rivals are ready to table a proposal for radical engine regulation change for 2016 if the German car manufacturer does not concede ground on relaxing Formula 1's engine freeze.

As frustrations grow that Mercedes will not approve a plan to allow limited in-season engine development for 2015, its main opposition has made clear that it cannot accept the situation longer term.

Ahead of next week's meetings of the Strategy Group and F1 Commission, rivals Red Bull and Ferrari have dropped a major hint that they may push for new rules for 2016 if they are restricted on what they can change next year. Red Bull boss Christian Horner even suggested that F1 should switch to twin turbos and standard energy recovery systems for the current V6 engines.

"Maybe we need to even go as far as looking at a different engine – a new engine," he said. "Maybe still a V6, but maybe a more simplified V6 that controls the cost – cost of development, cost of supply to a team and to the privateer teams. I think that's something we need to have a serious discussion about during the next Strategy Group."

Ferrari team principal Marco Mattiacci backed Horner's view that a more radical change to the engine rules may need to be considered for 2016, although he drew short of saying he would like to see an all-new engine.

"Definitely we need to look at something different for 2016," he said. "In terms of power unit and in terms of regulation [for] 2015 it is clear we will have to – at the moment – accept the status quo. "But definitely we are not going to accept the status quo for 2016."

Toto Wolff

MERCEDES: "THAT WOULD BE LIKE DIGGING A GRAVE FOR F1"

Mercedes-Benz motorsport boss Toto Wolff (LEFT) is well aware that his team's rivals could push for something radical for 2016, because only majority support among teams is needed to change the rules. However, he believes that doing anything that dramatically increased engine costs could risk causing big damage to the sport.

"We are all talking about costs and, if you would open up the regulations in the way it has been described, that clearly means you don't care about costs," he said. That would be like digging a grave for Formula 1.

"We have spent considerable amounts in the development of the power unit... but I think we need to be sensible and we need to come up with solutions which enable the small teams to survive and which still enable the big teams to showcase the technology.

"Reversing everything, changing the format, changing the engines would just increase costs; it would be the opposite for what we need for Formula 1 at the current stage."

 

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

Carlos-closeupMarshall Pruett says…Carlos-podium-LB

Carlos was shot out of a rocket during most of his rookie IndyCar season. He stood on the podium at Long Beach, the second race of the season, and continued on a roll that had the 22-year-old Colombian (22!) holding sixth in the standings through Iowa, the 12th of 18 races on the calendar.

The Munoz train would start to derail at Toronto where a pair of 17th places followed by a 22nd at Mid-Ohio and a 19th at Sonoma took a bit of shine off his pre-Toronto body of work. The end result was eighth in the championship, nestled between Tony Kanaan and teammate Marco Andretti in the final standings.

If you detect a slight tone of disappointment in what I’ve written so far, it’s because Munoz slammed the rookie wall much harder than expected. Rounds 1 through 12 came easy to Carlos—that Long Beach podium, a fourth at the Indy 500, another podium at Houston 1 and then another podium at Pocono served as incredible highs that more than counterbalanced his craters at Barber, the GP of Indy and Houston 2.

You expect rookies to be inconsistent, and Munoz met those expectations perfectly, but when he was on, the kid looked like a future IndyCar champion. The final 33 percent of the season exposed Munoz’s youth and inexperience, and that isn’t something to be held against him.

Teamed with the excellent engineer Garrett Mothersead, Carlos was a revelation in 2014, put some big names behind him in the championship, and by all accounts, overachieved. He was the second best driver at Andretti Autosport—just two spots behind team leader, Indy 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, and that’s something no one would have predicted.

I'm curious to see where he fits on the grid in 2015. With a touch of consistency, he moves up a few positions in the standings, but does he have an extra gear to mix it up with Power, Dixon, RHR, Pagenaud and the other beasts on a regular basis?


 

Carlos-blur-TorontoDavid Malsher says…

“Carlos Munoz is going to be a big threat in years to come, I think. A seriously impressive driver.”
If those words had come from Michael Andretti or Juan Montoya, you’d assume they were a result of a generous boss or a friendly compatriot. Instead, they come from Team Penske’s Will Power.

“He’s so young but already very fast and consistent,” continues the new IndyCar champion. “To make so few mistakes when you’re 22 and in such a high-pressure series where everyone’s so close in pace… That’s amazing.”

In 2013, just before he pulled double-duty at Indy – fourth in the Indy Lights Freedom 100, second on his IndyCar debut in the Indy 500! – Munoz was quick to defend the Lights series. He told me that while the field was lacking in depth, “even if there were 55 cars out there, the current top five would still be the top five.” The Carlos-on-bikecream, in other words, is still the cream and rises to the top, even if what’s below has turned sour.

Unwittingly, Munoz proved that himself this year; he may have only finished third in the Lights championship last year, but he was a fantastic IndyCar rookie this past season. He never looked out of his depth, got his arms around street, road and oval racing, handled the high pressure of competing for the Firestone Fast Six, and was hard but fair in battle.

What we were all watching for were signs of the excess bravery that led to the superlative result at Indy last year but which also caused the high-speed shunt at Fontana in his second IndyCar outing for Andretti Autosport. Instead, Carlos spent the 2014 season emulating his one-off performance for Panther at Toronto in 2013 – rarely overreaching himself, just gaining experience and pace.

Thus he sidestepped the confidence-sapping shunts of his Rookie of the Year predecessor, Tristan Vautier, and simply delivered when he could.
Munoz scored three podium finishes, and three times – Pocono, Iowa and Mid-Ohio – was the fastest Andretti Autosport driver in qualifying. That’s not just an indicator of raw pace but also that he was good at working down to an optimal setup at the first two of these. At Mid-O, he was superb on a soaking track and qualified fourth, while similar wet conditions produced his third place finish in Houston.

Like Power said, this kid has got the balance just right and his potential is enormous.


Robin Miller says…

It says a lot about this young man that podiums are alright but he won’t ever be satisfied until he’s standing on that top step.

Munoz scored three podiums in 2014 (all thirds) and was fourth on two other occasions to finish eighth in the point standings and easily earn the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award.

His impressive debut at Indianapolis in 2013 (second) was confirmed as a trend in 2014 as the 22-year-old Colombian showed he was anything but a flash in the pan. And his versatility was unquestionable as he finished third at Pocono and fourth at Indianapolis but also claimed third at Long Beach and Houston – where he charged from 23rd.

To think he had FIVE DNFs and still finished eighth in the points indicates how well he drove as the fourth wheel for Andretti Autosport. His average start was 10.5 with three trips to the Fast 6 and a front row at Pocono, fifth at Iowa and seventh at the Indy 500. A road racer by trade, the former Indy Lights star is just as formidable on ovals and summed up his attitude after finishing third at Pocono.

“It’s nice but it’s not first,” he said. “Nobody cares who finished second or third.”

But his first win is only a matter of time.

Carlos-Pocono

abu2

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Lewis Hamilton drew first blood in the battle for the Formula 1 title by outpacing Nico Rosberg in Friday practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Rosberg was faster in the first part of the session when the field was running on the slower soft-compound Pirellis by over six tenths of a second. But once the field bolted on the super-softs, it was Hamilton who emerged as the pacesetter, shading Rosberg by 0.144sec on his first flier and then improving by almost half-a-tenth on his second attempt.

Rosberg subsequently shaved a tenth off his lap time, but ended up 83 thousandths of a second slower than his Mercedes teammate.

Both had very brief visits to the run-off during the session as they fought for supremacy, but Mercedes still had a crushing advantage on pace.

Kevin Magnussen was best-of-the rest in third place ahead of Sebastian Vettel, but such was the advantage of Mercedes that they were the only other drivers to better Rosberg's earlier top time on the soft rubber.

Valtteri Bottas was fifth fastest, just under a second off the pace, pipping the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo.

Kimi Raikkonen was seventh fastest for Ferrari, but it was a disappointing session overall for the Scuderia as the second car of Fernando Alonso stopped after two laps with a suspected engine problem.

Jenson Button's running was limited thanks to a hydraulic leak that delayed him early on, but he was able to completed 21 laps and ended up eighth fastest. Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat and Felipe Massa rounded out the top 10.

The lead Force India of Sergio Perez missed out on the top 10 by less than two tenths, with Pastor Maldonado 12th fastest.

With Alonso bottom of the charts after not setting a time, the returning Caterhams brought up the rear. But Kamui Kobayashi was just over half a second off the back of the midfield pack.

Behind him, Will Stevens completed 33 laps in the second Caterham and continued his learning curve after a disrupted morning session, ending up five seconds off the pace.

PosDriverCarTimeGapLaps
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m 42.113s - 35
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m 42.196s 0.083s 37
3 Kevin Magnussen McLaren/Mercedes 1m 42.895s 0.782s 37
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull/Renault 1m 42.959s 0.846s 33
5 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1m 43.070s 0.957s 34
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 1m 43.183s 1.070s 32
7 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m 43.489s 1.376s 33
8 Jenson Button McLaren/Mercedes 1m 43.503s 1.390s 23
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Renault 1m 43.546s 1.433s 38
10 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1m 43.558s 1.445s 34
11 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m 43.746s 1.633s 37
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus/Renault 1m 44.005s 1.892s 38
13 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m 44.068s 1.955s 32
14 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso/Renault 1m 44.157s 2.044s 39
15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber/Ferrari 1m 44.316s 2.203s 38
16 Adrian Sutil Sauber/Ferrari 1m 44.763s 2.650s 37
17 Romain Grosjean Lotus/Renault 1m 44.986s 2.873s 35
18 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham/Renault 1m 45.505s 3.392s 38
19 Will Stevens Caterham/Renault 1m 47.057s 4.944s 34
20 Fernando Alonso Ferrari - - 2

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

ELMS pushes for single-seater converts

Changes to the driving time limits in LMP2 in the European Le Mans Series have been designed to encourage more open-wheel drivers to make the move into sports car racing.

The rules that effectively limited platinum or gold-ranked drivers to one stint in the four-hour races have been relaxed for 2015. This year's ELMS sporting regulations stipulated that a silver or bronze pilot must drive for a minimum of two hours and 20 minutes if partnered by platinum or gold teammates, who would each be limited to 50 minutes in the car. That minimum has been reduced to one hour and 30 minutes in next year's rulebook.

 "This will make it more attractive to guys coming out of single-seaters because they will not be restricted to one stint," explained Vincent Beaumesnil, sporting manager at series organizer the Automobile Club de l'Ouest. "We think this will make P2 in the ELMS more attractive to all kinds of drivers. We have also seen some silver drivers getting tired because their driving time was so long."

Jota Sport boss Sam Hignett, whose team finished second in P2 in the ELMS in 2015, described the move as "positive news."

"This will allow us to better commercialize the time in the car not taken up by the silver driver," he said. "This will make it more attractive to guys looking to make the jump from single-seaters."

The new driving times for 2015 also specify maximum driving time of 90 minutes for platinum and gold drivers who are part of a three-driver lineup.

The maximum driving time for platinum or golds who are the only professionals in their lineup remains at one hour and 40 minutes. The limits in the GTC class for GT3 machinery have also been changed: the minimum for a bronze driver has been increased from 45 minutes to 90 minutes.

The ACO has announced that the champion drivers in the new-for-2013 LMP3 prototype class will be given a test in an LMP2 car. The move is part the link-up with Nissan, which is providing the engines for the new entry-level prototype category and is also the leading supplier of powerplants in P2.

"Nissan has a young driver programme [through its GT Academy] and the car is Nissan powered, so this makes sense and is a fantastic opportunity for a young driver to forge a link with a manufacturer," explained Beaumesnil.

The GTE and GTC classes will run on a spec tyre next year, which will be announced at a later date. Beaumesnil said this was a part of a drive to reduce costs in categories where Michelin was the sole supplier in 2014.

Plans to introduce a spec tire for the World Endurance Championship's GTE Am class, which had been explored for 2014, remain on the back burner.

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

Analysis: McLaren's new front wing

The McLaren Formula 1 team ran its new Red Bull-influenced front wing during Friday's first free practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The wing is totally different in concept to the outgoing McLaren design, which used four main elements plus a vane on the endplate to direct airflow around the tire. There were also a pair of cascade devices above the wing to manage the tire's turbulent wake. Now the wing has five elements with the outer spans split to form a stack of six elements near the wing tip.

Many teams are moving away from the twisted endplate vanes at the wing's end and running far straighter endplates as it seems the narrower 2014 front wings do not need such aggressive shapes to send their wake outboard of the front tire. McLaren's new endplate is straighter and features cutouts along its bottom edge, similar to Red Bull's current design.

The cascade elements above the main front wing are new and the deep winglet and separate vane inboard of it have been replaced with a simpler winglet with a matching smaller wing mounted inboard of it.

RED BULL INFLUENCE – BUT NO COPY

This is the first major upgrade created under the direction of former Red Bull head of aerodynamics Peter Prodromou. While the wing is similar to Red Bull's, this is only the case in concept terms and it is in no way a direct copy.

Designs for one car do not necessarily work on another, but concepts can be reapplied and McLaren is allowed to take advantage of the philosophies used on one of the best chassis on the grid.

The wing ran on Kevin Magnussen's car during the session, with the car fitted with a full rig of aero sensors, and it is possible the wing could be used in qualifying and the race if it performed well.

In recent years McLaren has run far less complicated front wings than its opposition, but this season it has produced wings at least as complex as others.

As teams have learned about the new-for-2014 narrower front wings, differing directions have been taken. This major new update, which is believed to be combined with some detail changes to other aero surfaces, was developed in just nine weeks, which is realistically as quickly as it is possible to design, simulate and construct such a complex component.

 

 

Originally on Autosport.com

 

Conway RACER
conway3Mike Conway celebrated his first LMP1 victory as part of the Toyota Racing team last weekend in Bahrain, was just tabbed by the Japanese marque to drive in the WEC season finale at Brazil, and could arrive in Sao Paulo with a newly signed contract in hand.

The 31-year-old Englishman also has two Verizon IndyCar Series wins to his credit this season. Sharing the No. 20 Chevy with team owner/driver Ed Carpenter, Conway contested all 12 road and street courses, winning at Long Beach and Toronto while Carpenter tool over the controls on the ovals.

Splitting time between IndyCar and the WEC was possible for Conway due to friendly calendars for both series, and as a winner for his respective employers, the race is on to retain his services in 2015.

"It's hard to answer (where he'll sign) right now; I'm still waiting on some things to get a full answer on what I'm doing," he told RACER. "I've got to wait a few days to find out."

conway2Carpenter wants Conway back, and it's believed Toyota is heavily interested in making him a full-time driver.

"I love IndyCar, I love everything I've done with Ed Carpenter Racing, and I also love LMP1 with Toyota. Getting to do the road courses and street courses with Ed this year turned out amazingly; we both won races and I think surprised a lot of people," he said.

"I love living in the States; that's where I've been the past five years. And I love the Le Mans 24 Hours and what I might be able to do there and elsewhere in the WEC, so it's hard to make a clear-cut decision."

Where Conway has been able to enjoy the best of both worlds this season, he might need to choose one series next year.

"I've got equal love for both, I know it will be hard to do both because the schedules don't really line up like they did this year," he explained. "That clearly made it easy to race Indy cars and sports cars, but that might not be the case anymore.

"There's a certain date I have to wait for to know which direction I'll go, and it's great to be in this position of having multiple offers to choose from. It was only a few years ago where I was wondering if I was done when I didn't want to do ovals – if I'd have to go get a real job."

And what line of work would he choose outside of racing?

"Well, I did see that movie 'Magic Mike' and that gave me some ideas...I'd like to think I've got the body for it..." he said with a laugh.

Thankfully, it appears "Magic Mike" Conway will continue as a paid racing driver next year in IndyCar or the WEC, and with his win at Bahrain, Toyota could be ready to take him off the market by the end of the week.

lat levitt fon-1013 02050Simona de Silvestro packed her bags and returned home to Switzerland at the end of the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series season with one goal in mind: Reaching Formula 1. Ongoing financial issues within the F1 paddock, and specifically with the Sauber F1 team she worked with, put an end to her aspirations of landing a race seat in 2015.

With four years of IndyCar experience to draw from, the 26-year-old says the wants to pick up right where she left off.

"We tried this year to my dream of F1, and that dream turned out to be too difficult to achieve for a variety of reasons," she told RACER. "I spent the year in the factory, training every day, on the simulator, did some F1 testing and was very quick, so I've been busy and improving myself throughout this process.

"But the one thing I haven't done, which is kind of weird for me, is I haven't raced this year. I've been racing non-stop since I was a kid; I first came to America in 2006 and raced there every year through 2013, and it's important for me to get back to IndyCar next season. With all I've learned this year, I think I have more to offer a team than ever before. I took one year away, but America is where my career has been and where I want it to be."

Financial and contractual disagreements between de Silvestro's management and the Sauber team ultimately led to both sides parting ways. Despite her disappointment with how the Sauber F1 experience ended, de Silvestro sounded energized and motivated to make IndyCar her long-term priority. 

De Silvestro has also recently parted amicably with her management team, and is representing herself while seeking opportunities in IndyCar. 

"I really have to thank Imran [Safiulla] for all he's done for me over the last eight years, and we agreed it was time for us to start new chapters on our own, so I'm handling things myself right now. And I'm also talking to some people who might be able to help me on the management side," she said.

"Every driver has to go through this at some point, and I'm happy to make more decisions on where my career goes in the future. I think this is going to be a good thing, and maybe it will make some things a little bit smoother for me."

simona HoustonDe Silvestro spent three of her four years in IndyCar with cash-strapped teams, and was even saddled with a Lotus engine in 2012. Her move to KV Racing in 2013 produced immediate results, and while the team was still in a rebuilding phase, de Silvestro managed to deliver nine top-10s, three top-6s, and a fine second-place finish at Houston (LEFT).

Her specialty is road and street courses, but she also showed promise on ovals with KV, ending the 2013 season by placing eighth at the 500-mile finale in Fontana. According to de Silvestro, who served as one of IndyCar's most popular drivers, she's ready to head back to Indianapolis and believes her streamlined approach will complement any team in need of a promising young veteran.

"It was really nice to drive with a team like KV, and I think it showed a lot of what I'm capable of as a driver," she added. "We had very good results in my first year with them, and I know I improved a lot on ovals; Jimmy Vasser and everyone really helped me pick up little things I was missing before, and it was my first time having a teammate with TK (Tony Kanaan), and that was also big for me.

"Of course we could have done better – you can always do better, but I know I ended the season really feeling comfortable and ready to take that next step up in IndyCar. I think where I'm at now, after learning a lot by being involved with a Formula 1 team, and by simplifying things on my side as far as management and such, I can come back to IndyCar and go to that next level. I'm ready to bring me, and my helmet, and have a fresh start."

Video: The Technology Issue

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