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16WGI1LW 0634Hendrick Motorsports announced Wednesday afternoon that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not been cleared by physicians to compete in at least the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events as he continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms.

As previously announced, Alex Bowman – who drove the No. 88 Chevrolet in Earnhardt's absence July 17 at New Hampshire – will race again for the team this weekend at Michigan, as Jeff Gordon has a clashing previous commitment. However, Gordon, who has substituted for Earnhardt in the 88 in the past four Sprint Cup events, will return to the cockpit the following week at Darlington.

Earnhardt underwent further evaluation today at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program.

"We know how hard Dale is working to get back," said team owner Rick Hendrick. "He's following what the doctors are saying, to the letter, and doing exactly what he needs to do. Everyone wants to see him in a race car, but his health is first and foremost. We're behind him."

 FER1527Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton is set to serve a Formula 1 grid penalty in this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix.

After using five MGU-H and turbo components in the first half of the season, Hamilton was always aware a penalty would occur at some point after the summer break. Mercedes has apparently decided that penalty will be taken for the race at Spa-Francorchamps, given the nature of the circuit and the possibilities for overtaking.

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It is believed Mercedes will replace both the MGU-H and turbo, along with other components, effectively providing Hamilton with a fresh power unit to help him get through the remaining nine races of the campaign.

Under FIA regulations, the sixth use of a component incurs a 10-place penalty, which means Hamilton is poised to drop 20 places on Sunday. Hamilton had suggested there was the prospect Mercedes would "double up" and provide him with two new power units at one race weekend, building up a stash of systems. Details on whether Mercedes has taken such an approach have not yet emerged.

Hamilton enters the weekend with a 19-point lead over teammate Nico Rosberg. The 31-year-old ended the first half of the campaign on a roll by winning six of seven races, including all four grands prix in July.

 

Originally on Autosport.com

GTP 3Did Group 44's Jaguar XJR-5 win a GTP title? Nope. But did it kickstart IMSA's golden age and Jag's Le Mans return? And was it gorgeous? Yes to all of the above.

What a sight to behold. Those wonderfully curvy lines, dressed in that impeccably understated, tone-on-tone livery. And then there was the trumpeting scream from its V12 engine that saturated the air with the richest of wails.

There were faster and way more successful Grand Touring Prototypes during IMSA's golden era, but when it comes to making a visual and sonic impact, every inch of Group 44 Inc.'s Jaguar XJR-5 was carved from perfection.

GTP 4"We didn't win as many races as we could have, but we sure won the beauty contest," Group 44 owner driver Bob Tullius admits.

Stats alone tell part of this Jag's tale, but its greatness isn't built upon numbers. History shows the XJR-5 found Victory Lane on six occasions from 1982-'85, and propelled Tullius to a GTP championship runner-up finish during its first full season of competition in '83, but what was its greatest contribution?

Before more potent, and arguably more famous, prototypes arrived on the scene, Jaguar's XJR-5 was GTP's first superstar, and from that fame, IMSA's big manufacturer boom was ignited.

The sublime chassis design by Lee Dykstra and styling concept from Randy Wittine could stop crowds without turning a wheel. The soundtrack generated by a single blip of the throttle during warm-up was enough to create lifelong fans. Once it was moving, Group 44's XJR-5 was like a 200mph art installation. It shrieked to the heavens, made bold use of a white canvas with impossibly precise green stripes. And once the wins and podiums began to arrive, it validated the idea that beauty and speed could coexist without sacrifice.

Group 44 would transition from production-based racing on behalf of Jaguar to designing and building a GTP car from scratch. Restoring the brand's reputation through high-profile competition would also involve taking the manufacturer back to sportscar racing's grandest stage.

"Jaguar director John Egan said, 'There are two things we want you to do: Win as many races as you can in the U.S., and take us back to Le Mans,'" recalls Tullius. "What we came up with was the XJR-5."

Finding the beating heart for the soon-to-be GTP car was easy. Group 44 had considerable experience with the production-based 5.3-liter, V12 powerplant that propelled its SCCA Trans Am and IMSA GTO Jaguar XJS XJR-4s. But unlike Group 44's road-based GT cars, every single piece that surrounded the 525hp masterpiece would be shaped by hand.

"Randy did the body – the styling – and Lee did everything beneath the shell," Tullius says. "And I did the graphics. We built the car at our base in Winchester, Va."

Key for the XJR-5 was maximizing downforce through ground effect. But the sheer length and width of the engine forced Dykstra to find creative packaging solutions to make room for a sizable underwing, with its large venturi tunnels extending back from the flat-bottom cockpit floor. As Formula 1 had found, having a vee-layout engine was half the battle for a viable venturi tunnel, but optimizing it meant cleaning up the ancillaries.

"Ground effects was in its infancy, so getting the maximum tunnel height was important," Dykstra says. "We cleared out everything we could around the base of the block to make space for the tunnels. Once we'd figured it all out, we actually took the car to the Williams [F1] wind tunnel [in the UK] and ran a series of tests...and they were pretty impressed."

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Mercedes' Toto Wolff believes his team's increased dominance of late is due to its Formula 1 rivals switching focus to 2017.

The team is comfortably on course for its third consecutive constructors' and drivers' championship double, with Red Bull and Ferrari heading to Spa considerably adrift. Although Red Bull cut the on-track gap to a degree in the last race at Hockenheim, the general recent trend has been for Mercedes to edge further away.

Calculating the percentage gap between the fastest Mercedes and its nearest rival at the end of the final session of qualifying through this year, there was less than a percentage point margin at all five races before Red Bull claimed pole in Monaco.

That gap increased to just over a percentage point in Azerbaijan and Britain – with Austria and Hungary removed from the equation given the unrepresentative conditions – before Red Bull closed in Germany.

Assessing his team's performance before the German GP, Wolff said: "I'm very happy with how most of the development parts we've put on the car have correlated with what we expected with the wind tunnel and our simulations. And I think we were on the right development slope, balancing out 2017 versus 2016.

"That the gap seems to have increased now is an indication that maybe others might have switched over to 2017 and concentrated on 2017 a bit earlier than us. But I think it is down to the development we have made within the team, and obviously next year's going to show it."

Wolff's comments suggest Mercedes is surprising itself with its level of dominance in F1 this season.

A challenge from Ferrari has failed to materialize and Mercedes would be even further ahead in the championship if it could somehow stop its drivers taking lumps out of each other's cars on track.

Wolff feels demoralized rivals have perhaps given up the ghost early and switched focus to next year's major rule changes, but that interpretation lets them off the hook a bit. Ferrari began the season second-best, but clearly hasn't been able to develop its new chassis properly.

The Scuderia hasn't stopped trying – indeed, Maurizio Arrivabene has repeatedly said Ferrari's focus needs to be simultaneously on 2016 and '17 – but just can't seem to make it work. The wildly fluctuating gap from circuit to circuit shows how recalcitrant the SF16-H has been at times, and Mercedes' dominance has as much to do with Ferrari's underperformance as it does Mercedes' own continued progress.

Ferrari took risks in its efforts to bridge the gap this year and those risks haven't paid off. Arrivabene's suggestion the car has barely improved since Barcelona is a damning indictment.

Red Bull has developed more consistently, helped in no small measure by that decent Renault engine update for Monaco, and has now overtaken Ferrari as F1's second-best team.

Mercedes engineered a head start on everyone in pre-season testing and has also developed the W07 consistently, allowing it to maintain a decent advantage over the rest. Wolff's impression of greater dominance is created by the overlap between Red Bull and Ferrari, as the latter has struggled to improve technically while Red Bull has developed at its usual impressive rate – but from a starting point further behind than Ferrari's.

The overall gap between Mercedes and Red Bull is definitely shrinking, but Mercedes' big initial buffer affords it valuable extra breathing space as attention of all teams inevitably shifts gradually towards the greater unknowns of next season.

 

Originally on Autosport.com

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Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD

Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.

Q: As a diehard Ryan Hunter-Reay fan, I must admit a sense of frustration at watching fate deal such dirty hands to the No. 28 crew. That's at least two races he could (and should) have won this season being taken away by something largely out of his control. Everyone's heard about the aero and supposed power deficits the Honda camp has compared to Chevy, but you've also said something about some issues at Andretti with the engineering staff causing setbacks. Any word on what they're doing to fix the matter for 2017?

Garrett from San Diego

RM: I was just talking to Dario on the phone about Pocono and he was raving about all of RHR's great passes, and it was quite impressive since he came through the field twice. You could sense afterwards that one really hurt. RACER ran a story before Pocono about Andretti's cars struggling on the bumpy surfaces but being better on smoother tracks, and I don't think you can ever underestimate how much help Justin Wilson was to Andretti in terms of figuring things out like dampers.

Q: Pocono should not be a 3 p.m. start, especially on a Sunday. The weather last Sunday was good enough to race at noon. There is no question that attendance was lacking even more on Monday due to people having to be at work. IndyCar should have made every attempt to ensure the ticket holders got to see something, and that includes modifying the schedule to start earlier due to incoming weather.

Alan Bandi, Butler, PA

RM: No argument here. All races – especially 500-milers – should start at 1 p.m. if possible, but the Olympics dictated the timing this year. However, it wasn't NBCSN's call not to start earlier. As a matter of fact, I believe NBCSN was willing to go much earlier and just show the race tape-delayed, but Pocono management had to consider the people who had bought tickets and were expecting a 3 p.m. start. It sucked because it was sunny up until about 2 p.m., so maybe half the race could have been run. But Pocono has now had three rainouts and three Monday races in 2016, so it's overdue for some good weather luck in the future.

Q: I was most amazed at the speeds at Pocono. One thing you should let the producers of the broadcast know is that when you're showing the in-car camera shot, the engine noise is so loud you can barely hear what you guys in the booth are saying. Pagenaud's car was the loudest.

Did I miss something with Hunter-Reay? He stayed out when everyone else pitted during the final yellow; how did he have enough fuel to finish? I have to give Will Power credit for hanging in there and making his car better and better.

What's your take on the pit lane incident between Kimball, Rossi and Helio? This seems to happen every race, and nothing seems to change. I have to say the driver on the outside (Kimball) has to shoulder most of the blame, but it sucked for the series to have three cars taken out in a preventable incident.

Jim Doyle
, Hoboken, NJ

RM: RHR stayed out, got back on the lead lap and then pitted. Power drove like his mentor, Rick Mears, who had a knack for improving his car as a 500-miler wore on, and it's a lot more of a measured Will Power than the old one. It looked like Charlie might have turned down earlier than necessary (I think seven pit boxes is what Townsend counted), and Rossi simply pulled out as instructed. You can hear Bryan Herta saying something about a car on the right, but it was too late by then. The pits are so wide at Pocono, compared to most tracks, and there are only 22 cars instead of 33, so it should be avoidable. But it happened, and it will happen again as long as we have closed pits and all that congestion. And Rossi was really impressive up until that point.

Q: Let me first say, thank God everyone is OK after Pocono. It's a Catch-22 – raising cockpit sides protects the drivers, but they can only see what's in their mirrors and what's directly beside them. I hope this doesn't start the canopy talk again; I don't what to see anyone get hurt, but open-wheel racing needs to keep open cockpits. Bryan Clauson had a full cage around him and still was killed – at a much lower speed. Racing is dangerous; that's what's makes it like no other sport – "There are only three sports: bullfighting, motor racing, and mountaineering; all the rest are merely games." ― Ernest Hemingway

Tony, Mamaroneck, NY

RM: The driver leaving his pit box, in 99 percent of the situations, has no culpability because he can't see anything and is going on the command on his right-front man. With only 22 cars at Pocono and its wide confines, it should be the safest track in terms of mass pit stops. And Rossi got a late warning. Racing is dangerous, that's part of the attraction, but pit stops shouldn't be.


lat lepage 160820 poc 1384Q: What is Marco Andretti's next step? From watching the IndyCar show following him at Road America, he is clearly frustrated. At the Pocono race, during his interviews and on the radio, he sounded further frustrated by what is happening this season. Perhaps I am one of the few, but I still hold hope that he is able to overcome and rebound. Clearly the mental element that plays such a pivotal role in racing has taken over.

Silly season question: do you think anybody is going to retire at the end of 2016? Any predictions on new faces in 2017? Can you get Daly in a sprint car? I'm a big fan of his, but he needs to figure out the ovals.

Paul Hirsch, Erie, PA

RM: I think Marco needs a change of scenery, because driving for Dad just hasn't worked out. But where would he go? I have no idea what the problem is – three years ago he was the class of the field at Pocono, and this year he was a backmarker while teammates RHR, Munoz and Rossi were fighting up front. I don't see anybody "voluntarily" retiring and maybe Jack Harvey or Ed Jones or Felix Serralles will move up. Conor doesn't need sprint cars, because he's plenty aggressive. He just needs laps.

Q: Awesome race on Sunday. It would have been nice to see RHR up there with Power and Mikhail at the end; it would have been a great three-way battle. Is Montoya's luck really this bad, or has he fallen off the performance cliff? Writing's got to be on the wall for him. Seems like Penske already has a contract with Josef's name on it ready to sign once the season ends.

Trey Shannon

RM: It would have made a damn good race even better, or possibly RHR would have run away at the end without his problem, but he's been snakebit all season. JPM has made a couple unforced errors (Toronto and Pocono) in practice but he's still racing good, and he's also had some crummy luck with cautions. Tim Cindric told RACER that Team Penske wanted to keep the same number of cars in 2017, he just didn't specify the drivers. I know JPM has been approached by a couple of other teams and he doesn't want to be an Indy-only driver yet. As for JoNew, I hear Ganassi is after him again (he kinda made a run last year) so you would think it's going to either be The Captain or Chip in 2017. But I understand Ed Carpenter still has a week or two after Sonoma to keep Josef and he's going to try. Should get interesting in the next month.

Q: Kickass race at Pocono. Since New England is out of IndyCar racing for the next century, I'd better make that six-hour drive next year. Must've been even better live.

Jake Murray

RM: Like I said on the broadcast, only having 22 cars (and 16 for the last 100 laps) for a 500-mile race isn't conducive to a great race, but it was damn good, with 29 lead changes and some ballsy passes all afternoon. I know we want more horsepower, different-looking cars, badass engines and innovation, but I'm not sure we're ever going to see better racing than we've had the last few years.

Q: With the exception of Indy, all other ovals need to have same day qualifying and racing on Saturday, with Sunday as the fallback option in the event of rain. When I wrote a couple weeks back, you mentioned that tape-delayed races are no good for promoters or TV. Well, how is running a live race on a Monday afternoon – a work day – at 12 p.m. ET helping race promoters, TV ratings or the paying fans?

Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY

RM: It makes financial sense to have all ovals as one-day shows because it saves everybody money – teams, tracks and IndyCar. And, if there's not going to be any preliminary races, it should almost be mandatory. I've said for years that practice, qualifying and racing on the same day (just like Milwaukee, Trenton and Phoenix in the old days) would ramp up the excitement and might help the gate. But most of the tracks claim they like having two days, so I don't see it changing. And, to your question, nothing about running on a Monday is good for anyone, but making the decision to go early comes with its own set of problems for the promoter. Television influences a lot of the starting times but, in this case, it wasn't NBCSN's call.

Q: Not enough oval races on the schedule? One day shows aren't good for the tracks? Not enough support races at oval events? Then why not do the double-header weekends at all ovals (except Indy)? Practice, qualify and race on Saturday, then do it all again on Sunday. Offer single-day tickets or a discounted weekend deal. Based on this year's schedule you'd get a near 50-50 split between road/street races and ovals,and a 20-race season to boot. Oval shortage solved. And come back to Motegi as well and do the same thing!

Willie in Japan

RM: It's certainly food for thought. IndyCar brought back the double-header at Texas a few years ago but quickly abandoned it, and I wish they had stuck with it because it could work. Obviously, one big pile-up on Saturday could make Sunday sketchy because oval crashes tend to wreak a lot more havoc than a street circuit like Detroit. Still, it's going to take this kind of thinking to ever give ovals a chance at capturing a crowd again.

Q: I am very disappointed that IndyCar has made no attempt to capitalize on Alexander Rossi's win at the 100th Indy 500. Rossi is a young, smart, articulate, and obviously talented American driver who won the biggest race in the world as a rookie – a PR dream. Yet his name and accomplishment have barely been mentioned by IndyCar, except for the obligatory stories immediately after the 500. It's much the same as with RHR in 2014.

What gives? When will IndyCar wake up and realize that it must do a better job of marketing its drivers if it expects the series to thrive (or survive). It needs to take a lesson from virtually every other professional sport, NASCAR included, and invest in promoting its participants. Mark Miles and Doug Boles are smart guys and astute businessmen. Why do they seem to be so oblivious to this need?

Larry, Columbus, IN

RM: IndyCar had a PR tour with Rossi the week after his victory but it's going to take a lot more than that, and IndyCar doesn't have the media following of football, basketball or baseball or even NASCAR. I've said for years that IndyCar needs to make a 60-second spot and show off its drivers' personalities (of which there are many) and buy time in prime time leading up to a race. But getting Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine, Dan Patrick, Mike & Mike, "Pardon The Interruptio and other talk shows and mainstream media to embrace IndyCar is the only way to truly get the Indy winner major exposure.

Q: I've said this before, but I'll say it again: Watching Alexander Rossi's car hurtling around Pocono with no visible sponsorship is sickening. I see Mike Curb has small logos on the sidepods when we get pit stop close-ups. How can the current Indy 500 winner not have some major sponsor riding along with him? Are Herta and Andretti that bad at selling their product?

Chad R. Larson

RM: The Indy 500 winner ain't what he used to be in terms of national media attention (see the question above yours) and the Indy 500 ratings ain't much to shout about (3.7 this year), so sponsors aren't streaming to IndyCar. I know Bryan is working to find sponsorship to keep him at Andretti, but it's tough.


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Q: What happened to Scott Speed? Wasn't he a promising young driver coming up the ranks to become an American F1 driver, or maybe do IndyCar? Last I saw he was driving VWs at an event for off-road vehicles. What happened?

Doug Ferguson, West Palm Beach

RM: Speed is currently driving for Michael Andretti's Global Rallycross team after spending two years in Formula 1, a few seasons in stock cars (ARCA, trucks and Cup) and one attempt at the 2011 Indy 500 in an uncompetitive car (above). Not sure he ever got a fair shake in anything he drove prior to Rallycross, because he definitely had ability in open-wheel racing.

Q: It was a shame Pocono had to be run on Monday, but I thought the crowd was pretty good given that we all had to come back. Thank goodness the track had re-upped for two years before the rainout. Unfortunately, I never got to see you this past weekend. My brother Mike Long (also a New Hampshire Mailbag guy) and I were stalking the garages Saturday, Sunday and Monday. We were hoping to share some Clauson stories with you. I had my "Do the Double" shirt on Saturday, and got a nice compliment from an older fellow on your crew when we passed in the pits.

Last week would have been the fifth different type of car I had seen Clauson in this year when the midgets came to PA. I had previously seen him in the IndyCar, USAC Sprint, Winged PA Sprint during Speedweeks and the Silver Crown car at the Grove. I miss him a lot. He was a true throwback.

Dave Long, Reading, PA

RM: The thing about B.C. is that his versatility and willingness to drive anything and everything resonated with so many IndyCar and NASCAR drivers. They paid attention to what he was doing this season, and I think there was a lot of admiration.

Q: In an effort to fulfill the racing lull between Mid-Ohio and Pocono, I stumbled upon the mind-numbingly close 2013 Freedom 100 finish with Carlos Munoz, Sage Karam, Gabby Chavez, and Peter Dempsey. Those that follow the sport know what's happened to the first three, but what ever happened to Peter Dempsey? Did he move somewhere else in the racing world, or give up on racing all together? It would be a shame if he did, because he seemed like a great talent, if only based on that finish alone.

Colin K. Knox, IN

RM: Peter is now a full-time driver's coach, much like Buddy Rice and Richie Hearn were at various times.

Q: To this day I still miss Greg Moore. It's hard to believe that this former Indy Lights champion died at just 24. Do you have any thoughts about his talent?

Mark M., Floyds Knobs, IN

RM: I was telling somebody the other day that Greg was the cockiest teenager I'd ever met in racing, and also one of the coolest, funniest, fastest drivers I'd ever met. He was a great kid with undeniable talent, and I'll always wonder how many Indy 500s he would have won driving for Roger Penske.

Q: Quite a wonderful story of yours on RACER about Pancho Carter, Lee Kunzman and Merle Bettenhausen, with great photos. I can only imagine the stories that get told at the geezer table in that Brownsburg restaurant on Fridays. Are they the three toughest drivers you know?

Ron Ford, Muskego, Wisconsin

RM: Thanks, they are three of the toughest right alongside A.J. Foyt, Jim McElreath, Jim Hurtubise and Mel Kenyon. I think Kunzman has overcome the most to race again at a high level – he nearly died twice – and without a doubt he's got the greatest attitude I've ever been lucky enough to witness.

Q: Following the recent passing of the great Chris Amon, I was reading an interview he did a few years back where he said he tried to get Parnelli Jones into the Ferrari Formula 1 team with him in 1968. Amon said Jones was one of the greatest talents he ever saw. Pretty amazing to see the respect people have for Parnelli Jones, still to this day. My question is, was there ever a chance of this happening? F1 would probably not have been his sort of scene, but can you imagine Parnelli Jones kicking butt in F1, in a Ferrari? Pretty incredible to think about.

Bill Eisler, Indianapolis

RM: Let's go one better. I was interviewing Rufus a few years ago (IMS sells the DVD of the interview with Parnelli, Mario and Dan Gurney) and said it was a shame he never got a chance to run Formula 1. He said, 'Oh I had a chance. Colin Chapman wanted me to be second driver with Jim Clark, but I told him I wasn't anybody's B driver.' How cool is that? And the reason Foyt, Gurney, Parnelli, Rutherford, Johncock, Gurney and the Unsers are still revered today by so many people is because they thrived and survived in the most lethal and exciting era of motorsports. They were gladiators and heroes to a lot of people.

Q: I was watching a race and they went to commercial for two minutes, came back to the race for 90 seconds and went back to a commercial for two minutes. I understand economics and know that the commercials are why we're able to watch it, but are you aware that racing on pretty much any international broadcast has no commercials? I even know some people who watch Univision for F1 because they don't cut into the action. Soccer games don't cut to commercials because they have game segments sponsored.

Depending on timing, I DVR a lot of my races. If the sponsors want their money's worth, it's time to find a different way to advertise. Much as I don't want to see a big banner advertisement with the current standings scroll [across the screen], that may be the way to go. Having announcers shill at the same time will probably get more eyes and ears on a product than commercial breaks. Either way, media consumption is changing and live sports is about the only reason some people haven't cut the cable altogether. Tolerances for advertisements is waning, and the only way to survive will be to adapt, because now I don't have to watch advertisements.

Ryan in West Michigan

RM: I hear you, it's frustrating, but necessary to try and pay for the big-money contracts. And you wonder how valuable it is for sponsors, because I know a lot of people that simply DVR a race and skip all the commercials. But NASCAR has longer races, more sponsors and more commercials, so IndyCar and F1 have more of a flow.

2016Reunion MarshallPruett 19 145A record announced four-day total of 70,525 spectators joined in a celebration of motorsports history at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last weekend for the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Featured marque BMW was celebrating its 100th anniversary at the event, and a rich variety of BMW racing machinery contributed to the visual and auditory overload experience for fans. Here's a gallery of some of the BMW cars on hand.

Click on the thumbnails for larger images

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 V2I7155 editedFormula 1 cars could feel like they are "on rails" for drivers in 2017, claims Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery.

With the introduction of wider front and rear wings and tires next season, it is anticipated the cars will be three to six seconds per lap quicker, dependent on the circuit. The bulk of that time will be made up through the corners as straightline speed will initially be compromised by the drag of the new aerodynamics. But Pirelli's Hembery feels the additional downforce will make cars incredibly stable in the corners.

"If you are cornering with that much grip, and if it's to be believed up to five or six seconds a lap quicker, that clearly is going to be felt by the drivers in a dramatic fashion," Hembery said. "It could be driving on rails at that point. It could be so high the feeling is the car has such grip that it's more driving on rails rather than driving on the limit.

"We won't know until they get to the limits on track to understand where those limits actually are. But with that improvement in performance it's like going into another category of racing.

"It will be like jumping from GP2 into Formula 1, so it'll be almost like a Formula 1-plus compared to where we are now."

Such a difference is likely to mean some drivers could need time to acclimatize.

"It's going to take a while anyway, but I'm sure they will have been driving in the simulator before they get in the car for the first time, so they will already have an idea of what the real impact is going to be," said Hembery. "Sometimes something like this can bring out differences in drivers. I'm sure the top guys will say it is what they want - that they want to be challenged more."

ADDING TO F1'S PERCEPTION PROBLEM?

Like much of modern motorsport, Formula 1 suffers from a perception problem. It is unbelievably challenging, yet it looks easy from the outside.

Enhanced aerodynamics, bigger and better tires, plus continued engine development unfettered by token limitations, should make F1 faster than ever before in 2017. But the cars will, as Hembery puts it, look like they are "on rails" – which means they will look easier to drive than ever before, too.

The problem is a general confusion of spectacle. Conventional wisdom equates cars moving around underneath the drivers with difficulty, but in actual fact greater potential grip and increased speeds reduces the margin for error.

We will see less moving around from the cars, but the drivers will pay a bigger penalty if and when they overstep the limit, because they will be travelling much faster when they do.

Arguably the current generation of V6 hybrid turbo cars looked most spectacular in their 2014 infancy, before engine mapping, suspension setup and recovered downforce tamed the unwanted wheelspin produced by extreme engine torque.

When the cars first tested in Bahrain in 2014 the drivers couldn't take the right-hand kink at Turn 3 at full throttle. Now they don't even think about it.

So, you have to look more closely to see the differences. Watching the cars skim the barriers trackside in Monaco, or bounce from curb to curb in Canada, is still visually arresting. But of course not everyone is fortunate enough to be able to see them at such close proximity.

Engineers say the current specification of sensitive Pirelli tire, coupled with heavier cars, means the drivers spend longer in the corners than they used to and so you see the differences between them more clearly. Yet F1's stars complain the cars are not challenging enough to drive, because they are too slow.

This is F1's paradox. To become more difficult it must make itself look easier.

F1 2017 could be the toughest iteration of F1 ever, yet it will most probably look little more than a Sunday drive to the untrained eye.

Originally on Autosport.com

Will Power isoHaving spent seven years under Rick Mears' wing, Will Power is starting to drive like his mentor at Team Penske.

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In Sunday's ABC Supply 500 at Pocono, Power plucked a page right out of the four-time Indy 500 winner's book on success: not that quick in the beginning, steady progress as the race wore on and then a bullet finish – à la Mr. Mears.

"The older you get the more you let the race come to you," Power said after scoring his fourth win of 2016 and slicing teammate Simon Pagenaud's lead to 20 points with three races remaining. "You either have a car that can win or you won't, but you let things happen and you know when to take a risk and when not to.

"Rick has taught me to be patient, hang out, work with the car and then get it right for the finish. That's how we finished second at Iowa and today was another good example."

Power, who started eighth, fell back to 12th and was a half-lap behind leader Mikhail Aleshin at the halfway point.

"Understeer going into the corners and loose off, I just wasn't very fast," said Power, who took the lead for good on lap 165 and scored the 29th win of his IndyCar career. "But we just kept working with the car, added some downforce and then it took off.

Power train Pocono LAT"I was running wide open that last stint, except for a couple of laps, and I think we were the fastest car on the track."

After so losing a couple of championships to Dario Franchitti with late fades, Power finally claimed his first and only IndyCar title in 2014. Now he's trying to turn the tables and hunt down Pagenaud in similar fashion.

"It frustrated me because I was fast and winning races and Dario kept beating me because he was methodical and good," Power said. "I can see it now. He let the race unfold and didn't force things.

"I respected Dario a lot when we were racing and I respect him even more now because I see how he worked."

And this new style is working for the measured Aussie, who is suddenly making things very uncomfortable for the fast Frenchman.

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