Honda Racing MailbagWelcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag as presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, Calif.-based company at and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and . Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to 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, remember that Marshall Pruett tackles them in his Tech Mailbags. Please send tech questions to


Q: I recently heard rumors of Simona De Silvestro [BELOW, LAT photo] wanting to return to Indy cars. Since James Hinchiffe, has left Andretti Autosport for SPM, has Simona considered going there? She could actually have potential if she's driving for a proper team. And Andretti fits the bill in my opinion. But then I'm sure Michael ought to consider Oriol Servia too. Unless he has a ride for 2015.
Aaron, Media, PA

RM: They’re more than rumors: Simona does want to come back, as Marshall Pruett revealed here on last week but it won’t be with Andretti unless she finds a sponsor. Hinch would still have a ride there if the UFD backing hadn’t gone south.

Q: It would be a sad, pathetic season if IndyCar cannot find a way to get Simona De Silvestro in a car for 2015. If they want to get more butts in the seats, and get more attention to the series, this opportunity is slapping them in the face. Does she have any sponsors left? Does IndyCar have a slush fund to help a gal out?
Mark Suska, Lexington, OH

RM: Not sure about her sponsors but here’s a little history lesson. When Sarah Fisher was the IRL’s most popular driver, she didn’t have a ride and the IRL didn’t offer any financial assistance. When Danica was being courted by NASCAR, IndyCar never tried to keep her. So, if the two most popular American female drivers didn’t get any help, it’s not going to happen for Simona despite the fact she is well liked.

Q: Do you think Gene Haas would consider hiring Simona de Silvestro to drive for his F1 team? Wouldn’t that be a great way to stick it to (really) old Bernie Eccle(needs to be)stone(d)? Now she is looking to come back to IndyCar. Where do you think she will in 2015?
Tim Davis, Detroit, MI

RM: I doubt it. As I said in this video on Bernie called Derrick Walker a few years ago to inquire if any of “those girls in America” could drive a racecar. DW said De Silvestro could and sent her the information, only to have her manager tell him to cease and desist. Bernie trusted Derrick so it might have led to something but we all know if Ecclestone wanted a female in F1, she’d already have a good ride. I have no idea if Simona will get an IndyCar ride in 2015.

Q: I assume that there are not enough IndyCar fans (even globally) for Simona to try something like Caterham did with crowd funding?
Wally, Eden Prairie, MN

RM: I would think that’s a real long shot. Different drivers in different decades have been supported by fans but the only time it seemed to work in Indy cars was in the 1970s for Spike Gehlhausen and Sheldon Kinser when $10,000 was a lot of money. Just a couple years ago a project was launched for a second car for Sarah Fisher’s team at Indianapolis but it wasn’t successful.



(ABOVE) Justin Wilson's Newman Haas Lanigan Racing car leads from pole in the final Champ Car race, Long Beach 2008, ahead of Alex Tagliani (Walker Racing) and Will Power (KV Racing). LAT photo

Q: Any news on Justin Wilson's prospects for next year? What a shame if he doesn't get a truly competitive ride for once in his career. And, what's the deal with the St. Pete ticket situation? I see that tickets are available for some races later in the year, but the St. Pete website just keeps promising "in the coming weeks". Since they're confirmed and the first U.S. race, I don't know what the hang up could be.

Steve C., Ithaca, NY

RM: Newman/Haas/Langian was a top level team but JWil was only there a year and RuSPORT was a good start-up team in Champ Car but we’d all love to see him with a Big 3 ride. I think KVSH Racing may be his best chance for 2015. As for St. Pete website, co-promoter Kevin Savoree says: “We’re in the process of changing our ticket software for St. Pete, Toronto and Mid-Ohio and we should have it up and running by mid-December. Thanks for being patient but we feel like it will be a better experience for our fans.”

Q: My question is in regards to the new race coming to NOLA Motorsports Park. I've been looking at it on Google maps and it seems to me that the racing surface is very narrow. The pits seem to be non-existent and there are no grandstands. Do you think this track is ready to host an IndyCar event? Is the racing at this track going to be exciting? I have also noticed that they are planning a second south track that would also connect to the north track. Has there been any talk about running the five-mile course when it is completed? They could even have a great doubleheader weekend, racing two races on two different tracks at the same facility. Is that the goal for this event or is this just going to be another three-year bust?
Clayton Williams

RM: Tony Cotman is IndyCar’s new track consultant and has been actively involved in NOLA and Brasilia. Here’s his take on the new road course outside New Orleans that will host IndyCar on April 12: “It’s not ready yet but it will be good. The barriers, fences and infrastructure are a work in progress. Yeah, it’s flat, kinda like Cleveland was, but I think it will be a good show. There’s going to be a 15-20-foot berm where the fans can sit and see the whole track.”
Also, remember how everyone said Barber would be too narrow and wouldn’t produce good racing, and how we’ve said that about Sonoma, too. But the DW12 has proven to be a very racy car at both those tracks.

Q: Miller, one of your rival websites reported that Brasilia wasn’t going to happen because there was too much work to do and the race would be moved to a former F1 track. True or false?
Mort Rosen

RM: Again, let’s defer to Mr. Cotman, who recently returned from Brasilia. “The road course is still a go and although there’s not a lot of time until March, I’m more confident today than when we started at Sao Paulo. There’s a lot less work to do in Brasilia.”

RM-IowaQ: This is an off-season thought question. If oval racing is the most popular form of racing in the US, which it undoubtedly is if NASCAR's television ratings are anything to go by, are there any theories as to why IndyCar's oval racing attendance declined proportionally so much more than the road and street races? What does NASCAR do right with oval racing that IndyCar gets wrong? For the record: I am pro-1/3 oval, 1/3 road, 1/3 street.
Sanford Santacroce, NYC

RM: The only gauge I have is pre and post-1996 Split. Milwaukee, Phoenix and Michigan were packed in 1995 and ghost towns after the IRL started going there. Indianapolis also suffered, obviously, and once people quit going, they’ve never returned. Iowa (ABOVE, LAT photo) had big crowds the first few years but it’s dwindling  – ditto for Texas – and some of the indifference could be the lack of action at ovals compared to the all-day racing at street and road courses. And, other than Indy and Iowa, the street races were more exciting than the ovals in 2014 which is hard to admit, but true. Having 500-milers at Pocono and Fontana with only 21-22 cars is also a bad recipe.

Q: Today I was doing my normal daily rundown of racing websites. Of course is my go-to followed by too many others. Upon reading one of the others, I came across a very interesting number: 7.7. That is the average TV rating for the Indianapolis market. What is really amazing is this is for the 17 NASCAR Sprint Cup races on ESPN's schedule (including three Saturday night races that aired on ABC). This put Indianapolis third for the year behind, Greensboro, NC, Greenville, SC and ahead of Charlotte, Birmingham, Raleigh-Durham, Knoxville, Nashville and Richmond, all huge “true” longstanding NASCAR markets. Yes, we all know NASCAR is on major networks, etc. I was hoping to get an insight into what you, a longtime Indianapolis guy who bleeds Indy car and a media star takes away from these types of numbers. I mean, I know people there love racing of almost any type, but is there a changing of the guard happening in Indy regarding the go-to motorsport series of choice?
David Hinshaw

RM: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman and Kyle Larson still have a big appeal in Indianapolis and also with the people who watched them come through USAC. People don’t go to the Brickyard 400 anymore but they damn sure watch it. It is surprising we out-draw all those NASCAR bastions but it should also be pointed out that Naptown ranks #1 in IndyCar viewing so obviously we enjoy motorsports.

Q: I've watched both Formula E races now. Yes the cars look slow. But the driver lineup is impressive and the racing itself has been good actually. What are your thoughts on the series?
Bill Jurasz, Austin, TX

RM: I don’t watch and I don’t care. We’ve already got enough open wheel series in the world that nobody pays attention to and I always thought the sound added to my interest. I know, I know, I’m an old, head-in-the-sand, curmudgeon who needs to join the 21st century. No thanks.  

RM-Clauson-2012Q: Here are a few questions regarding Tony Stewart’s sprint car future. Have you spoken to him lately and do you think he’ll ever run sprinters again? What about his teams? Is he still all in with the WoO and USAC? Is someone going to team with Donny Schatz next year? Just wondering what you might have heard. Apparently the hot rumor at the Grove’s National Open was that Clauson was going to move over to be Schatz’s teammate next year. If that’s true, who drives the non-wing sprinter?
Michael Long, Concord, N.H.  

RM: I haven't talked to Stew since the Chili Bowl but I did go to the World of Outlaw finale and heard the Clauson rumor. But it's not true. He was talking with them about running a second car in 2015 but it didn't work out and Bryan (ABOVE, LAT photo) isn't sure what he's got going next year except running the Indianapolis 500 for the Byrd family with KVSH Racing. Got to get Sulli and Jimmy Vasser to the Chili Bowl.

Q: What’s the backstory with Hinchcliffe leaving Andretti? I heard stories that sponsors didn’t jell with the team, but never a word about The Mayor not fitting into the business plan.

RM: I was told that United Fiber & Data hadn’t paid anything since last April so I guess that classifies as the sponsor not jelling with the team. Hinch didn’t want to leave, he was told to go look for work because Andretti couldn’t promise him anything for 2015.

Q: Been doing some calculations for 2015 and I need you to look over my work to see if I am on the right track:
1. Penske + V8 Super car series = IndyCar race returning to Oz?
2. Conway + Toyota LMP1 + win = Conway out of IndyCar (we probably know this one by now)?
3. DTM + IMSA – TUDOR series (they don’t want a dual series) = IndyCar + DTM in 2017?
4.  Simona + IndyCar = drive with, KV (Saavedra out)/Rahal (second car)/Coyne (Wilson to another team)?
5.  Ganassi – Briscoe = Sage or Wilson?
6.  Shank-Ford = Ganassi DP x2 = Briscoe in second Ganassi DP?
Victor Martino

RM: No indication IndyCar is returning to Australia, but everyone wants to go back. We should have some news any minute now on Conway's future plans. Have no clue whether DTM in America will happen, but here is Marshall’s latest update. Simona is hoping to find something. Not sure about Justin but maybe KVSH. Karam in the fourth Ganassi car. Hope Briscoe lands a good sports car ride.

Q: If I was Dan Andersen, I would write a check or do whatever I could to get Simona in a Lights car. She has a fan base, me one of them, from when she had to carry that POS Lotus on her back and I think it could put butts in the seats for Lights and grow the fan base. BTW, GREAT video piece on the women drivers.
John Boltik

RM: Dan has done a lot for open wheel racing but Simona going back to a Lights car wouldn’t do anything for her career and her fans want to see her in an Indy car. Is it better than watching? I don’t think so. This isn’t NASCAR. When you’ve made it into IndyCar, there is no benefit (financially or otherwise) to going back to Triple AAA. I doubt if Simona would even consider it. I know Sebastian Saavedra did it but he’s a different case. Thanks for your kind words and for reading


Q: How much of a stir did Teo Fabi cause in Indy cars in 1983? [ABOVE, Portland ’83, Steve Shunck photo]. I’d always rated him in Europe – very good in F3 and F2, better than Nigel Mansell, for example – but obviously his first season in F1 was in a horrible old Toleman with a  team that favored his teammate. So I was pleased when he got the opportunity to come to Indy racing and was even more pleased that he did so well although 30 years ago, news took some time to arrive in Italy, 4,000 miles away! Anyway, I just wondered what you and the paddock thought of him.
Giorgio Ramboni, Scotland, UK

RM: I went to Teo’s initial oval test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and after a few laps he said "no thanks." The walls really spooked him. But he finally got comfortable and, of course, wound up winning the pole position for the 1983 Indy 500 before scoring wins at Pocono and Phoenix. He was a damn good road racer, obviously, and captured Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca in '83. He won the most races (4), poles (6) and led the most laps but lost the championship by five points to steady Al Unser.

Teo was very quiet, tough to get to know but a nice guy and I always called him "Ted" and he couldn't understand why yet he always smiled. He was very smart, in and out of the car. Brabham F1 team came calling for 1984 so he only ran a few Indy car races that year but returned to CART full-time in 1988 and he scored the only victory for Porsche in 1989. I ran into him a few years ago at the downtown Indianapolis mall and we talked more than we ever did at the track.

Q: In 40-plus years watching racing and making cars faster, I had never seen a sprint car race. Having grown up with drag racing and road racing in Southern California, I never made it to Ascot Park. I never went to Irwindale Raceway in the 90s because I did not want to support a NASCAR track. I had all kinds of top notch racing in California, why pay to see rednecks? My boyhood pal, now living in Indianapolis, talked me into seeing winged sprint cars at Irwindale. Friggin amazing. I cannot see how this is not better experience for driving an IndyCar than Formula 3? Eight hundred horsepower, simple cars and no driver aids except a wing. These things are a cross between Pro Mod drag racers and Indy cars. I kind of see how one would want to create a ladder for sprint car people. Of course, Mr. George should continue making baking powder and leave racers alone. If Ed Carpenter drove one of these crazy things, he is now one of my heroes. Can you name some NASCAR, F1, and IndyCar folk that have driven sprint cars?
John P, Glendora, Ca

RM: I’m partial to non-wing sprinters but watching a World of Outlaw winged missile sail into a corner is breathtaking. Of course when Indy was front-engine, dirt cars and roadsters, excelling in sprinters and midgets was the fast ticket to the Indy 500. Tony Stewart, Davey Hamilton and Carpenter are the recent drivers that came from USAC sprinters to the Indianapolis 500 while Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne and Kyle Larson graduated from USAC to NASCAR.


Q: I understand the IRL is going to have a new museum in Indy! They are going to buy a two bay abandoned gas the first bay there will be a Dallara any year from 2006 till 2012...and the current car, (any year since 2012 and it'll be around till what? 2018...2030?) in the other. The office will have pictures of every winner since 2006 and (for a fee...Indy has a fee for everything but peeing, and they are considering increasing the price of beer again with what they will call a "pass-to-pee" fee) you then can have the car wrapped to make it be any winner you want and have your picture taken in it...along with the driver, since they are unemployed for over half a year anyhow. I understand the charge will be minimum wage for the driver...which based on what the IRL pays to win a race...that seems a bit high, but since the Speedway is getting $100,000,000 from the state...they'll pay that.

Seriously, think about what made IndyCar racing great. It was new cars, and new ideas, and that brought fans, and fans brought money, and money brought Wilbur Shaw, Ted Horn, Sam Hanks, Vuky, A.J., Nigel Mansell, Jimmy Clark, Parnelli, and Mario, and they brought sponsors. Now the fans are mostly gone, and drivers like Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, and Sam Hornish and now Kyle Larson have all gone to that other series, along with the best sponsors. You know the series that understands that racing is entertainment not just for team owners but (keep this a secret) for FANS. Another secret: racecars do NOT have to be built out of carbon fiber, and they don't have to have some woofer-dilley leased engines. There are at least 15 engines producing over 700hp. I'd rather see 70 cars entered, 33 qualified, and one car win by three laps than what we have today! Come on Robin, defend Mark Miles, Boston Capital and Brian Barnhart (he's the only one left)!!
Terrible Ted aka The Grim Reaper

RM: What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving, I’m always thankful for sarcasm with dressing. I think the IndyCar season is too long. I’d like to see it go from May to July. The Boston Consulting Group is worth every penny, just like TGBB. And I think we need electric engines so we can hear each other talk during the race.

And thank you for giving us an excuse to run this LAT photo of the legendary Parnelli Jones with two of his greatest cars, the Johnny Lightning Colt-Fords in which Al Unser won the 1970 and ’71 Indy 500s.

RHR-leadDavid Malsher says…

Carlos Reutemann, one of the greatest F1 drivers never to win the World Championship, considered James Hunt slightly crazy, and when he’d spot the ’76 World Champion in his mirrors, never put up much of a fight in case his attacker did something over the edge that hurt them both. An amused Hunt did everything he could to perpetuate Reutemann’s perception of him and considered this part of his armory.

I’m sure Ryan Hunter-Reay doesn’t deliberately do the same to his rivals, but I wonder how many of them get distracted by the sight of that yellow nosecone filling their mirrors. The 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion has earned a reputation for trying to pass anything and anyone in front of him and reminds me of his team owner, Michael Andretti, at the height of his driving powers. Accepting second best just isn’t in RHR’s game, and if that means he occasionally screws up through overambition, well, that’s just the way he is.

“With this field so competitive, you’ve got to take chances,” said Ryan explaining his philosophy this year. “If I see a gap, I’m going to go for it. I mean, you can’t wait around hoping for a better chance because it may never happen. If it’s there, take it now.”

RHR-front3qHaving said that, even RHR would confess that the post-Indy 500 melee – the first American in eight years to win the world’s biggest race, remember – meant he wasn’t at his best in Detroit a week later, when he damaged his car on three separate occasions. He also came to admit his attempted pass on Josef Newgarden at Long Beach in April was too optimistic at that corner, and waiting until Turn 9 would have served him better. But to be honest, Ryan should be more troubled by his unforced errors that caused him to spin out of contention at Fontana and Mid-Ohio, as they probably cost him top-three finishes on both occasions.

Still, let’s not paint the picture of a wild man. It was Will Power, not Hunter-Reay, who kept pushing the limit of his braking point at Barber Motorsports Park as the track dried and eventually slid on into the grass, and so it was the Andretti Autosport driver who pulled into Victory Lane. Equally, RHR retained his self-control as he vainly pursued Power for victory at St. Petersburg. And let’s not forget how at Indy, Hunter-Reay perfectly blended calm methodology (to pick his way through to the front) with daring and inspiration when it came time to defeat a three-time “500” winner in a straight duel to the checkers.

Hunter-Reay was struck by a few mechanical failures but the ones that really stand out came in the races Texas, Pocono (double-points) and Milwaukee because they all cost him top-five finishes, at least. Without errors and engine issues, Hunter-Reay would probably have finished at least third in the championship rather than sixth. As for the chancy passing attempts, I regard 75 percent of them as merely the flip-side of a talent that also produces some of an IndyCar season’s most memorable moments.

RHR-MidORobin Miller says…

The 2012 IndyCar champion could easily look back on the 2014 season as the “one that got away” because he certainly ran strong enough to be No. 1 again. But, despite tying champ Will Power with three victories and scoring a trio of runner-up finishes, RHR wound up sixth in the point standings because of a pair of costly accidents and three mechanical DNFs.

Still, that disappointment was cushioned by his thrilling duel with Helio Castroneves and subsequent win in the 98th Indianapolis 500.

It’s not a stretch to think RHR could have been 3-0 to start the year with a second at St. Pete and win at Barber RHR-Barber-podiumsandwiched around what should have been his second triumph at Long Beach. Leading for 51 laps from the pole, RHR suddenly found himself trailing Josef Newgarden on Lap 55 and made a bold, if not-ill-timed, move to re-claim the top spot but collected Newgarden and five other cars.

He bounced back with a second place in the inaugural Indy Grand Prix and then put his mug on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Close a couple times before, RHR was not to be denied and his breathtaking pass of Helio for the lead on Lap 197 going into Turn 3 is what auto racing and “going for it” is all about.

So, five races in he should have been no worse than second in any of them but then he hit a rough patch – crashing in qualifying and starting 21st on both days at Detroit before blowing up at Texas. Following a late tire change, he swooped around Tony Kanaan to win Iowa to put himself right back in the title picture and everyone was prepared for another late rally like he’d made in 2012.

Running second at Toronto, he tangled with Kanaan and wound up 21st and then had a DNF at Milwaukee that pretty much sealed his fate.

As Power said a couple years ago, the 33-year-old veteran may be the best all-around racer in IndyCar’s four disciplines and all that talent was on display again in 2014. In a season dominated by Chevrolet, RHR carried the Honda banner along with Simon Pagenaud and he’ll be out-numbered even more in 2015. But don’t bet against him.

RHR-Toronto-wetMarshall Pruett says…

The irrepressible Ryan Hunter-Reay: He’s an absolute joy to watch when he has a car that’s working for him and against him, and if you look at where he finished in the standings last season, his indomitable spirit was on display at every round.

If there was one limiting factor encountered throughout the season, it was Andretti Autosport’s switch from Chevy to Honda engines. Six wins from 18 rounds for Honda spoke volumes to the competitive imbalance between the brands, and while RHR accounted for half of Honda’s trips to Victory Lane, it was clearly a year to have a Chevy. Despite winning the most races for Honda – including his thrilling win at the 98th Indy 500, RHR RHR-and-familywasn’t the top Honda driver in the final standings. That honor went to Simon Pagenaud, and deserves a bit of exploration.

The 2012 IndyCar champion loves a good fight; he craves the cut-and-thrust battles that comes with advancing through the field and is always looking for the knockout punch. Look at his drives in Barber and at Indy, and you’ll see classic RHR – the American at his finest. His admitted love for the ‘Go big or go home’ approach comes with a higher risk than some of his rivals are willing to take (Long Beach was a perfect example), yet it was that willingness to take risks that delivered his first championship. When it works, he’s unstoppable. When it doesn’t, he’s left parked against a barrier or trailing slowly to the pits for repairs.

With that bit of context applied, I’m left to wonder if a series of sixth- and seventh-place finishes in the championship is something that will continue to satisfy RHR. He’s taken seventh three times and sixth once since joining Andretti Autosport in 2010, and barring his spirited duel with Will Power for the 2012 title, one that was aided when Power crashed during the season finale, his position at the end of the championship has rarely matched his championship potential.

At the sharp end of the grid where RHR lives, four things define the outcome of their seasons: Talent, work ethic, strategy, and good fortune. The 33-year old is among the top 1 percent in IndyCar in terms of raw talent, and he works as hard—and possibly harder—than any driver behind the steering wheel and to steer his team in the right direction. Good fortune is something that can be influenced, but the “You make your own luck” mantra is nonsense. Getting hit by another driver, a blown engine…those issues are visited upon drivers.

The strategy part is what I’m left thinking about with RHR as the 2015 season beckons. He shares – or rather, shared – the go big/go home approach with 2014 IndyCar champion Will Power until the Aussie made the RHR-Indy-checkerschoice to dial down the risks and maximize his points-scoring possibilities at every round. From beginning to end, it was the crucial strategy change that delivered his first title. Power attempted to destroy the field in previous seasons, put up big wins, made headlines as the most exciting driver in the series, yet was left as a serial bridesmaid in the championship.

Provided Honda’s up to the task with its engine and aero kit, we know RHR will challenge Power, Dixon, Pagenaud and other title favorites in 2015, but I’m left wondering if the biggest influence on his season would come from adopting Power’s strategy.

Andretti Autosport was sharp for most of the season – not all, but most – and RHR hovered inside the top-5 until dropping to sixth at the final race when he spun on cold tires and went down a lap. He and AA won the biggest race of the year, were strong for major portions of the season, and with RHR as the tip of the spear, I’m positive the No. 28 DHL Honda will be a genuine pain in the ass next season.

Whether we’re discussing his second championship or another season filled with highlights and lowlights –another sixth or seventh in the standings – is up to RHR.


lat-levitt-poc-0714 00758Schmidt Peterson Motorsports' rebuilding process continues as the Verizon IndyCar Series team looks to fill its second seat alongside James Hinchcliffe.

SPM completed the 2014 season with Simon Pagenaud and Mikhail Aleshin as its drivers, yet with Pagenaud's graduation to Team Penske and Aleshin's unclear future after returning to Russia to mend from the injuries he suffered at Fontana, team owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson have wasted little time getting their plans in order.


Three-time race winner Hinchcliffe was confirmed in October as Pagenaud's replacement in the Honda-powered team, and more than a few interested drivers have visited SPM to inquire about its second entry.

2012 GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi is the first driver confirmed by the team as a new candidate for 2015 as the 27-year-old Italian is preparing for his first run in SPM's Dallara DW12-Honda next month at Sebring.

"We've been speaking with Valsecchi, he's highly accomplished, obviously with his GP2 championship, and we're going to test him Dec. 16 at Sebring, and may have one or more other drivers there with him in the 2014-spec car," Schmidt told RACER.

Valsecchi spent 2013 as a test and reserve driver for the Lotus F1 team (LEFT), parted ways with that team at the end of the season, and has spent most of 2014 on the sidelines, barring a few outings in European GT racing. With his career at a crossroads, and an impressive record against many GP2 drivers who went onto F1, a Hinchcliffe/Valsecchi pairing could strengthen SPM's competitive stance next season.

"There's about a half-dozen drivers we're talking with; some have partial funding, others have a more complete budget, and we have a lot to consider," Schmidt added. "We'll have James [Hinchcliffe] there at Sebring with Valsecchi to help with a baseline and to get a few miles with the team, too."

Why Ferrari dropped Mattiacci

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Ferrari had openly admitted its massive restructuring needed time, so dropping team boss Marco Mattiacci on Monday after just eight months on the job stunned Formula 1.

Behind the scenes, it had seemed that Mattiacci was making the right changes. He boldly called Fernando Alonso's bluff and agreed to cut him loose if he did not offer the necessary commitment to Ferrari. It was Mattiacci whose deal with Sebastian Vettel left Red Bull shell-shocked.

He got rid of technical personnel he doubted were good enough, hired key men for the future and gave full support to those he knew were essential, such as James Allison.

Mattiacci also showed political bravery, triggering the push for engine freeze relaxation that prompted a major battle over power unit regulations, and chasing a wider overhaul of F1, with testing and fan engagement on the agenda.

But in the end, it was not enough for Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne.


Marchionne is known for decisiveness, and the call to drop Mattiacci for Maurizio Arrivabene was entirely his.

Why Ferrari dropped Mattiacci

A letter sent to Ferrari staff offers key insight into his motivation, hinting it was not about 2014's poor results or doubts over the restructuring. Instead Marchionne's concern is having the right man to get Ferrari back to a central role in F1.

"I am fully committed to ensure Ferrari maintains its position of influence in the governance of F1," Marchionne wrote. That ability to influence F1's corridors of power appears fundamental to the change.

It is believed that Mattiacci was not as close to the still all-powerful Bernie Ecclestone as other Ferrari bosses had been. There are even suggestions Mattiacci rubbed Ecclestone up the wrong way with his approach to Ferrari's revival and his demands for wider F1 changes.

You only need to ask former Williams CEO Adam Parr about how a team risks isolation if one of its chiefs does not get on with Ecclestone.

In new hire Maurizio Arrivabene (pictured with Ecclestone, ABOVE RIGHT), Ferrari has someone who not only knows how Ecclestone works, but has been one of his closest allies for decades via his role with longtime F1 sponsor Philip Morris (Marlboro). F1's commercial boss was a common visitor to Marlboro's Madonna di Campiglio ski camps in the off-season.


Arrivabene has sat on the F1 Commission for years, so knows how the sport works and the best ways to influence its future shape.

As Marchionne wrote: "Maurizio brings a unique set of experiences with him. In addition to his long-standing relationship with our team, he has also served on the F1 Commission and is already keenly aware of the challenges we face.

Why Ferrari dropped Mattiacci

"He has a thorough understanding of the governance mechanisms and requirements of the sport, the level of competition and the challenges of the circuit. He has also been a constant source of innovative ideas for the revitalization of F1.

"In Maurizio, I see the qualities of someone who leads by his strong personal example, his professionalism, and the integrity of his decisions – in short by the type of person he is."

Marchionne knows that success on track will not come quickly, but equally much of the restructuring is now in place. It just needs time.

If Ferrari has a bigger overall influence in F1, perhaps it can fast-track ways to make itself more competitive. Just as Mattiacci wanted a driver focused only on what was best for Ferrari, Marchionne has decided Arrivabene is the best man to do that from the boardroom.

"We all know how important a healthy team spirit is, particularly at this time," he wrote. "The kind of spirit that can only come from a group of people who believe strongly in a project and are prepared to share the commitment, sacrifices and results."



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P-20141008-00100 HiRes JPEG 24bit RGBFollowing the news that 25-year-old V8 Supercars star Shane Van Gisbergen will return for his second run at the Rolex 24 At Daytona, two of the series' most dominant drivers tell RACER they'd also like to find rides for January's classic endurance racing event.

Triple 8 Racing teammates Jamie Whincup (at right, ABOVE) and Craig Lowndes (at left) have amassed incredible records during their tenure in the V8 series, with Whincup recently capturing his sixth championship in a seven-year span and Lowndes holding firm at three titles dating back to 1996.

P-20140823-00172 HiRes JPEG 24bit RGBWhincup's four wins at the legendary Bathurst 1000 complement the five earned by Lowndes, and both have excelled in sprint and endurance formats. Lowndesy's win in 2013 at the Bathurst 12 Hours driving a Ferrari F458, endurance racing experience in an Audi R8 LMS, and participation at the Spa 24 Hours in a Ferrari prepared by AF Corse (see video below) would made his transition into a GT Le Mans or GT Daytona seat rather easy.

"The Daytona 24-hour is definitely on my radar; it's just a matter of getting an opportunity," Lowndes told RACER. "It's on my agenda, it's a race we want to go over and compete in, and something I want to be part of. If there's any chance of driving with a good team, I'd be right there."

Lowndes credits the speed and professionalism demonstrated by Van Gisbergen during his Rolex 24 debut in January with Alex Job Racing for stoking interest among V8 drivers, and hopefully piquing the interest of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship teams in need of top-tier driving talent.

"Looking at what Gizzy (Van Gisbergen) did his first time over at Daytona, he showed what we're capable of," Lowndes added. "Shane's an incredibly quick driver, and I think he did himself some favors and also hope he did Aussie drivers some favors as well with his performance. There are definitely a lot of V8 drivers who would happily get on a plane and head over for Daytona."

P-20141117-00455 HiRes JPEG 24bit RGBThe V8 series kicks off its season in late February and runs through early December, making the Jan. 9-11 Road Before The 24 test and Jan. 23-25 Rolex 24 race the only window of opportunity to explore. Speaking with Whincup shortly after he won his sixth title, the mercurial 31-year-old told RACER he's been looking at the Rolex 24 in recent years.

"It's certainly something I want to do, and you've actually triggered my memory to try and sort something out!" he said. "I'm doing a Europe trip later in January, so maybe I could fly over to the U.S. before and do Daytona as well. I want to look into it and see what I can do. Shane has nothing but good things to say about the event and said he had a good time. I'm absolutely interested in looking outside of the V8s series to do one-off events and show what we've got Down Under."

While the 40-year-old Lowndes has an extensive racing history that includes major enduros, Whincup's experience is limited, by comparison. Whincup's routine domination of the V8 series longer races – up to six hours in length – with teammates ranging from Sebastien Bourdais to the late Allen Simonsen is an indicator of his potential, and his position as the sport's most successful and consistent driver should open the door to add Daytona to his resume.

V8Supercars 2011 Gold Coast600 1556As Bourdais (LEFT, Marshall Pruett photo) told RACER, his former Triple 8 teammates would be welcome additions to the TUDOR Championship season opener.

"Craig has been driving GT cars pretty regularly and has been driving everything for many years now; he'd be ready for Daytona anytime, plus he's a great guy. I don't think Craig, or Jamie, or any of the top V8 guys would have any problems. Daytona isn't that hard of a track, to be honest, and you really need guys who are quick and smart, and that's what these guys have to do for a living already," he said.

"Jamie and I won some good races together; he's super quick, very reliable, makes very few mistakes, and is very talented. When you put them in different circumstances like endurance racing, they adapt and get it done. He's the guy to be reckoned with in the V8 series, and when you see how close the series is, it's a massive achievement for what he's accomplished."

Bourdais won the 2014 Rolex 24 with the Action Express Racing team, and says he'd welcome having a V8 reunion in Florida in January as he returns to defend his victory.

"Jamie's a great all-round driver, Craig is like a legend down there, and many of those guys deserve more than to be restricted to the V8 series," he noted. "That's the cool thing about Daytona: It happens way before all the series start, so you can get all these drivers like Jamie and Craig to come add to the race."​

Todt mounts new budget cap attempt

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FIA president Jean Todt will revive the Formula 1 cost cap proposal when teams gather in Geneva on Tuesday for more meetings about the sport's future.

With Todt concerned about F1's financial situation in the wake of Marussia and Caterham's problems, he plans a new push for a budget gap and wider cost-cutting measures. Although the ideas were rejected earlier this year, he hopes that teams in the Strategy Group and F1 Commission may now be more open to introducing measures that will safeguard the full grid.

"On the agenda I will again put reducing the costs," said Todt, speaking publicly for the first time since Marussia and Caterham hit trouble. "I met some people from the three more vocal teams [Lotus, Sauber and Force India] and we have talked about ways of reducing costs.

"But, I was the only one [in the Strategy Group] to encourage the list of the parts [that teams must make themselves] to be reduced and action to reduce the costs. All the others were not in favor.

"We have spoken about a cost cap, too. We [the FIA] spent so much money on consultation to make sure it could work and even Lotus, who said today F1 costs too much money, voted against it. So what can we do?

"I am happy saying that everybody in life must accept not being too rigid, so we are going to present the different stakeholders, and the Strategy Group, with the same proposals that were refused before. Do they want a cost cap? Do they want to follow the proposals we have to reduce the costs?"


Todt mounts new budget cap attempt

As well as the efforts he will make at the meeting, Todt has vowed to address the price of F1's new turbo V6 engines with manufacturers, and wants a cap on what they can charge customers.

The dramatic jump in engine costs for this year has been singled out as a key factor in why smaller teams are struggling to afford to compete.

"The average price of the engines is $30 million, which is too high," Todt said. "They went roughly from about $18 million to $30 million, which is too much as it is a 70 percent increase on top of everything.

"I am going to fight about the price of the engines for the small teams in order for them to have a more affordable situation.

"I will do the best I can. I cannot guarantee the results but I will get into that."



Originally on


TK-IowaRobin Miller says…

It’s hard to lead 407 laps in 18 races and only win once, but that was Kanaan’s fate in 2014, a season that staggered in the beginning, righted itself at Pocono and finished in victory lane at Fontana.

Replacing his pal Dario Franchitti at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, the 2013 Indy winner had a bullseye on his TK-trophy-Fontanaback and was expected to be one of the favorites every time the cars rolled off the semi. Well he was but not until some growing pains were worked out and he finally got a little good fortune. One podium (third at Detroit) through the first 11 races had people speculating TK would be out at the end of the season. But nobody was talking like that a couple months later.

Of course it was anything but easy for the 39-year-old veteran. Some fuelish strategy took away a sure win at Pocono, where he led 78 laps, and Iowa should have been two Ws in a row but a late caution and fresh tires for Ryan Hunter-Reay and Newgarden shuffled him back to third place after leading 247 (of 300) laps. Back-to-back podiums at Toronto was followed by a third at Milwaukee and then he closed out his sprint to the finish by leading 64 laps and winning the MAVTV 500 at Fontana.

In the final nine races, he never qualified worse than ninth and showed he could still get the job done on road courses, street circuits or ovals.

The most popular driver on the circuit looked relieved standing in victory lane at Fontana because it had been a long time but it was certainly deserved. If he had any hair left it would have been gray.

Marshall Pruett says…

It was a tale of two seasons for Tony Kanaan in 2014. Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s newest driver looked like he was going to be one-and-done by the time we left the Indy 500 – a race he’d won the previous year at KVSH Racing.

Something was clearly amiss between TK and TCGR, yet it wasn’t clear where the fixing needed to begin. Was it Kanaan? Was he past his prime, unmotivated, or just a bad fit for Chip’s regimented outfit? Or was itTK-Detroit the team? Sure, they won the 2013 championship with Scott Dixon, but it took a miracle for Dixie to overcome the team’s poor start to the season.

At the time, I thought it might be a bad fit, but we soon learned the team was struggling mightily for a variety of reasons. And all of those reasons contributed to TK’s limited impact through Indy. The team switched from two seasons of Honda power to Chevy, and the differences in weight, center of gravity, and power delivery required wholesale changes to the team’s setups. Realizing and rectifying the situation took longer than expected, and led to another slow start that hampered TK’s ability to settle in and get down to business.

With a bit of hindsight, it’s clear the expectations for Kanaan at TCGR were too high in the beginning. Once theTK-with-Dixie team started to find its way on setups, TK and his engineer Chris Simmons ramped up their output once the series arrived in Detroit.

After giving away the first five races of the year, TK ended up seventh in the standings with a remarkable rally, including an overdue win at Fontana. My man Antoine was the most consistent driver over the final third of the championship, but the part that impresses me the most is where he ended up in relation to his TCGR teammate.

Dixon put up two wins over the final four races, and claimed third in the standings – 60 points ahead of TK, but I’d argue Tony’s performances – given the context of coming into a new team with a new engineer, and having to help turn the 2013 IndyCar champions around after being adrift – should be rated higher than what Dixie achieved.

To come within 60 points of Dixie, who entered 2014 with everything nearly identical to 2013, is a testament to Kanaan’s speed and professionalism. He’s widely regarded as the best racer in IndyCar, and is known for recovering from poor qualifying performances. It shouldn’t be a surprise he applied the same skills to TCGR where he rocketed through the championship to become, arguably, the team’s top performer by the end of season.


TK-TorontoDavid Malsher says…

In my opinion, the big surprise (a positive one) among the IndyCar drivers in 2014 was Tony Kanaan. If that sounds odd after a season in which he scored just one win and finished seventh in the championship, those stats are more down to the fact that Chip Ganassi Racing was usually mediocre by its high standards. By the end of the season, Tony himself had just about answered all the question marks hanging over him.

Last winter, as we chatted about where he felt he most needed to improve in order to exploit his great new opportunity at Ganassi, Kanaan admitted that qualifying on tracks with right turns was the big one. He was certain, though, that he was better than he’d shown over the previous few seasons. “Remember,” he said, “at KV Racing, they knew they wouldn’t be fighting for the championship, so most of their off-season work was focused on oval setups, because we were going for the Indy 500 win. And I think that paid off, didn’t it?!

“So for me, I don’t think it’s my speed on road courses that I need to improve. I need to not make little mistakes on a couple of corners on a flying lap that can cost you two-tenths here, two-tenths there. Because we all know in IndyCar that can be the difference between starting in the first four rows or the last four rows.”TK-with-Dario

Ah, but was he prepared to improve as he entered the twilight of his career? How long would it take his race engineer Chris Simmons to tailor setups to suit Tony’s aggressive use of steering, throttle and brakes, after five seasons working with the stylish and smooth inputs of Dario Franchitti? And how long before TK was trying to get Simmons replaced? Let’s face it, anyone seeking job security over the past seven years wouldn’t be rushing to sign on as Tony’s race engineer.

No question at all that Franchitti’s presence at most races helped ease the transition for the entire No. 10 crew, and Kanaan himself accepted that here was a team where he needed to fit into the environment and shouldn’t throw his weight around. At Ganassi, changes are instigated by the management, not the drivers and TK accepted that he could just focus on his driving and helping dig the team out of its early-season hole.

If he was mellower outside the cockpit, Kanaan had lost none of his fire or ability once the helmet went on and his controlled aggression – particularly in Toronto and Houston – was a real pleasure to watch. He just has an innate feel for what is and isn’t possible which is why, like Marco Andretti, TK has always been very good at picking his way through from a poor qualifying position.

In truth, Kanaan was rarely notably slower than Dixon and made fewer errors when the car was off-the-pace. On ovals – aside from CGR’s near-invisibility at Indy – he was predictably excellent. At Pocono, he appeared to be the only driver capable of mixing it with the dominant Penske trio; at Iowa he had everyone and everything handled until Ryan Hunter-Reay and Josef Newgarden elected to take new tires for the final restart. And at Fontana, he finally got the victory he deserved.

Although he turns 40 next month, Tony was probably driving as well as ever in 2014. That too, is impressive and answered my last remaining question. I’m happy for him, but also for Ganassi.


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