The usual story for the young Brazilian: everyone knows he's fast, everyone knows he's brave…but everyone expects him to stick his car in the wall at some point over a race weekend. For a third-year driver, there are too many days where he drives like a rookie.
BEST: Handled the pressure from Castroneves at Long Beach and drove beautifully to fifth at Watkins Glen.
WORST: Complete loss of perspective at lap 1, Turn 1 in Sao Paulo.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Mario has shown signs of maturity that should give him true hope of having a professional career in racing. He is still very young but I think that after two and a half years at the top level, he needs to get better results and consistency. KV has shown a lot of confidence in him and that should be enough to fuel his focus.
For a third-year driver, there are too many days when he drives like a rookie. Sounds familiar, huh? Viso has made himself more prominent by moving from HVM to KV Racing, and he usually holds his own despite two fast teammates, but some of his incidents make you cringe.
BEST: An aggressive yet mature drive to third place in Iowa, which emulated a similarly smart performance in Texas.
WORST: Smacking the wall in Kansas cost him a possible top-five finish.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: He is a loved guy by the fans for all the right reasons – colorful, funny, talented and shorter than me! He showed his speed from his first year in the series. It is time to meditate a little and show on track the smarts he has off track. I believe he just needs one race to go his way for him to regain control of his season, but sometimes things just won't turn your way on their own. He needs to make it happen – and he can.
Better to be out there racing every race, rather than an anonymous occasional driver for Ganassi. Lloyd has turned in some excellent performances for Dale Coyne this year, without Bill Pappas as engineer and without any feedback from his teammate.
BEST: The obvious one is fourth place at Indy, but perhaps more impressive was being on the pace all night at Texas.
WORST: Dubious behavior when faster cars were trying to lap him at Long Beach.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Tough to judge his position: a rookie but not, at Dale Coyne Racing but a different DCR than last year and with no teammate. I have been there. I would say that just managing to get noticed on more than one occasion is probably as good as it can get. If he keeps digging, things will come.
Hideki will always be judged against the man he replaced at Newman/Haas, Graham Rahal. And, frankly, he doesn't stack up on road and street courses. He was robbed of a top-six finish at Kansas by a wayward backmarker, but this team deserves better than a top finish of 12th.
BEST: Qualifying ninth for the Indy 500, beating many highly touted drivers and teams.
WORST: With the notable exception of Long Beach (where he out-qualified Franchitti!) Mutoh is just a grid-filler away from the ovals.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: I was impressed with Hideki when last year I helped AGR in a couple of events. He showed me speed and smarts but this year without teammates he seems to be lost. Now he will have Graham to work with and I suspect that not only the team will find what direction to go, but also Hideki himself will raise his performance for the occasion. I expect some good showings if he finds his mojo before the end of the year.
He's turning in the performances one would expect of a driver who was good but not outstanding in Indy Lights and who only shone on ovals. Having said that, his drive at St. Petersburg in tricky wet-to-dry conditions was good.
BEST: Excellent final qualifying run on Bump Day at Indy was followed up with a superb 13th-place finish – best of the rookies.
WORST: Where was he at Barber, Long Beach and Watkins Glen?
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Miles, miles, miles: He needs them to gain consistency. I would have expected him to shine more on the non-oval races, but two rookies together is not the ideal configuration for a team to move forward.
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO
De Silvestro's pace should have put her much farther up in the championship than 20th, but she's been involved in several incidents – not all of her own making – that have kept her from fulfilling her undoubted promise. That's exacerbated the underfunded HVM team's struggles.
BEST: Tempting to say leading her first ever IndyCar race or winning Rookie of the Year at Indy, but let's go for starting in the top 15 at all road and street course events.
WORST: Throwing away good race day finishes at Barber and Watkins Glen.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: I can only express how impressed I have been with her speed and race craft – very impressive for a rookie. She is driving for a team that last year struggled and she is making them look good. Not an easy achievement for a rookie and a lady. Hats off. The competition won't make it easy for her, but she deserves a podium before the end of the season.