How do we judge a guy who's out of action until at least mid-August? It's sad because he could have learned a lot from Dreyer & Reinbold teammate Justin Wilson and might have been a contender for podiums over the next four races.
BEST: Starting from the front row at Barber.
WORST: His pass around the outside of Matos at St. Petersburg wasn't overambitious, but closing the door so aggressively caused contact that pitched him into the wall.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Mike showed impressive speed on more than one occasion last year. I think having a teammate like Justin was a bit of a wake-up call. There is nothing better than a top driver to work with. Through my career I have witnessed many drivers coming back stronger from a big crash and his one at Indy this year was a BIG one. He will only be better on his return. The pain he goes through during recovery will only fuel his desire to become a better driver. We could see some great performances when he gets back in the cockpit.
This talented ex-F1 driver is in a fast car yet in the championship lies behind a guy who missed the last three races. Of the carnage that KV Racing has suffered this year, Sato has played a major part. While we expected that on ovals, his gaffes on street courses have been less forgivable.
BEST: Reaching the Fast Six at both Barber and Watkins Glen and coming to grips with Kansas and Iowa so quickly.
WORST: Binning it at Sao Paulo, St. Pete and chucking third place away at Iowa.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: I have met “Taku” a few times and have been impressed every time. Not only knowledgeable and professional, but extremely sharp. I have been waiting for some sort of a superb surprise performance but it seems to be not coming easy. I thought he had a great, solid showing at Watkins Glen but it looks like he lost the grasp of it toward the end of the race. I know for a fact that the team has great cars: Mid-Ohio should be a targeted effort for him.
Duno has continued to show she's not good enough to be in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Period.
BEST: Qualifying 17th at Texas – but that's more of a damning indictment of the current breed of Indy cars.
WORST: Ah, the agony of choice. Being 6.5sec slower than the next slowest car – and 11 seconds off pole – in qualifying at Watkins Glen. Scary, isn't it?
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Milka has shown her qualities – perseverance, media management and fund-finding. In my opinion, she should capitalize on them and become a team/car owner. Change the helmet for the owner hat and put a good program together with a good driver of her sponsor's liking!
It's a pity this talented Belgian missed the opening two rounds of the season. Everyone's expecting him to shine on road and street courses but, oddly, it's been the ovals where he's out-qualified teammate Romancini. Now's the time for Baguette to prove he can do it everywhere.
BEST: Getting into the field at Indy on the first day in only his second attempt at an oval race.
WORST: To be honest, he hasn't done anything worthy of condemnation.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: It's never as easy as rookies will assume from the outside. It takes a while before a rookie can really shine in the IndyCar Series and Bertrand is finding that out first hand. His past credentials speak highly of him and I am sure that, given the time, he will figure out how to get the best out of his car. He is working with a great engineer and I would think that before the end of the season we will see sparks of brilliance.
THE BEST OF THE PART TIMERS
Graham Rahal did an excellent job at St. Petersburg for Sarah Fisher Racing, at Indy for Rahal Letterman and at Iowa for Dreyer & Reinbold – and now we assume he can do the same in the six races he has with Newman/Haas Racing. Tomas Scheckter, too, shouldn't be without a seat: his performance in Texas proved that, and hopefully he'll do a similarly good job in Toronto. John Andretti shone at Kansas, Paul Tracy still has a lot to give this series, both on and off the track, Townsend Bell is one of the most underrated drivers when it comes to getting around the Brickyard fast and Adam Carroll has the talent to be a star of the future, as everyone at Andretti Autosport now knows.
ORIOL'S VERDICT: Graham disappointed me with his lack of speed when he ran for Sarah Fisher but, at the same time, he really impressed me at Indy! I believe we will find a stronger-than-ever Graham in these next races with Newman/Haas. He has always been very mature for his age and this year of bouncing around has probably made him dig deep inside and will come out with his best shots. The team is really hungry, too, so I wouldn't be surprised at all to find them at the top of the podium real soon.
Tomas is always fun to watch. He sometimes makes me wonder if he knows that races are longer than just 10 laps – but I must admit that this year he has shown more maturity than ever and has been able to get the best of his chances. John Andretti didn't seem to shine as much as I expected in Indy but we know how special and picky that race is…
Last time I saw Paul Tracy cycling this much was in 2003 when he won the Champ Car title – that says enough about his actual commitment. If he sticks to basics and listens to Jimmy Vasser, he could find himself on the podium at Toronto or Edmonton.
Townsend seems to be approaching racing like a surgeon: Comes on time and prepared for his once a year appointment and doesn't disappoint with his performance. He has put himself in a position where he can choose how and when he wants to make an appearance, and who can blame him?!
Carroll showed up in Watkins Glen and probably realized that things on this side of the Atlantic are a bit more difficult than what it looks like from Europe. He showed speed and made no mistakes, even when flirting with P.T.'s real estate!
THE REMAINDER OF THE SEASON
More of the same from the Big Five drivers, but with Andretti Autosport's aces frequently mixing it with them, Justin Wilson nailing D&R's first win in over a decade, and Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani shining on home soil in Toronto and Edmonton.
ORIOL'S PREDICTION: Power, Power and Power. I see many strong attacks at his throne from many drivers, but I think Will can handle them with more dominant performances.