Q: Went to Sebring and saw Alexander Rossi driving again for Penske, as he did at the Daytona 24. I say when his Andretti contract is up, he is in at Penske and Pagenaud is the odd man out. Your take?
RM: I think The Captain has had his eye on Rossi for a couple years and he’ll make a run at him, but I think Alex is loyal to Honda and Honda loves him, so unless R.P. changes manufacturers, I don’t think he’ll be leaving Andretti.
Q: I went to the St. Pete GP for the first time and had a blast all three days. One thing that stuck out to me while I was there was the Harding-Steinbrenner garage. While many of the other teams had their cars hidden in the back while being worked on (understandably so), the HSR car was placed front and center. There was a consistent crowd hanging around outside the garage taking pictures. I don’t think there should be any rules made to force teams to put their cars in front of the fans, I just wanted to give HSR credit for helping engage the fans.
I have an affinity for the Road to Indy, and while I was at St. Pete, made sure to visit as many Lights, Indy Pro and USF2000 teams and drivers as I could. One question that unfortunately didn’t occur to me at the time was about this season’s finale. This is the first season in my memory that both IndyCar and the RTI will share the same venue and weekend for their season-ending races – and at the much-hyped return of Laguna Seca, no less. Would this new schedule arrangement sweeten the deal for anyone thinking about running a car in those series?
Victor, New Haven, CT
RM: The Harding/Steinbrenner team was kinda out in the middle of the paddock while everyone else was bunched together, but it’s always nice to hear how a team interacted with the fans. I really don’t think one race, regardless of the venue (except maybe IMS) and the fact it’s packaged with the IndyCar finale would be enough to sway somebody into being a Lights owner.
Q: Is there any news on the possibility of a third engine manufacturer joining the series for 2021? I read an article a few months ago that said Cosworth had been approached by multiple OEMs, but nothing has come of that yet. Is there still time for another manufacturer to develop and build a competitive engine, or would they be at an immediate disadvantage like Lotus was in 2012 after joining late?
Tom, Newark, NY
RM: No news right now. Jay Frye has jetted all over the world meeting with potential OEMs but nothing yet, and Cosworth would badge if that was desired. You would imagine any new manufacturer would be behind Honda and Chevrolet, but Lotus was doomed from the start because it had no budget.
Q: After watching in-car cameras at St. Pete, I was again reminded of just how physical IndyCars are to drive. With no power steering or traction control, IndyCars, at least on street and road courses, are the beasts of open-wheel racing. Over the years, I have often thought that the physical factor is the reason Danica Patrick and the other women who race IndyCars never fare so well on the street and road courses. As talented as they are, they are simply no match for the men when it comes to muscling these cars around a circuit. Your thoughts?
Carlton Higginbotham, Jacksonville, FL
RM: No doubt it affected Danica, and remember when they tried power steering at Mid-Ohio and she qualified on the front row? As you heard Felix Rosenqvist say after St. Pete, it’s the most physically-demanding car he’s ever driven. But Simona de Silvestro could handle it on a road/street course (she battled TK for third at St. Pete), and Katherine Legge also showed savvy at places like Road America.
Q: Is Kurt Busch the only driver to have driven for Ganassi, Penske, and Andretti?
Rick Lewis. Indianapolis
RM: Montoya and Ryan Briscoe drove for Chip and RP but not Michael, and Dario, Herta, Wheldon and T.K. drove for Andretti and Ganassi but not Penske. And if you count sports cars, Rossi has driven for Andretti and Penske. But Kurt may be the lone ranger.
Q: Had another great in-person experience at St. Pete with my 6-year old. He is hooked, so hopefully it’s not all doom and gloom for the future of motorsports in coming generations. Found Stefan Johansson’s “How to save F1” white paper very interesting. Pretty much sums up the lessons (and hopefully direction…) of IndyCar, and the requests from the Mailbag loyal: strip off 70% of aerodynamic downforce; reduce costs with ‘spec’ universal tub, gearbox and wings; more rubber/mechanical grip; 1200bhp; push-to-pass; blistering top speeds but longer braking zones, and more emphasis on driver car control. Make the cars beasts, make the drivers dragon-slaying heroes. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? The question is, who will get there first…
Scott B., Gainesville, FL
RM: I think IndyCar is going to get there by 2021, in terms of more HP and less downforce and more of a Beast mode. Glad your son had a good time, and Johansson has written some good stuff for RACER in the past couple years. Very sharp fellow with some good insight.
Q: The weekend of the last Sonoma race, there was a crew filming Mario at his winery in the tasting room, and out in the vineyards. Do you happen to know if this was a NBC crew, or perhaps IMS? And when we might be treated to watching?
Peter Carey, San Bruno, Ca.
RM: I would imagine it was the NBC crew for his upcoming documentary, although IMS has also been shooting some stuff to celebrate his 50-year anniversary.
Q: What I am curious about is what do the guys who come to IndyCar from F1 think of the cold tires, ie. no tire warmers? My opinion is that it adds some interest as well as driving skills to the strategy mix. It creates some interesting racing, and you see some drivers are much better on the cold tires than others. I’ve seen interviewers ask about the lack of power steering and other differences between the series, but have never heard comments about tire warmers. Personally, I would remove them from F1 if I had the choice to spice things up.
RM: I’ll ask Ericsson this weekend, but I know Montoya enjoyed cold tires because he was so damn good with them.