Q: How do you think the McLaren/Arrow SPM merger is going to change the landscape of IndyCar? Will they run three cars and might Hinch end up at RLL? Is HSR going to stay afloat?
RM: If Alonso wants to run, yes I think three cars is in the cards – at Indy for sure, and maybe selected other races. Can’t predict HSR, and RLL would seem a good fit for Hinch.
Q: While I think it’s great McLaren is coming to IndyCar next year, do you think it’s a little disappointing they will be basically absorbing an existing team and not coming in as a new team with two new seats in the series?
David M, El Paso, TX
RM: Not at all. Zak Brown now has his foot in the door and he could run four cars on what McLaren spends on brakes in F1, so let’s give it a year or two. I mean, obviously, if he comes in separately and grows the series by two more full-timers it’s great, but after last May he needs a foundation, and he’s got one.
Q: I see where Andretti is drinking McLaren’s Kool-Aid. What is going on? I would not want to get on the wrong side of Honda. Maybe they will sign Penske (what kind of cars does he run IMSA!). Who is your sponsor – not Generous Motors.
RM: Not sure I follow you, but Michael and Zak are good friends and I’m told the negotiations between Andretti, Chevy and Honda went down to the wire at Mid-Ohio. I think if you were looking at several million dollars (Zak’s offer to Michael), in today’s IndyCar landscape you would exhaust all your options to try and make it work. But, thankfully for the competitive balance of the series, Andretti, Rossi, RHR and Herta stayed with Honda.
Q: The McLaren announcement made me want to ask something I have been thinking about for a while. Say another manufacturer comes in. They aren’t going to want just cast-offs from Honda and Chevy. They are going to want at least one powerhouse team in their stable. How does IndyCar make this happen? I know it depends on the manufacturer, but what teams would leave their current supplier?
RM: Loyalty usually lasts about as long as it takes to write a check, and a new manufacturer would likely go after Chip since Andretti now has a four-year deal with Honda and I can’t imagine R.P. bailing on Chevrolet. Don’t forget that Ganassi won four consecutive CART championships with Honda (1996-99) but then became Toyota’s factory team in 2000 for a big pile of money.
Q: There is no way, I mean no way, that Michael Andretti lets Colton Herta get away! Honda needs to let Michael bring McLaren over here with Honda. They owe Michael that! Then Michael can be involved with Colton and Fernando! Thanks for listening to my rant, buddy! I fell in love with Michael because of the way he would dominate races with Newman Haas! I must admit part of me died at Indianapolis in 1992 with 10 laps left. If anyone deserved to win that race it was Michael, then he got screwed by The Split.
Dan Kirby, Lima, Ohio
RM: He’s not going to lose Colton, but as you know by now the McLaren/Alonso/Andretti/Honda scenario will not happen. Lloyd Ruby, Ted Horn, Tony & Gary Bettenhausen, Mike Mosley, Rex Mays and Joe Leonard are always mentioned in the best to never win Indy, but I think Michael with his 42 wins and 382 laps led at Indy is No.1 on that list.
Q: It had been said many times that if Rossi had gone to Penske he could not bring current engineer Jeremy Milless with him as he would not be welcomed back. What was his job while he was at Penske, what driver did he work for, and what led to the ugly divorce?
Chris F., Charleston, SC
RM: Jeremy was assistant engineer on the RS Spider program at Sebring when The Captain called for a pit stop. Milless objected, rather vocally, and questioned RP’s racing acumen, and was released at the end of the season.
Q: OK Robin, I have to hand it to you. How you are able to do your weekly Mailbag without drinking is beyond me. All the bitching about the new hybrid/engine system is ridiculous. OK, yes. All-electric sucks. No noise, nothing about that is racing. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. It’s a system that will supplement what we have and give a boost to the power we already have. The new engine/hybrid package will be loud and very similar to what we have now. If IndyCar has any hope of attracting a third OEM and remaining relevant to what’s on the street and where technology is taking us, this is what we need to do.
Like it or not, no manufacturer is going to be able to justify participation in our series without what they’re doing on the track relating to the product they put out on the assembly line. Without manufacturers we are dead in the water. We have to be relevant. In the words of Aaron Rodgers, relax! (Never thought I’d quote a Packer but, hey). This is a great thing for IndyCar. This, combined with McLaren coming in, makes for a great week for IndyCar. My only regret is we have to wait one year more for new engines. Given that we seem to be free of ethanol sponsorship, would a return to methanol fuel give us a short-term boost in HP before the new engines? (I miss the smell of that!) Looking forward to hearing loud engines in 2022 and beyond. Thanks, Robin, for all you do.
JP in Denver
RM: The people who write in to The Mailbag obviously care deeply about IndyCar racing, but in this case I think some of them panicked because of the term “hybrid.” I made one call to Jay Frye when I heard it was coming and he said: “The cars will have self-starters and increased horsepower, but we’ll still have noisy, internal combustion engines.” I don’t have a clue about ethanol or methanol and I’ve exhausted my limit of Marshall questions this week, so let’s wait and I’ll try and get an answer down the road.
Q: I was encouraged by IndyCar’s announcement that it would roll out a hybrid engine program in hopes of getting additional manufacturers into the sport. What I’m curious about is how it will be different from F1 hybrid program. Could you shed any light on the anticipated differences between the two series’ engine programs, and what, if anything, IndyCar might have learned by watching F1 try this for the past several years?
RM: Mr. Pruett weighs in, thankfully: “Hi William. I don’t believe IndyCar’s KERS solution will have much to do with anything we’ve seen in F1. Where F1 uses two forms of energy recovery – heat and kinetic – we know IndyCar will stick with kinetic only. It also sounds like IndyCar’s solution will be different from F1 in its planned location (within the bell housing) and its secondary use (to act as a starter).”