Although it was only 57 degrees F at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Saturday mid-morning, it seemed warmer than Frigid Friday … at first. Then the wind kicked it up a notch. With the sun full out and shining brightly, it was deceptive. By the time for the half-hour NTT IndyCar Series warm-up on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course, there were clouds moving in over the front straight grand stands. One popular place in the sunshine was posing in front of the big “This is May” wall art hanging at the base of the Pagoda, near Victory Circle.
Rookie Colin Herta/No.88 Harding Steinbrenner Racing Honda was the fastest in the morning warmup session, at 1:09.2003/126.884 mph. He was among several leaders, but held the position the longest and to the end. Other fast drivers included Helio Castroneves/No.3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi/No.27 NAPA AUTO PARTS Andretti Autosport Honda, and Max Chilton/No.59 Carlin Chevrolet. All drivers were faster in the second practice than Saturday’s warmup.
Second through fifth were Scott Dixon/No.9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda teammates-Takuma Sato/No.30 Mi-Jack/Panasonic and Graham Rahal/No.15 Mi-Jack, and Sebastien Bourdais/No.18 GEICO Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
Left to Right: Graham Rahal, Sebastien Bourdais, and Max Chilton. Photos by Pablo Matamoros.
All but one of the drivers went out. Chilton’s Rookie teammate, Patricio O’Ward/No.31 Carlin Chevrolet was suited up in the pits but didn’t go out. He has consistently turned the fewest laps. The team said there were alternator issues, they were being fixed and O’Ward would able to race. O’Ward told NBC TV “It’s been a crappy weekend.” His Carlin teammate has been out for every session, turned more laps, and was fastest for a bit Saturday. For the Indy 500 there will be a third driver joining Carlin – another part-timer like O’Ward. That would be Charlie Kimball, who will drive No.23 Flasp Carlin Chevrolet.
O’Ward has joined the Red Bull Junior Team, a driver development team formed in 2001. From it have come several F1 drivers including Pierre Gasly, Christian Klein, Daniil Kvyat, Daniel Riccardo, Max Verstappen, and Sebastian Vettel. Red Bull sponsors the drivers in lower formula series. There currently are ten drivers on the team. O’Ward will continue out his partial IndyCar season with Carlin Racing. He said he joined the RBJT with “the intention of keeping the possibilities open to expand his racing portfolio in the future.” Reportedly, Christian Horner, principal for Red Bull F1 Racing team, confirmed O’Ward has enough points to qualify for a FIA Super Licence, which is required to race F1. Carlin said O’Ward earned 15 of the required 40 points by winning the 2018 Indy Lights Championship. The whole handling of Super Licences is governed by Appendix L of the FIA Sporting Code, and Supplement 1. Stay tuned.
Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.28 DHL Andretti Autosport has been battling an awful case of food poisoning this weekend. However, he was well enough to run as high as second before finishing 12th in the session. He said he was feeling a lot better.
A welcome sight in the garages was Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsport driver, Robert Wickens, who was in a wheelchair. He was engrossed in a convo, so I was unable to ask him about the special exo suit he was using in his rehabilitation.
This year another team has adopted the sideways garage format for the race cars, emulating the style started by Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports last year. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing now is using it. They also are adopting what all the F1 teams have been doing for awhile – decorating the back wall of the garage mural style. Other teams doing it are Chip Ganassi Racing and AJ Foyt Racing, as well as Clauson-Marshall Racing.
One of the busiest garages Saturday morning, in the bright sunshine, was Firestone’s. They were busy prepping rain tires for the teams.
Most of the Gasoline Alley garages have their signage up and displaying. However, Garages 14 and 15 are noticeably bare, for the time being. They belong to Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, who have one more driver to announce, for No.77 Honda. That announcement is scheduled for 5pm Monday at Gate One at the track. Some people reckon it might be Oriol Servia, who was seen at the recent Honda test at IMS, in a team suit. As they say – film at 11.
The weather started changing early afternoon, with a total cloud cover in place before the afternoon festivities started. Maybe the weather is responsible for the Internet poltergeists who have been jijacking bandwidth, leaving folks without email for hours on end and otherwise disrupting valuable media functions.