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Alonso to race in the 2017 Indy 500, but what is the Indy 500? – all explained here for the uninitiated

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Hello F1 fans, you’re probably here because you’ve heard the news that Fernando Alonso is missing this year’s Monaco Grand Prix so that he can do the Indy 500. And you’re also here because you’re wondering what all this means, whether it is cool or not, and having established that it is cool, because you want to know exactly how cool.

Let me help. It is very cool.

In this article I will do my best to explain a little bit about the Indy 500, Indycar, and American Open Wheel racing in general, so you can begin to get excited about the Month of May 2017.

Let’s go racing!

What is the Indy 500?

The Indianapolis 500, or Indy 500, is the premier event in american open wheel racing, the flagship event of the Indycar series, and the largest annual sporting event by attendance in the world.

It is run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Which is not an oval.

Yes it is

No it isn’t, it is a 2.5 mile rectangle with rounded corners. There are four very distinct corners, each presenting its own unique challenge.

OK then, how long has the Indy 500 been going? 

This year will be the 101st Indy 500 race, but the first race was held waaaay back in 1911, by comparison the first Monaco Grand Prix is a relative newcomer, the first race being held in 1929.

Will Alonso score F1 world championship points?

No, but it wasn’t always this way. From 1950 to 1960, points from the Indy 500 counted towards the F1 Drivers Championship.

What’s the Triple Crown of Motorsport?

The Triple Crown is the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Fernando Alonso wants to win them all one day. It’s his own personal bucket list.

What’s the Quadruple Crown of Motorsport?

Well, it doesn’t exist, and if it did, many people would make a strong case for the 24 Hours of Daytona, but let’s be charitable and point to the Coca Cola 600, a NASCAR race which happens on the same day as the Indy 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix.

The same day?

Yep, and the timing means that you can watch the Monaco Grand Prix, followed by the Indy 500, followed by the Coke 600, if you can stand it.

Can you do Monaco and Indy on the same day?

Not any more, but I think when Concorde was still operating it was theoretically possible.

Can you do the 500 and the 600 on the same day?

Yes, and it’s done quite regularly which gives Indycar some good publicity with Nascar fans. (Nascar being way more popular than Indycar in the US, sadly)

How has this whole thing happened?

Simple. McLaren has Honda engines, Japanese ones. Many Indycars also have Honda Engines, American ones developed by Honda Performance Development. Since Fernando wants to do the Triple Crown, he needs to run Indy. And he isn’t getting any younger so he has to do it while he is still at the top of his game. These cars run 220 MPH and don’t have power steering.

220 MPH? I thought F1 was the fastest form of open wheel racing?

Nope. Although F1 cars are faster through twisty corners and can brake later than anyone, Indycars are the ones with the highest overall top speeds. So an F1 car would easily beat an Indycar around Spa, but the Indycar would leave it for dust at Indy.

What team is Alonso driving for?

He is going to be driving for Andretti Autosport, run by Michael Andretti, as a team mate of Marco Andretti. So, Andretti basically.

I’ve kind of heard of Andretti

Yes, you’re thinking of former F1 and Indycar driver Mario Andretti. Marco’s grandfather and Mario’s dad. He won the 1978 F1 world championship.

Did he drive for McLaren in F1?

Nope, but his son Michael, who is the team owner of Andretti Autosport, did. It was a bit of an ill-fated partnership though.

But McLaren has never raced in Indycar?

Yes it has, they even won the Indy 500 in 1974.

Shame they’re not racing this time

Agree, but as a half way house they are going to sponsor the car, so it will look like a McLaren.

But wait, you still haven’t explained how the whole thing happened

Well, F1 has changed ownership and is now american owned. McLaren has also lost Ron Dennis and now has an American Zac Brown in a senior position. Zac was for a long time expected to become some sort of boss of Indycar. A combination of Zac, Honda, American F1 owners, Andretti and Indycar have made this all happen.

Should we be excited?

I am. Put it this way. Indycar hasn’t been having the best of times over the past 20 years, because it has lacked a Bernie Ecclestone character to pilot it. Whilst the Indy 500 has remained strong, the same can’t be said for the rest of the Indycar season, which suffers from low viewing figures and poor attendance at some races.

Should I watch?

Absolutely, but make sure you do more background reading so you understand what’s going on. The racing is very different in style to F1, but it is no less exciting. The cars are not protoypes, they are pretty much stock vehicles, set up by each team, but don’t underestimate the strategy and the bravery which goes into making an Indy 500 winner.

How can I watch? 

If you’re in the UK, you can watch the F1 on Sky, the Indy 500 on BT Sport, and the Coke 600 on Premier Sports. In the US the F1 is on NBCSN, the Indy 500 on ABC, and the Coke 600 on whatever channel is showing Nascar that week.

Enjoy! I know I will.

 

How much more deitrich mate-shit can F1 fans take?

Another F1 race weekend, this time at a crap venue in a country only one shot down Mig away from being at war with NATO. And what is STILL dominating the news agenda? Red Bull. And the fact that since they have publically wet their pants about their existing engine supplier no other engine supplier is particularly keen to be next in line for criticism.

The consensus of every online poll I’ve seen is that fans hate the way Red Bull is behaving and are unsympathetic to their plight. So Red Bull, if the reason you are in F1 is good publicity, mission failed.

Time to pick up your ball and p*** off.

All about Finbarr O’Connell, the newest new Caterham boss.

A look on Smith and Williamson’s website at the profile of Finbarr O’Connell, the insolvency practitioner running Caterham, contains some revealing nuggets of information.  Apparently he has always seen his role as that of a “problem solver” for his clients, and his areas of expertise include ‘fraud and asset tracing’, an ability to trace assets seems like a valuable commodity in this case.

He’s not just running Caterham either, according to the website he is operating an agricultural business and a foreign exchange firm.

Busy man.

Caterham – F1’s Orphan

Sylvester Stallone’s Champ Car movie Driven is often held up as the pinnacle of ludicrous soap opera when it comes to open wheel racing, closely followed in the real world by the setting up of Indy Racing League, the Donington imaginary British Grand Prix farce and the Lola MasterCard team.

But now we have a new ridiculous story to follow, which threatens to make a car launching into a trackside lake seem almost plausible by comparison.

Caterham, the gift that keeps on giving.

Many teams have folded over the years – but few have actually met their demise because all possible owners disavowed actually owning the team. The result has been an orphaned entity, with its operational division headed up by an unknown individual, and its license holding entity owned by god only knows who.

For an entity purportedly owned by (depending on who you believe) a Malaysian, or a Swiss Arab consortium, there do appear to be a lot of Romanians circling around in various roles and functions.

No doubt the reason for this will all become clear one day, but if farcical corporate behaviour floats your boat, this sorry story really does have everything.

Colin Kolles’ father, who records at Companies House show resigned as a director of Caterham Sports Ltd 2 days after the Singapore Grand Prix, got out just in time.

Jules Bianchi’s accident and the risk of complacency

We must hope for good news from those treating Jules Bianchi after his terrible accident.

Those who know appear to say procedures were followed in all respects, that tractors remain a suitable way to remove cars, and that full course safety cars would spoil F1.

And yet we have a driver fighting for his life.

I worry that even the most intelligent and caring F1 commentators may be at risk of complacency in defending the sport they love. Some say the fans should stay out of things, that as armchair observers we cant possibly understand.

But here is the inconvenient truth, no racing series is immune to learning from its mistakes, learning from other series, or learning from scrutiny in the court of public opinion.

SAFER barriers, HANS devices, safety cells, tecpro barriers, dropping Spa and Hockenheim long courses, putting fire extinguishers on board, marshals being told to stay behind fences, extracting drivers in their seats, armco barriers subject to inspection, tarmac runoffs, on board signalling, le mans slow zones – all were born, decided upon, adopted or invented after accidents, many with a fair amount of public opinion behind them.

You can’t just say ‘its just one of those things’ if fans don’t buy it. Drivers burning to death in litres of fuel or being catapulted from their vehicles into trees used to be ‘one of those things’ but the weight of opinion led to positive change.

‘It’s always been this way’ is a blinkered view and does a disservice to those trying to constructively suggest improvements. If half as much effort had been spent designing a purpose built F1 recovery truck with built in impact protection as went into designing blown diffusers or the HANS device we may have had a different outcome. We may avoid another tragedy in the future, if that constructive innovation now happens.

IndyCar on ESPN in UK – Interesting Uptick in Blog Traffic

I’ve just been looking at my blog stats, and in the run up to the first IndyCar race of the season the blog saw a fairly large uptick in traffic. 

And what searches brought them here, well apart from one who searched for “eurovision is like” (no, me either) it was mostly this sort of thing: 

espn uk indycar  
espn indycar online  
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i want to watch indycar but dont want to pay for espn  
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indycar 2013 uk tv  
sky indycar  
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the legend of will power

Sebastian Vettel – He’s not the messiah, he’s a very naughty boy

EDIT: I’ve just posted this, only to discover I’m the FIFTH person to use this headline… Speaks volumes!!

 
May I be permitted to add my thoughts to the festival of awkward that is the Sebastian Vettel overtaking Mark Webber story?

It won’t take up much of your time.

First thought – you’ve messed up pretty bad when even Helmut Marko looks unimpressed and says as much.

Second thought. – Hamilton must be pleased that for once he isn’t the idiot doing something stupid.

Third thought – If I were Webber I’d definitely see how many times I could crash into Vettel over the season (targeting 8 that look plausibly accidental and one deliberate) then retire.

Fourth thought – if I were Christian Horner I’d say ‘It’s him or me’ then leave

Fifth thought – if I were Webber I’d refer to Vettel as ‘my knobhead team mate’ at every press conference til the end of the season and call my car ‘naughty nancy’.

Finally, I’d do anything to be able to go back in time and ensure Eddie Jordan was live in the pit lane to give his instant reaction to the weekend’s events.

It’s been fun though, hasn’t it?