Robin Miller’s Mailbag for September 11, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: Great news regarding the addition of Richmond Raceway; so excited for the return of IndyCar. You indicated in last week’s Mailbag that Dennis Bickmeier “will promote the hell out if it,” which I certainly hope will be the case. However, I hope the Friday/Saturday schedule will model that of Gateway (Pro 2000, Lights and IndyCar). Then there’s something with meat to promote!

I contemplated going to Pocono (again) this year, however, why would I drive four hours to tent camp on the infield of an oval for just IndyCar with no support series? Might be acceptable for some, but not my glass of sweet tea in August.  Mid-Ohio? I’m there every year from Thursday night through Monday morning. Indy? Been going 27 years, and while I’d still make the 11-hour drive without Carb Day in play, it certainly enhances the race weekend experience. Richmond and IndyCar must give serious consideration to keeping the weekend schedule filled with action (no disrespect to Vintage Indy), otherwise, it may be a hard sell getting the hardcore fans to travel more than 90 minutes (on I-95, no less).

I purchased six seats for the Richmond race last night. I was very surprised to see a sizeable majority of the “sweet seats” (Commonwealth and Capital stands, rows 20+, closest to start/finish line) unavailable for purchase. Is this a result of management’s intent to reserve those seats for 2020 season ticket (NASCAR) holders? Did I pull the trigger on lower seats prematurely?

Mark, Woodbridge VA

RM: First off, Richmond wants to make the return all about IndyCar so it’s going to have a Friday night practice session and then have qualifying (and more practice) on Saturday. It’s a little throwback to the old USAC era of one-day shows, and I think support races could be in play down the road, but I know Dennis wants to try this format to see how it’s received.

As for tickets, season-ticket holder renewals were sent out before the IndyCar deal was done and Richmond could not put their tickets up for sale without giving them the opportunity to add the IndyCar race to their season ticket package. Bickmeier has communicated to their season ticket holders that they can add this race during the renewal process, which ends on 11/1. Once they are done with renewals and know which season ticket holders added the IndyCar race, then those seats will be released. Richmond says it will also give early IndyCar purchasers the opportunity to relocate, as that is fair to them based on their early commitment, so it sounds like you can move if you chose. Thanks for supporting IndyCar.

Q: I live 30 miles from Richmond International Raceway and should be happy about the return of the IndyCars. But I am not, because I worry that the show will be a repeat of the races I attended on their earlier visits. The track is too small for cars that fast. Lap times are so quick that you need your head on a swivel, and they run so close to the wall that all the fans see are the air boxes and rear wings as the cars whiz by. Unlike stock cars, IndyCars don’t respond well to side-by-side contact. The Carbon Fiber Manufacturer’s Association was the main beneficiary of the last race I attended at RIR, and I believe more laps were run under yellow than green. I’d much rather drive an extra 150 miles to see Indy cars run at VIR than 30 miles to see them at RIR. Robin, please tell me I am wrong about this.

Greg Glassner, Caroline County, Virginia

RM: You are correct in that Richmond was follow-the-leader the last few races before leaving but featured exciting, two-groove racing when the IRL first went there, and there’s no reason it can’t be a good show if IndyCar gets the downforce right and Firestone gets the right tire. I remember NASCAR fans telling me after one of the early races it was the best thing they’d ever seen, so let’s give it a chance.

Q: As one who lives just over the river in Fredericksburg, VA (less than an hours drive from Richmond on I-95), I’m excited! As a reminder to everybody of how many IndyCar races we have in the mid-Atlantic, well.., it was zero before Richmond. I went to the last race at Richmond, which was the one where TK apologized to the fans for the procession. If we can get the tires to work and have multi-groove racing, it will be a blast. Not to mention that the pre-race with USAC Silver crown cars was also really great. (I don’t know if we can get them back for the date). Too bad we can’t pair up with IMSA at VIR. I’d travel to that in an instant, but as I understand it the track is too narrow?

Doug Baggette

RM: As we’ve discussed, the first three races were good with two grooves and the last couple were yawners because either the downforce or tires changed – or both – so it’s up to IndyCar and Firestone to get it right next. Yes, VIR isn’t ready for IndyCar in many ways, but I understand it’s a great little road course.

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Robin Miller’s Mailbag for Sept. 4, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: Something has to be done to fix the madness at Portland! Every race I’ve watched at that track (since ’96) has had problems in Turn 1. Why not eliminate the Turn 1 chicane and let them go flat out to the end of the straightaway? It works at Long Beach, why not here? True, there isn’t a runoff area at the current Turn 2 but maybe something can be done in that regard.

Jeff, Mesa, AZ

RM: That’s how IMSA use to start its races at Portland and it’s a great idea. Expecting 22 cars to go from 175 to 35 mph in a sharp, tight right-hander is dreaming — just like telling the drivers not to get carried away on the first lap.

Q: I’m not a fan of the field getting so bunched up before the green flag. As much as I like close starts/racing…I don’t like them so bunched up and wrecking a quarter of the field. Just let the leader exit the last turn and gas it.

Rob Peterson

RM: Nobody likes first-turn, first-lap crashes but look at the start of the Indy 500 in the ’50s and ’60s and see how tight everyone is packed together. Sure, they’re probably going 50 mph slower than today’s cars but the point is that the drivers had more respect for each other and likely more control. To be honest, other than Pocono and Portland, the drivers have done a pretty good job of getting through the first turns at most tracks — including cramped street courses.

Q: I HATE, HATE Turn 1 at Portland! What do they expect when they stick that kind of crap tight turn with open-wheel cars? Oh, I guess terminal speed would be too high for just going back to the old straight. But wouldn’t it give them more time to sort out? That turn sequence absolute needs to be changed or removed.

Greg Williams, Apache Junction, AZ

RM: Jeff’s suggestion in the first question is a good solution but I watched 20 F2000 cars all get through the chicane so if a bunch of kids can do it, why not some of the best?

Q: What was Ryan Hunter-Reay thinking when he blocked Rossi on the main stretch? Will this make things awkward on the Andretti Autosport team going forward? Also, how was the crowd for the weekend?

Paul Fitzgerald, Indianapolis

RM: Nah, RHR didn’t take Rossi out so no problem. The camping crowd was much larger but it looked like the spectator crowd was definitely down from a year ago.

Q: Why don’t they move the start of Portland to a different area of the track?

Jim Kupstas

RM: Because you’ve got a great, wide straightaway made for an exciting start, It just makes IndyCar look bad when the “best” can’t control their cars and part of IndyCar’s heritage and allure is the flying start.

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IndyCar teams size up revised aeroscreen ahead of first test

IndyCar, its teams, and drivers have been engaged in a flurry of communications behind the scenes as the series prepares for its first test of the new Red Bull Advanced Technologies aeroscreen set to debut in competition next year.

As a testament to the growing concerns over the aeroscreen’s weight and how that weight might negatively influence handling, its height and how it could impede cockpit ingress, egress, and possibly increase cockpit temperatures, receive pitting from rocks and debris throughout each race that would reduce visibility, and other worries, IndyCar’s stars recently called a private drivers-only meeting where their issues with the device were debated and assembled for presentation to IndyCar’s leadership team.

When the people who are tasked with driving the cars feel the need to gather and form a united front on any subject, the serious nature of such a meeting should command IndyCar’s complete attention.

Positioned atop the cockpit, the high and forward aeroscreen mass is far from optimal when considering vehicle dynamics. With the addition of a metal halo behind the aeroscreen, the estimated weight of the device and mounting fixtures is in the region of 50 pounds, which is a significant figure for a highly-tuned open-wheel race car to incorporate without experiencing a number of adverse reactions to cornering, braking, and tire consumption.

As word of the weight made the rounds in the paddock over summer, a number of team principals and race engineers have lobbied IndyCar for changes to mitigate the anticipated problems.

In particular, a call for new front suspension a-arms, and the corresponding pushrods and rocker arms that connect the a-arms to the dampers, is said to have been met with heavy resistance due to added costs. As a common practice to combat excessive forward weight distribution, installing new a-arms that sweep farther forward and therefore move weight distribution rearward to compensate for the nose-heavy changes that are coming would be the most obvious route to pursue.

Complicating that move, however, would be the related need to modify the front wings. If new forward-swept a-arms were adopted, the front tires would likely rest where the various current front wing packages sit, and would need to be moved forward to make space for the Firestone rubber.

In his August 14 visit to The Week In IndyCar podcast, championship-winning race engineer Craig Hampson outlined the primary performance issues the aeroscreen will present for IndyCar’s competition department to overcome.

“That thing is not going to be light,” said Sebastien Bourdais’ Dale Coyne Racing technical guru. “And it’s not going to be light because it has to be able to stand up to some pretty impressive forces, like a tire hitting it going 200 miles an hour. So, it’s going to have a very beefy titanium frame and then it’s got the optical material surrounding it and then you need the tub modified for all the locating points for that. It’s going to add a lot of weight. That weight is going to be towards the front of the car, so it’s going to affect the weight distribution of the car.

“And that weight actually is going to be pretty high up as well, so it raises the center of gravity of the car and the net effect of that is there is more weight transfer from the inside wheel to the outside wheels going around a corner and that’s going to reduce your level of grip.

“In particular, the weight distribution change is going to pretty dramatically affect how the car handles. I expect it would add a lot of understeer to the car. It may be that Firestone has to design all-new tires. Or at least all-new front tires to be able to deal with the changes that are going to be coming from the aeroscreen.”

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Robin Miller’s Mailbag for August 28, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: It must have been a rough week for Taku after what happened at Pocono. It was great to see he showed the speed at Gateway and proved he’s a helluva racer one more time! Job done, Taku! Now it makes me wonder what “IndyCar fans” say about it.

Noz, Yokohama, Japan

RM: Sato is a gracious person, and one of the most likeable drivers I’ve ever encountered. He took a pretty good beating on social media after Pocono, but he seems to have a resilience like few others. I was interviewing him right before the start last Saturday night and he got a nice ovation from the Gateway crowd, so I think a lot of IndyCar fans either forgave and forgot, or simply didn’t blame him. Prior to that we were discussing the fact that before last week I’d never heard any racial slurs thrown his way in the decade he’s raced over here, and he said the same. But he was a popular Indy 500 winner, and fans always seem to enjoy his attack mode behind the wheel. So a few experts hiding behind their computer shouldn’t bother him, because they didn’t speak for the majority.

Q: I went to the Gateway IndyCar race and it was my first IndyCar race outside of the Indy 500. Great facility, and pretty good race. Seemed like it was difficult to pass the leader, as it’s been all year. I was very impressed by Ferrucci. Strategy kinda screwed him, then he overdrove Turn 1 but still managed fourth. Do you see him going to a better team next year? He deserves it.

Luke, Indy

RM: Passing was difficult, but there was plenty of it during the last 100 laps. That race usually starts out kinda boring and then comes to life. The yellow really hosed Santino, and he didn’t have a great last pit stop either. Dale Coyne says he wants to keep him, and unless Zak Brown comes calling, I imagine he’ll stay because it’s a small but mighty team that he’s fit into nicely. He and engineer Mike Cannon click.

Q: Two comments and a question: Make Gateway the final round! And the same cars from the Pocono wreck nearly wrecked again at the start! My question is this: I understand Newgarden was frustrated with Santino at the end of the race, but why not just ride to a solid fifth place and take the points?

Rob Peterson, Rochester, NY

RM: Gateway should be the season finale, but more on that next week. It looked like JoNew was just reacting to Ferrucci’s slide into the gray, so at that point what’s he supposed to do? It didn’t look like he really had time to do much except dodge a crash.

Q: I have been to over 25 Indy 500s and have lived in the St. Louis area for over 15 years. Last year I brought five friends to the Bommarito 500 and this year brought seven while upgrading our tickets. Last year’s crowd was nice, but this year’s race blew it out of the water. We have made new race fans, and plan to continue to attend – where else can you get tickets at an affordable price, tailgate all afternoon, and have a top-notch race experience (at an oval nonetheless)? Tell the folks running Gateway to keep it up! Now, how can we get Gateway as the series finale? I’d rather have 42,000 screaming fans for the finale than a couple hundred folks out in Northern California.

Eric D, St. Louis

RM: You’re a good man for spreading the word and cultivating new fans, Eric. It was the best crowd in three years, and just a good race with a great finish. I wish you would talk to the owners about what constitutes a good finale. For my money it would be an oval with a great crowd under the lights at a track that promotes the hell out IndyCar and would pack the place. But I guess the owners would rather entertain their sponsors in front of 10,000 people at a track where passing will be passé, but they dine by the ocean.

Q: Wow!  What a great race! I’m ready for Gateway to be scheduled the week after the Indy 500 and as the season finale! Then, Gateway sells out and makes money, NBC gets ratings and IndyCar fans get great racing! Texas used to be twice a year, now it’s Gateway’s turn.

Bill Schemonia, Vergennes, IL

RM: I think one of Gateway’s keys is that it’s once a year and Chris Blair, John Bisci and the Bommarito Auto Group promote it year-round. Twice might really hurt it – unless it was the IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader that Jay Frye wants to make happen, and Curtis Francois and Gateway are all in favor of it.

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MILLER: IndyCar’s 2019 surprise package

He reminds Pancho Carter of Sam Hornish on an oval. Michael Cannon thinks he favors A.J. Allmendinger in the talent department. And Dale Coyne isn’t sure who to compare his resplendent rookie to, but he knows they don’t come along very often.

Nineteen races into his IndyCar career, it’s safe to say that Santino Ferrucci has made quite an impression on his spotter, his engineer and his car owner, along with making a whole lot of new fans with his aggressive style and perpetual smile.

All of Ferrucci’s good features were on display Saturday night at Gateway, where he led 97 laps and could have scored his initial victory with a little help from the caution gods and a better final pit stop.

As it was, he showed his rear wing to the Big 3 most of the evening and made his usual assortment of passes and saves before having to settle for fourth place in his Cly-Del Honda. But for a driver who is just 21 years old and was a virtual unknown prior to 2019, Ferrucci has been the most pleasant surprise of the 2019 season. Even if his team had no clue about him.

“With that name, I thought he was a foreigner,” chuckled Carter, the former USAC champion and IndyCar regular who spots for Santino on the ovals.

“Never heard of him,” said Cannon, who has helped develop Patrick Carpentier, Mario Dominguez, Simona de Silvestro, Ed Jones, Conor Daly and Allmendinger. “But the minute he got in our car at Detroit last year, he was impressive. He’s right there with Dinger.”

“We looked at his resume and it was OK,” said Coyne, breaking into a grin. “But it didn’t look like this.”

What it’s looked like is a kid that’s completed all 1,897 laps of competition, never crashed, probably passed more cars than anyone, captured Rookie of the Year honors at Indianapolis, and raced hard and clean with his peers.

Yet its his prowess on ovals, on which he’d never turned a wheel on until last May, that has made this former F1 test driver such a surprising story. Asked if recalled anyone from a road racing background catching on to ovals any quicker, Carter didn’t hesitate. “Yeah, Sam,” he said of the 2006 Indy 500 winner and three-time IRL champ who became the master of the 1.5-mile ovals in the days of pack racing.

“Santino reminds me a lot of Sam, because he’s brave enough to go to the outside. Sam always ran a little higher to keep that part of the outside groove dusted off, and then he could keep one wing in clean air and make a run. Santino did that on Saturday night, but late in the race couldn’t keep the outside dusted off by himself.”

Coyne adds: “The big surprise is how good he’s done on ovals. (Felix) Rosenquist has done OK on ovals, but this kid has come here and lit the world on fire on ovals. Oval racing is a state of mind. He’s carefree about it; that’s what you’ve got to be. Try to analyze, go nowhere. Got to feel what’s all around you.”

Cannon marvels at the Connecticut native’s simplicity. “He’s delightful to work with. He listens, and you tell him something in passing, and it sticks. We went to Pocono with a baseline setup and made two tiny changes, and that was it. We came here and made one change all weekend. I can go sit in a corner and take a nap.”

Carter agrees. “He’s always asking questions and he listens. he was asking three laps before the green if he could go three-wide, and I told him it depends on how fast you’re going.”

It was quite a tribute to Coyne’s little team that Ferrucci and Sebastien Bourdais were running 1-2 and pulling away halfway though Saturday night’s race. Craig Hampson, Oliver Boisson and Cannon combine for a great engineering punch, while Todd Phillips and Roy Wilkerson head a solid mechanical effort that also includes much improved pit stops over the past few years.

The cool thing about IndyCar is that sometimes a good setup with a hungry driver and savvy team can offset the budgets and experience of Penske, Ganassi or Andretti. After stalking pole-sitter Newgarden and Will Power for 50 laps, Ferrucci flashed into the top spot – passing JoNew, Power, Alexander Rossi, Simon Pagenaud and James Hinchcliffe during his charges – and never hesitating to try that tricky outside line on the tight 1.2-mile oval.

“The kid has good, quick hands,” said Carter. “Three times he should have crashed – twice in last 10 laps of the race. He tried too hard and got up in gray, and saved it trying to run guys down that were ahead of him.”

That included Newgarden, and as they battled for fourth place in the closing laps. After saving his car, he was fighting for control and came right back down in the Turn 4 groove in front of JoNew, who went over the rumble strips and spun trying to avoid contact. Santino apologized to the 2017 IndyCar champion afterwards, and received a lecture about blocking on ovals.

But Ferrucci’s driving was complimented at Indy, Texas and Pocono so everyone is entitled to a rookie mistake, and the way he catches on it would seem like he’ll file that under ‘lesson learned’.

And it certainly doesn’t diminish or dampen what this kid has accomplished in 2019. He came to IndyCar with a sullied reputation from Europe, but has been delightful to the fans and media, and seems to fit right into a paddock that had no idea what he could do behind the wheel.

“Of all years to come in as a rookie, against Colton (Herta), (Felix) Rosenvquist and Marcus (Ericsson) he can hold his head high and that’s pretty cool,” said Cannon, whose driver now leads the rookie points with two races remaining. “He’s bloody impressive, low maintenance and fun to be around. He’s got infectious enthusiasm and that’s not an act. He’s a good guy and good little peddler.”

Coyne, who says he wants to re-sign Ferrucci for 2020, gave the kid a chance and is being rewarded with one of his most enjoyable seasons in four decades. “He’s a great kid, and it’s been a lot of fun. He was the class of the field . We just didn’t get the win.”

INTERVIEW: Formula 1 through the eyes of the Indy 500 winner

In the middle of the chaos that is a Formula 1 grid pre-race, you’ll do well to stand out from the crowd. The cars are a hive of activity with mechanics swarming around them, and drivers are pestered by television crews and photographers, as are team principals, and the VIP guests.

It’s a place to be seen. Which almost makes it that much harder to be seen.

But the Indy 500 winner’s ring? Yeah, that catches the eye.

Simon Pagenaud has just taken third place at Pocono to strengthen his hopes of a second championship but his previous visit to a racetrack had him at the Hungaroring. And as he made his way to the front of the grid – ring proudly on display – he commanded attention.

By his own admission, it had been “too long” since he’d even been to a track in Europe. The Frenchman has made his home in the States with Team Penske, but he had his schooling on the other side of the Atlantic.

Bumping into Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur, the pair share a joke remembering when Pagenaud raced for Vasseur’s ART team – then known as ASM – in Formula Renault back in 2003.

“Don’t trust this guy!” Pagenaud jokes, with his arm around his former boss.

But Pagenaud is a guy you can trust when it comes to looking at two series that have been undergoing significant changes in recent years, and continue to do so.

“It’s been an interesting few seasons for me,” Pagenaud told RACER. “I got to drive the old IndyCar in 2011, low-downforce, quite difficult to drive, and then we got to the DW12 era that had a little bit more downforce, but a very good car for racing. It was good for drafting, lots of rearward weight distribution which helps the rotation of the car behind others, and it worked, surprisingly.

“Then they added a lot of downforce in 2015 – I can’t remember the exact numbers – and it grew again in 2016, and that was when we had the worst racing. If you were leading then nobody could pass, because the disturbance of the air was too strong. On ovals we had so much downforce that we could actually follow, but it was with so much risk because all of a sudden you could lose it with the aerodynamics being disturbed, and you wouldn’t know why you made a mistake.”

IndyCar reduced downforce accordingly, but ironically, the following year Formula 1 introduced spectacular higher-downforce cars, smashing lap records on multiple circuits. The two series were going in very different directions.

“The drivers and IndyCar worked really close together to try to find the best formula for racing, to make a good show. Because I think IndyCar is very much about the show and making sure the fans enjoy watching. That’s what IndyCar is about; it’s about being loud, pure racing and not about contact but about a muscle car. It’s not about technology as much.

“F1 is very sophisticated, it’s a very different market, it’s not the same sport. It’s like comparing cricket and football.

“Right now I think it’s the best formula IndyCar ever found. I think on ovals they know exactly the amount of downforce we should be running to have good racing without it being too easy, without it being too difficult, so people feel the confidence to go and attack. To find that right combination is the key.

“But also we found on ovals that the draft and the drag has a big importance for racing. As you can see at Indianapolis I think the formula is actually perfect right now.

“On road courses, we just had a race at Mid-Ohio which is a track where you usually cannot pass and the racing was phenomenal. So with the Push to Pass we have and with the low-ish downforce – it’s still pretty high downforce, but low-ish – the cars are really nice following, so racing is fantastic.”

As effusive as Pagenaud is about IndyCar’s current positioning, he was still enthralled by what he saw in Hungary. Despite ever-faster cars, a track that is traditionally tough to pass on still provided a thrilling fight for victory as Lewis Hamilton overtook Max Verstappen in the closing stages.

“F1 was very interesting to watch because the technology is fascinating,” Pagenaud says. “The aerodynamics on the car are absolutely stunning. Beautiful. I love little winglets here and there, I love to see the flow of the air, how the Red Bull has worked on the sidepods and almost sculpting to get the air flow going to the radiators is just phenomenal. The cars are fast, grippy, almost too good, making it look like they are on rails.

“They’re working it, let me tell you. When Hamilton went for it in Hungary, you could see the body language of the car change. I love to see that. Now, we had a great race there. I think the track actually helps racing because of the sequence of Turn 1, Turn 2 you can run side-by-side and then by Turn 3 you have to decide who is going to yield. So I thought it was a great race.

“A lot of the tracks need a combination that helps running side-by-side, and you also need the grip on the outside to make it work. So it’s not just the aerodynamics, in my opinion, that makes good racing. Obviously Formula 1 compared to IndyCar; there’s a lot more discrepancy between cars because manufacturers make their own cars, it’s very different. But I think both have their advantages.

“We’re both in different markets. IndyCar is on the rise in the U.S. – at Mid-Ohio, I could not get to the grid on my scooter. It’s the first time in my career that I’ve had to ditch the scooter and I had to walk to get to the grid. It’s all open to the public; the public can see the mechanics working on the car. We’re not allowed to cover the cars to show what’s inside of it. I think it’s a very different mentality, and it works there.”

The public reaction to F1’s switch to turbo-hybrid power units in 2014 was mixed to say the least, due in no small part to the loss of the sound of screaming V8s. But Pagenaud feels the clamor for a return to high-revving naturally aspirated engines ignores the direction of motorsport as a whole, ahead of IndyCar’s planned introduction of hybrid technology in 2022.

“The interesting thing is when they started Lewis’s Mercedes on the grid, I turned around and thought it was my IndyCar! It sounds the same; that idle sounds the same. Then when they’re running it sounds quite similar to an IndyCar as well; the sound levels are quite similar. You can hear the turbo a little more on the Formula 1s, but I wasn’t surprised with the noise.

“I thought that’s the way the sport’s been going – whether it’s sports car racing, whether it’s IndyCar, whether it’s Formula 1 – because it’s the evolution of technology. Smaller engines and turbos are always going to make less noise than a V12 with no turbos. It’s just the way manufacturers are going these days, to save fuel and be more efficient.

“Certainly fuel efficiency has been incredible to see the evolution over time, and power with the hybrid systems and electric engines is just phenomenal. So I guess you’ve just got to follow your time and deal with it.”

F1’s 2021 regulations are being designed with the impact of aerodynamics on racing in mind, and are expected to be far more prescriptive to bringing car performance closer together. In many ways, it’s in a similar direction to IndyCar, but Pagenaud warns there is no single approach that works for either series.

“I’m not in a position to say it’s better or worse,” he says. “I’m a witness to what’s going on in the U.S. and what’s going on here in Hungary, and I was impressed at how beautiful Formula 1 is in the paddock, and how well organized it is, and how everything is worked to detail. It reminds me of the way Team Penske works.

“The racing format is different, the rules are different, the cars are different. We’re allowed to bump a little bit… And everybody has the same car. There’s very little difference between Team Penske and Ganassi or Andretti, so I think that also helps to create good racing.

“It’s interesting you say Formula 1 is looking at aerodynamics that provide better racing, because I remember the years with the big front wing and the small rear wing, and they were horrible races too. So it’s a combination. It’s very difficult to find the right level, and I’m certainly not an engineer to say what’s right or what’s wrong. It’s about finding that balance.”

While both categories continue to search for a better trade-off and improve their product, Pagenaud says his visit to the Hungarian GP was a reminder that F1 can still produce a gripping spectacle.

“It seems like the drivers are having fun driving these cars!” he says. “We were having fun driving the high-downforce cars but we are also having a lot of fun driving lower downforce and fighting the cars more. So I honestly don’t know what’s right or not for F1, but I thought Hungary was a fantastic race.”

 

Robin Miller’s Mailbag for August 21, presented by Honda Racing / HPD

Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.

Your questions for Robin should be sent to millersmailbag@racer.com. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here. 

Q: How do the drivers really feel about Pocono? Even though some may enjoy the challenge of the track and the speed, do they ultimately want the series to be there? Would most of them agree with Wickens’ feeling that IndyCar and Pocono should consider a divorce? I have attended for several years and I don’t think I’ll return. If nothing else, there’s bad mojo there. With the likelihood of a car going into the fence, I don’t want to see the drivers seriously hurt or worse. And even from the best seat in the grandstands there isn’t a whole lot to see other than cars screaming by on the straight. Watching qualifying with a paddock/garage pass might be worthwhile, but race day is better enjoyed on TV. (Kudos to NBC).  

Peter Ebright

RM: I think most have mixed feelings, and Graham Rahal’s response in our pre-race show pretty much nailed it. He said he’d be lying if the drivers didn’t think about Justin and Robert and the bad mojo that Pocono seems to have developed. But he also said he loved driving at Pocono, while Power and Dixon both were lobbying IndyCar to stay after the race.

Q: I know a lot of fans want to know if Pocono will be back. Let me rephrase the question. Do the drivers and teams want to come back? Three drivers with actual on-track experience immediately took to social media after the Lap 1 incident and said Pocono just doesn’t work. I asked Sage Karam why Pocono is different than Indianapolis and he basically said the track width creates a different racing dynamic that invites disaster. In the past five years at Pocono we’ve had multiple hospitalizations and a fatality. 

Ryan in West Michigan

RM: I don’t think the teams care one way or the other, and the drivers seem pretty divided. Carpenter, Power, Dixon, Rahal, RHR and Kanaan were pro-Pocono in interviews prior to the race, and T.K. even said something like of course it’s dangerous, that’s why “we get paid the big bucks.” I know that Ferrucci was a big fan after his initial try, but I can certainly understand Wickens’ viewpoint.

Q: I just saw Robert Wickens’ tweet about the Pocono race: “How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono. It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce. I’m very relieved (to my knowledge) that everyone is okay from that scary crash” I have to say, my thinking has always been the same when there is a bad crash – IndyCar racing is dangerous, especially at the start, and everyone knows this as a fact. Sato could have made the same mistake on any oval, and if he would have pulled that stunt going into Turn 2 at Indy it would have been the same result or worse. As much as we as fans hate to see deaths and injuries, it could happen on any track at any time. 

Jack, Ft Myers, FLA.

RM: Why are A.J., Parnelli, Mario, Rutherford, Johncock and the Unsers still so revered? Because they thrived and survived the most deadly era in IndyCar history. A big part of the attraction was cheating death and they were the gladiators of the day with a mindset that fascinated the common man. Racing is 1000 times safer than it was in the ‘60s, but it’s still open-wheel cars going 200 mph and that’s always a recipe for big crashes.

Q: I’m torn. I love IndyCar, I love ovals and I love super-speedways. However I hate crashes, I hate injuries even more. I don’t want to see Pocono go. Is it the track, or was it Sato? I get up at 6 am, drive over 200 miles, drop a few hundred bucks, sit on the surface of the sun to see half a race, sit in the parking lot watching it rain for two hours trying to get out (couldn’t imagine that egress if the grandstand was full), and then drive another 200+ miles home to get up and go to work the next day. Just to see all the drivers complain about having to go there.

Well, hate to sound like a heartless SOB, but no one made them be there. It’s their choice. They could all be like Chilton and sit out of the ride his daddy bought him. I’m sure there’s a list of guys, helmet in hand, 500 miles long ready to jump in. Racing can never be 100% safe until esports takes over and we just watch people play video games. Then they’ll probably complain about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Nothing in life is 100% safe. Driving almost 500 miles across Pennsylvania roads had me, statistically, more in harm’s way. Which I guess is all my choice, too. I could just stay at home and watch it on TV. Which, since I’m in grumpy old man mode, I’m already paying to have NBCSN, a premium sports channel on my TV, now they want me to pay more to watch IndyCar on my phone so they can show yet another episode of Mecum. 

Shawn, Baltimore

RM: You are spot-on Shawn. Nobody holds a gun to anyone’s head to race midgets, sprints, stockers, sports cars, motorcycles or IndyCars, and danger is part of the job description. But I didn’t hear any complaints about racing there before the race, just a little trepidation from a few veterans. But thanks for making that long drive and hanging in there. And you are correct – the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a lot more dangerous than the Tunnel Turn at Pocono. Especially on the weekends.

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