Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Two Ex-Haas F1 Pilotes’ and IndyCar Castoff have their Own private Road America Skirmish

As I think it’s been a long time since we’ve had a total of five IndyCar Rookies on a Road Course Grid…


Whilst we’re All awash in IndyCar’s current Youth movement with the likes of Pato O’Ward, Rinus VeeKay, Alex Palou, Colton Herta et Al, for Mwah, I suddenly found myself most intrigued over what I’m calling this past weekend’s Road America “Ringers,” a veriable Six Pack ‘O Amazing talent.


May be you’re not as interested in the arrival of the latest Formula 1 refugees Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen who’s Deputizing for the injured Rinus VeeKay, who just had Collarbone surgery after a bicycle training accident.


As they’re both former Haas F1 team-mates, once again competing against each other, swelling thoust ranks of former Formula 1 Drivers making up over a Quarter of Road America’s Grid.


Or the unlikely story of Oliver Askew’s impromptu IndyCar return, now Substituting for his second team in as many races, first as Felix Rosenqvist’s replacement at the IndyCar Team that Fired Him! And now as VeeKay’s replacement, as both were not Medically Cleared to drive at Elkhart Lake. And that doesn’t even include the other Rookie drivers, including one who’s making his IndyCar debut…


Oliver Askew

Ed Carpenter Racing #21

DOB: 12/12/96, Age 24

2019 Indy Lights Champion

13 IndyCar Starts/0 Wins/1 Podium/0 Poles (2020-21)


I suppose it was a “No Brainer” for Ed Carpenter to Draft Oliver Askew as Rinus VeeKay’s substitute, since the pair have raced against each other up the entire Road to Indy ladder battling each other for every Championship title. And we All know how Askew was coldly Kicked Kerbside’ by Sam Schmidt after seeking medical attention for his lingering concussion after a massive crash during his maiden Indianapolis 500.


Thus I’m happy Oliver’s being given a second chance since he’s obviously a talented driver, as it would be great to see him competing Fulltime in a second Carlin entry next season, albeit Funding’s the Key issue Me Thinks…


Funniest bit so far was during a Friday Interview with NBC Sports Pitlane  Reporter Dave Burns asking about his impressive start, where Oliver replied “It’s just like Riding a Bike” before stammering repeatedly he didn’t mean it like that, Horrified over the unintended Pun regarding VeeKay’s injury! To which Rinus wryly replied on Twitter “It’s Not as Easy as It looks!”


Then during the Pre-race Banter, Oliver joked that VeeKay needed to do some “Curls” since the driving suit he was borrowing from the Dutchman was a little tight in the Arms, Hya! As Askew said they’re both about the same size overall…


According to for The Love of Indy’s Raymond Hando, Askew’s Best IndyCar Road/Street Course results from 7 rounds in 2020 are a pair of 15th place finishes: the  first at Road America’s Race-1, and the other at Mid Ohio’s second race. Although Oliver has previously finished third at Elkhart Lake in both U.S. F2000 and Indy Lights.


Oliver was P6 in the final minutes of Friday’s First Practice session at Road America before ultimately finishing 9th, two places ahead of former Arrow McLaren SP team-mate Pato O’Ward.


On Saturday, Askew was P5 in practice, again two spots ahead of O’Ward, but the Mexican got the better of him in Qualie’, with Pato 10th and Askew a disappointing 16th, one place behind ECR team-mate Conor Daly.


On Race Day, ECR elected to put Askew on an Alternate Strategy, which saw  Oliver leading a few laps towards the end of the race before needing to it for Fuel. And then the hoped for Caution came out right after he’d pitted, as Askew finished P12.


 Romain Grosjean

Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing #51

DOB: 4/17/86, Age 35

F1 Teams: Renault, Lotus, Haas

179 Starts/0 Wins/10 Podiums/0 Poles (2009, 2012-2020)

5 IndyCar Starts/0 Wins/1 Podium/1 Pole


Won’t dwell upon Romain Grosjean’s Fiery, Scary end to his Formula 1 career, since we All know that story pretty well now, righto? As Grosjean’s best year’s in Formula 1 came during his “Lotus-Lotus” years, where I tend to recall Romain being the Crème filling in a Red Bull Sandwich at the United States Grand Prix at Austin in 2013, finishing runner-up behind ‘lil syd viddle’ (Sebastian Vettel) and ahead of his Bosom Buddy Mark Handlebarz’ Webber in that good looking Black and Gold Lotus F1 (E21) chassis…


As the past several years at Haas F1 had diminishing results, the Frenchman along with his Danish team-mate were both jettisoned for younger drivers for 2021, seeing Grosjean switch to IndyCar’s which has breathed not only a new sense of Happiness racing, but also increased competitiveness, even if driving for one of IndyCar’s Minnowesqe teams. As Romain scored a Shock Pole position and excellent runner-up finish at this year’s Indy GP, after leading much of the race.


Then Romain showed us more Bravado in Sunday’s Belle Isle race when exiting his stricken Dallara-Honda with it’s front brakes on Fire! Grabbing a Fire extinguisher before being moved aside by the AMR Safety team to dose the brakes!


Making his first trip to Road America, Romain Pipped Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay for P1 in the last 30 seconds of Friday’s First Practice. On Saturday morning, Romain was 4th fastest in practice. Then was disappointed to be just outside of the Fast Six Shootout for Pole in P7.


Although overall he only improved two places in the race to finish 5th, Grosjean’s name was mentioned the entire broadcast as he was constantly mixing it up with the big boys! Passing Colton Herta amongst others like alexander rossi, Will Power, etc, even challenging Jack Harvey for 4th place, and making passes everywhere Man, i.e.; High, Low, Inbetween and off track! Ultimately holding off former F1 competitor Marcus Ericsson for 5th.  


Kevin Magnussen

Arrow McLaren SP #7

DOB; 10/5/92Age 28

F1 Teams: McLaren, Renault, Haas

119 Starts/0 Wins/1 Podium/0 Poles (2014-2020)


Kevin Magnussen scored a surprising second place finish on his F1 Debut for McLaren Down Under in Australia some seven years ago, his lone Podium finish in Formula 1, and after struggling in the woeful Haas chassis the past few years and being summarily dropped at the end of last season, Kevin took up the new challenge of IMSA Sports Car racing for thou Cheepster’, (Chip Ganassi) and just won his first race in eight years at Belle Isle.


And I’ll caution against reading too much into Magnussen’s IndyCar debut, since he’s already contracted as a Werks’ Peugeot Sports Car driver for it’s 2022 World Endurance Championship return.

With Zero laps ever in an IndyCar, until Friday’s First Practice session at Elkhart Lake began, Magnussen wound up 23rd, second slowest, ahead of A.J. foyt Racing’s Dalton Kellett.


But keep in mind, Kevin’s not use to driving an Open Wheel Racecar without Power Steering! Hence, the Dallara-Chevrolet is a very different Beast! As Magnussen noted it’s a heavier chassis with some turbo lag vs. the (lighter) Hybrid Formula 1 cars with (Electric) power steering he’s used to.


In Saturday’s second Practice session, the Dane’ carved some two seconds-plus off his Friday’s time to finish P20. Then he qualified one position slower in 21st.


Kevin had an interesting race, and thanks to an Alternate Strategy, found himself leading 6 laps of the race before disaster struck! As the car apparently suffered some sort of mechanical malady as Magnussen simply pulled Off track “dead Stick,” with the team asking him if he knew what happened? Which Magnussen replied No Idea, and finished p24 after pulling Off course on lap 33.