In the first of 3 features previewing the 2015 Verizon IndyCar season we consider the options for Justin Wilson, aero kits and whether fans will return after the extended off-season.
Siting on the sidelines
With just over 2 weeks until St Petersburg series veteran Justin Wilson is struggling to find any ride, let alone a full-time one. Calling Wilson a veteran is factually accurate – 10 open wheel seasons since F1 – but implies a limited talent that peaked years ago. For the Englishman that is definitely not the case. Never in the right place at the right time to land a truly competitive ride, the former Jaguar driver needs to find some serious cash to keep racing in open-wheel permanently.
In principle there are opportunities: Andretti may run a fourth car, RLL in theory have a second ride available and Wilson’s usual home – Dale Coyne – have not confirmed any drivers. With the departure of James Hinchcliffe to Schmidt Peterson there were rumblings long-time admirer Michael Andretti might sign Wilson for his eponymous team. That seems wide of the mark now and the remaining seats are all coming with a price tag.
Despite IndyCar being off life-support and improving in health, it is no surprise dollars for drives has been the theme of the last few weeks. That a proven talent like Wilson’s would become one of the victims is both a sad place to start a new season from and a stark reminder of how far the series still has to. Here’s hoping Andretti is secretly closing out a deal with Wilson for at least the 500 this year, especially now Kurt Busch is undeniably a toxic property.
They are not pretty
With the Chevrolet and Honda aero kits now officially unveiled, we at least know what we will be looking at this season. Comparative performance will not become clear until the first few races of the season (and once we’ve covered all the track types). But I’ve been particularly surprised how much observers have been underwhelmed.
The kits were never going to dramatically change the appearance of the cars. With the limited areas for development, it is no surprise that the kits have generated little more than lots of ugly little winglets emerging from what had been fairly attractive, flowing surfaces on the original DW12. Aesthetics aside, the concern continues to be how they impact on performance.
With so much downforce taken from the underside of the cars (the DW12’s primary source) the importance of front and rear aero increased significantly. As anyone who has suffered through F1 circa 2002 – 2013 will testify, reliance on wing aero does not make for great racing. After several years of great racing, it will be a big blow if we start seeing drivers closing up to the car in front only to spend several laps under-steering their way out of contention.
Aero kits were designed to appease those who wanted more technical challenge within the series and as a way to tie manufacturers and other commercial firms more closely to the series (remember the chat about the likes of Boeing and Lockheed getting involved?). In reality they probably will not achieve either: manufacturers will still drop racing like a hot potato if the bean-counters tell them to; no one outside of Chevy and Honda have signed up to build the kits and the cars may look different but it is not, in my opinion at least, for the better.
Blowing away the cobwebs
It has been a long off-season. The arguments over IndyCar’s approach to scheduling, the length of off-season and the Brasilia debacle are all moot now. The question is whether the positive signs shown by the series last season in terms of TV audiences and (some) race attendances will continue.
The length of the IndyCar off-season is not itself the problem, it is maintaining interest amongst fans (old and new) during it. In our digitally driven world, there has to be something filling every, single day of an off season (not necessarily a good thing). Sadly IndyCar has not had much in the way of big news to capitalise on.
The ‘underwhelming’ aero kits aside the biggest story of the off-season was confirmed before the off season had kicked in. That of course was Simon Pagenaud’s move to Penske. Reuniting ‘frenemies’ Power and Pagenaud has the potential to add some real spice to the 2015 season. And a closer look at that relationship will kick off part 2 of our IndyCar season preview later in the week.
Sadly IndyCar has not had much in the way of big news to capitalise on. The ‘underwhelming’ aero kits aside the biggest story of the off-season was confirmed before last season ended. That of course was Simon Pagenaud’s move to Penske. Reuniting ‘frenemies’ Power and Pagenaud has the potential to add some real spice to the 2015 season. And a closer look at that relationship will kick off part 2 of our IndyCar season preview later in the week.