Breaking news: @simonpagenaud signs with @penskeracing. #IndyCar

Team Penske announced today that Simon Pagenaud will join the outfit’s IndyCar squad next year after the French driver signed a “multi-year agreement.”

Pagenaud, 30, finished fifth in the 2014 point standings with two wins, one pole, three podiums finishes and eight top-fives. The move to a top team from the Schmidt-Peterson operation should make the hugely talented Pagenaud an instant title favourite.

“Getting a chance to race for Team Penske is almost like a dream to me,” said Pagenaud.

“I have always admired the team and everything that Roger Penske has accomplished in racing. I am so excited to become a part of Team Penske and I can’t wait for the 2015 season to start.”

Penske will field an impressive four-car lineup with reigning 2014 champion Will Power, 1999 CART titlist Juan Pablo Montoya, and three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves.

Pagenaud has had much success in his career, winning the 2006 Champ Car Atlantic Series crown in his rookie season and took the 2010 American Le Mans Series sports car LMP1 title before moving to IndyCar in 2012.

“Simon Pagenaud is a very talented, focused and determined driver,” said owner Roger Penske.

“We know how tough he has been to compete with over the last few seasons and we are very happy to welcome him to Team Penske starting in 2015. With Simon coming on board to join Will, Helio and Juan, we feel we have four drivers very capable of winning on any given weekend and four guys who are legitimate championship contenders.”

Here are my remarks (as I recall) about @NorrisMcDonald2 on his Cdn Motorsport Hall of Fame induction. @torontostar

I want to thank the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame for generously agreeing to let me introduce my colleague and friend Norris McDonald.

I haven’t prepared a speech for this evening and I may just ramble a bit, but for those of you who know Norris, well I think you will agree that’s the most appropriate way to honour him.

When I learned that Norris would be the first journalist to be inducted in to the Hall, I wanted to be a part of it.

Norris is more than a just a reporter and editor. He cares about the sport and the people in it. He also goes out of his way to help those coming up the through the ranks, whether they are drivers, team and track owners, or even other journalists.

And that last part is why I wanted to be here tonight.

Norris and I are competitors but that has never stopped him from being the first to send me a quick note of congratulations when he liked something I wrote. He’s quick to offer a tip or two, and constructive criticism when it’s needed. The aggravating part of the last one is that he’s usually right.

And that’s the kind of class and grace and friendship I have come to expect from him.

And now it’s my turn to congratulate him. But being a journalist I figured you’d rather hear the words of someone other than me. So, I asked three people in the sport to offer their feelings about Norris’ induction, one veteran driver, one young gun and a colleague.

I am sure many in this room agree with Scott Goodyear’s words:

“You have made many contributions to the sport of auto racing over the years, including covering the Indy 500. This award recognizes your long hours of dedicated work and your usual spunk to get the facts correct. I enjoy reading your columns and appreciate your view on the host of topics that you tackle. Norris, we all salute you this evening on your dedication and passion of auto racing. Congratulations on your induction into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, your friend, Scott Goodyear.”

The next comes from Robert Wickens who can’t be here because he’s racing at Zandvoort in DTM tomorrow.

“I can only speak about what he’s done for me and my career. Even from my early stages, Norris was promoting various karting championships from Grass roots through to the Sunoco Ron Fellows karting championship. He was always working hard to get the best exposure for young Canadians trying to make their mark in the Motorsports world. I’m very grateful for all articles he’s given me and also the insight on what type of world I was trying to get into.

I can confidently say without his support it would have been more difficult for me to get to where I am today. And I am grateful for that. Congratulations on being the first journalist to be inducted and speak soon!”

The final note comes from Dean McNulty of the Toronto Sun, who wanted me to convey his thoughts on this night because he can’t be here due to a family occasion.

“A prior commitment prevents me from being there to honour Norris tonight, but I want to add my congratulations for his induction into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame. Your record of support as a driver, team owner and commentator in our sport is unparalleled. It is immense capacity for kindness, however, that I thank him for, both professionally and personally and I hope it continues for many more years. Carry on my friend.”

I also wanted to mention two people who aren’t here, but I am sure they would be proud of their old pal. Those men are Norris’ former Toronto Star colleagues, Graham Jones and Dennis Morgan, both of whom left us much too early.

Finally Norris, you didn’t ask, but I am going to give you some advice.

You said you were nervous in the run-up to tonight, especially being inducted alongside heavy hitters like Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy and Scott Maxwell.

My advice Norris is simple: Smile and be proud because you certainly aren’t out of place up here. In fact, those guys are lucky to go in the Hall with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, please help me welcome Norris McDonald into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame.

There’s a domino in the Formula One paddock, and its name is Fernando Alonso. #F1

Rumours are gaining momentum that the two-time world champion will leave Ferrari at the end of this season to join Honda’s efforts with McLaren. It will be a reconciliation of sorts for the Spaniard, who split acrimoniously the team after 2007 when he was partnered with Lewis Hamilton.

With Ferrari’s new boss Sergio Marchionne, not exactly seeming too eager to keep Alonso — strange as that seems considering he has been carrying the outfit since he joined the Scuderia in 2010 — it appears that Honda wants to jump in and have the veteran help it manage its new engine program.

Although he has another year left on his Ferrari contract, getting him out would simply be a matter of the right amount on a Honda cheque to Ferrari. Should that happen, there could be some musical chairs in the paddock.

If Alonso leaves Ferrari at the end of the year, the team may walk its Honda payment down the paddock to Red Bull and hand it to Christian Horner as an incentive to release Sebastian Vettel from his deal a year early.

That would leave a spot open at Red Bull, which could be filled by several drivers in the short term, or in the longer term by Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat now driving for Toro Rosso, or by DTM driver Antonio Felix Da Costa, who is the teams reserve driver. Both are potential stars in F1 and it would not be unlikely to see both in F1 next year.

There`s no doubt that Daniel Ricciardo has proven himself as a No. 1 man in an F1 team, so no problems there if Vettel should go.

Alonso’s arrival at McLaren would likely mean Kevin Magnussen’s time with the team is over. The Dane has shown flashes but has also been the target of the stewards for rough driving. He could land elsewhere.

Depending on how you see it, #F1 picked best time or worst time for radio ban…

As the drivers head out for practice on the streets of Singapore, the number of radio messages that help them when it comes to just about everything on the car, whether it’s engine settings, brake temperatures, or tire wear, will probably be much fewer than in the previous race in Italy.

I say fewer because with so many complex system on a modern F1 car, the teams apparently argued successfully in the paddock that going to a full stop may not be wise and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile may modify the new rule ahead of the race.

For example, it’s more than probable that some drivers would get their clutch settings wrong on the way to the grid and cause massive and potentially dangerous problems at the start. There has also been talk of pushing the radio ban back to the start of the 2015 season so the team can prepare properly and have alternate systems in place.

Even with some easing of the radio ban on coaching, Sunday’s race will pose a special challenge to drivers should the amount technical information that flows from the engineers to the cockpit be reduced during the upcoming grand prix weekend.

Essentially, any change to the amount of messages going to the driver coming before the Singapore Grand Prix — one of the longest and difficult races of the year on equipment and drivers, could have disastrous consequences for some.

There’s the fuel issue where it’s possible that some will run out before the end of Sunday’s grand prix as Singapore was already a tough one when it came to conserving enough gas to get to the finish line. Not having reminders about fuel use and mileage may have cars running out in the late stages.

The same goes for tires, especially since Pirelli has brought softer compounds to Singapore than it did last year. Most cars will probably do two pitstop, but managing the supersoft rubber will be tough on the long 5.073-kilometre, 23-turn street circuit, with the problem area likely being the rear tires.

Finally, the third big question mark will be the brakes. Look for more than one driver to run into trouble, and it’s likely that there will be the first test of the exempt technical/coaching messages for safety reasons in Singapore.

Brembo ranks the circuit as hard on brakes with 20 per cent of the lap spent slowing the car. Although none of the braking areas the circuit is particularly demanding, the usual high ambient temperature, the time spent on the brake pedal and the lack of opportunity to let the pads and discs cool makes track one of the hardest on the braking systems.

Success in managing these things during the race that were usually left up to the engineers will be critical to success in Singapore.

Much depends on the driver, his style, experience level, technical abilities, and feel of the car. Some will obviously fare better than others, and it will be interesting to see who gets things right and who gets them wrong.

For those who can manage in the void, the ban will have come at a great time, while there may be lots of disappointment for those who can’t.

Here’s the @fia’s full list of allowed and banned radio messages in #F1.

Message types allowed

  • Acknowledgement that a driver message has been heard
  • Lap or sector time detail
  • Lap time detail of a competitor
  • Gaps to a competitor during a practice session or race
  • “Push hard”, “push now”, “you will be racing xx” or similar
  • Helping with warning of traffic during a practice session or race
  • Giving the gaps between cars in qualifying so as to better position the car for a clear lap
  • Puncture warning
  • Tyre choice at the next pit stop
  • Number of laps a competitor has done on a set of tyres during a race
  • Tyre specification of a competitor
  • Indication of a potential problem with a competitor’s car during a race
  • Information concerning a competitors likely race strategy
  • Yellow flags, blue flags, Safety Car deployment or other cautions

Message types not allowed

  • Sector time detail of a competitor and where a competitor is faster or slower
  • Adjustment of power unit settings
  • Adjustment of power unit setting to de-rate the systems
  • Adjustment of gearbox settings
  • Learning of gears of the gearbox (Japanese Grand Prix and onwards)
  • Balancing the SOC [state-of-charge of batteries] or adjusting for performance
  • Information on fuel flow settings (except if requested to do so by race control)
  • Information on level of fuel saving needed
  • Information on tyre pressures or temperatures (Japanese Grand Prix and onwards)
  • Information on differential settings
  • Start maps related to clutch position, for race start and pit stops
  • Information on clutch maps or settings, e.g. bite point
  • Burn-outs prior to race starts
  • Information on brake balance or brake-by-wire settings
  • Warning on brake wear or temperatures (Japanese Grand Prix and onwards)
  • Selection of driver default settings (other than in the case of a clearly identified problem with the car)
  • Answering a direct question from a driver, e.g. “Am I using the right torque map”?
  • Any message that appears to be coded

#F1 2015 calendar confirmed by @FIA — 20 races with Mexico added

The FIA World Motor Sport Council approved the 2015 Formula One schedule in Beijing on Thursday.

The Canadian Grand prix takes place in its normal spot on the first Sunday in June.

The 2015 season will have 20 races with the Mexico joining calendar for the first time since 1992. The race will take place in Mexico City at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. No races were dropped from the schedule

The season begins in Melbourne on Mar. 15 and ends in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 29.

 2015 Formula One calendar

1. Mar. 15/03 Australian Grand Prix

2. Mar. 29/03 Malaysian Grand Prix

3. Apr. 05/04 Bahrain Grand Prix

4. Apr. 19/04 Chinese Grand Prix

5. May 10/05 Spanish Grand Prix

6. May 24/05 Monaco Grand Prix

7. June 07/06 Canadian Grand Prix

8. June21/06 Austrian Grand Prix

9. July 05/07 British Grand Prix

10. July 19/07 German Grand Prix

11. July 26/07 Hungarian Grand Prix

12. Aug. 23/08 Belgian Grand Prix

13. Sept. 06/09 Italian Grand Prix

14. Sept. 20/09 Singapore Grand Prix

15. Sept. 27/09 Japanese Grand Prix

16. Oct. 11/10 Russian Grand Prix

17. Oct. 25/10 United States Grand Prix

18. Nov. 01/11 Mexican Grand Prix

19. Nov. 15/11 Brazilian Grand Prix

20. Nov. 29/11 Abu Dhabi

Funny, I thought #F1 was a team sport and other reasons why banning team radio is simply dumb.

It seems that latest bright idea from Formula One’s Strategy Group is to, um, take strategy and engineering out of grands prix.

It will be accomplished by a ban on all radio communications that give the driver technical or strategic advice during races, something that was proposed in a strategy group meeting last weekend in Monza. The goal of the ban is to make the racing more interesting and exciting for fans.

The group seems to believe that fans don’t like the idea of drivers getting help from the pit wall. Apparently the strategy group has never heard of something called a pitboard, a simple device that has existed in racing since it began, not to mention the fact that F1 is a team sport.

And frankly, it’s doubtful that fans will find it electrifying to watch F1 drivers run out of gas in the final stages of a race because they aren’t getting advice on fuel numbers from their engineers.

Oh, and isn’t this the sport that trumpets that it’s the most technologically advanced racing series on the planet? Has anyone in the F1 Strategy Group even wondered exactly how you market the sport as the pinnacle of technology on the one hand, while banning any technical feedback to the drivers during races on the other?

But reading between the lines — something you always have to do when it comes to anything done “for the fans” in F1 — it almost seems that the strategy group wants to ban radio communication because it clearly demonstrates that the competition isn’t as good as it could be.

“Radio messages and instructions have always been done since the radio was first in place. It [the problem of technical advice during races] is something new now because it has been broadcast [on TV] for the past three years,” McLaren racing director Eric Boullier told Autosport.

“The constraint we have this year is less fuel, and harder tires, and I understand it may be a confusing message for the fans that the drivers have to save tires and they have to save fuel, whatever.”

So, the bottom line here is that a radio ban on technical feedback is all about fooling fans by making sure they don’t see how drivers purposely slow during races and nurse their cars home to save fuel and tires…

For anyone interested, here’s my list of <a href=”http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/news/motorsports/five-ways-formula-one-can-improve-and-other-motorsports-news/article19288011/?page=all>Five ways Formula One can improve</a>.

I may be biased but I suggest that they are all better than banning technical feedback on F1 radios. 

Statement from Michael Schumacher’s manager — he is now at home.

The following is a written statement from Sabine Kehm, Michael Schumacher’s long-time manger:

Henceforth, Michael’s rehabilitation will take place at his home.

Considering the severe injuries he suffered, progress has been made in the past weeks and months. There is still, however, a long and difficult road ahead.

We would like extend our gratitude to the entire team at CHUV Lausanne for their thorough and competent work.

We ask that the privacy of Michael’s family continue to be respected, and that speculations about his state of health are avoided.

Does anyone really believe @nico_rosberg didn’t want to win in Italy? #F1

The Internet is a wonderful thing. It connects people who would never
be connected, it allows for collaboration where there would be none, and it can help people gain access to services that they would never otherwise see in their lives.

Unfortunately, the Internet also enables some of the most amazing
stupidity ever imagined on this earth to be disseminated to a large
audience.

A case in point are the reports circulating today that Mercedes driver
Nico Rosberg deliberately ran through the escape road on Lap 24 of the
Italian Grand Prix to allow teammate Lewis Hamilton to overtake.

It’s unclear where this one came from , but anyone with even a limited
knowledge of racing and Formula One would know that there’s no driver
on this planet who would act deliberately to give up a lead and
possible win.

Now team orders may come into play at times, but it’s also guaranteed
that the guy who has to give up the position is rarely happy about it.

But anyone who actually entertained the idea that Rosberg missed his
braking point and drove down on purpose should stop writing about
Formula One. Period.

Looking behind the #IndyCar viewership numbers.

When I read NBS Sports Network’s release about the huge jumps in televisi0on viewers for IndyCar in 2014, I immediately thought of the old saying that goes: “There are liars, damn liars, and then there are statistics.”

The release trumpeted how IndyCar delivered its second best audience since 2009 and it averaged 378,000 viewers this year, which was up 34 per cent over last season, according to data provided by The Nielsen Company.

Six races, it added were up 50 per cent over last year. See chart below.

Now it all sounds terrific, but when you look at the actual audience numbers, it tells a different story. The series is averaging less than 400,000 viewers per race, that’s roughly 10 per cent of the number NASCAR gets on a really bad night.

In all, NBCSN’s coverage reached 4.356 million viewers in 2014, up 26% from the total audience of 3.456 million viewers last year. The best year on NBCSN or its predecessor Versus was 4.789 million in 2011.

When you consider that NASCAR on Fox will probably average somewhere around 7 million per race this year, it’s clear that IndyCar has a long way to go. Even Formula One and its niche following in the U.S. was up 18 per cent last year with 11.4 million tuning in.

The bottom line here is that you can shout from a mountaintop all you want that the audience is up by one-third, but when you only have a few watching every race, having a few more really isn’t getting you anywhere.

Race 2014 Viewers 2013 Viewers Change
Toronto 2 484,000 258,000 88%
Iowa 444,000 253,000* 75%
Texas 424,000 383,000* 10%
Barber 400,000 253,000 58%
Houston 2 396,000 161,000 144%
Mid-Ohio 386,000 195,000 98%

(*denotes 2012 viewership; no comparison for 2013)