It must be something in the water. A week after rookie Colton Herta won his first IndyCar race, Ferrari phenom Charles Leclerc just notched his first F1 pole position, at Bahrain. Leclerc was promoted rapidly at Ferrari to replace veteran Kimi Raikonnen, who moved to Sauber/Alfa. Although Ferrari occasionally makes some head-scratching decisions, the elevation of Leclerc looks to be a savvy move by the Prancing Horse. Will this make Vettel nervous?
Let’s not make too much of one P1. Leclerc clearly has gifts (as does Herta), but it takes more than that to be a champion. Specifically, Ferrari need to stop the bad habit of own goals that cost championships. And young drivers sometimes lose the plot along the way.
IndyCar couldn’t have picked a better way to debut at COTA than by having a rookie driver win the race, who also happens to be the son of a former driver. Colton Herta wowed dad Bryan with a late move to the lead when Will Power and Alexander Rossi were forced to pit late.
IndyCar came to COTA facing comparisons to F1, the only other top line open wheel racing series that has raced at the Texas track. For the most part, it put on a better show in terms of close racing, albeit anywhere from 10-14 seconds slower per lap. Herta may have received a break when Power and Rossi stayed out too long, but you have to be there to take the opportunity. More than just the son of a pretty savvy racer in his day, Herta is one to keep an eye on.
IndyCar hits COTA for the first time this weekend (other than a pre-season test earlier this year). So far, the fastest lap time in practice (1:48.657) is still over 10 seconds off the record set by Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes last year (1:37.392).
IndyCar fans will howl with disappointment because the cars are slower (you can almost hear them typing angry comments into Racer.com). But they’re designed to be slower, which is why comparing lap times between two series is a fool’s errand. If you want to play parlor games, go for it, but if you have any doubt about which cars are faster, cast those doubts aside. It’s not an IndyCar at COTA (different story at the Speedway, which is all that matters to most IndyCar fans).
To me, it seems like an F1 car just looks faster than today’s IndyCar. F1 is all about the optimal aero package, which the teams can perfect all season. In IndyCar, the chassis is a spec tub from Dallara and there’s a lot less room to maneuver. So put your stopwatch away and just enjoy the race.