Scott Dixon took pole position for the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500 today, however much of the attention has been on the continued issues at Indianapolis related to the aero kits and what Indycar has changed in order to try and alleviate further issues.
For those that aren’t aware, three high profile incidents involving Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Ed Carpenter occurred throughout practice week, with Ed’s accident the latest occurrence, this morning. All three incidents resulted in no injuries from the drivers, however the concern of cars flipping upside down has placed the series in the spotlight for many, the wrong reasons.
As a result of what happened this morning, the qualifying format changed again, following the initial change, due to a weather washout yesterday. The session effectively took place with one single four lap run per entrant for positions 1-30 followed by positions 31-33 being decided by multiple attempt qualifying, over a 45 minute session.
Additionally Indycar decided it was in the best interests of the series to alter the technical regulations prior to qualifying. The primary change was disallowing both Honda and Chevrolet entrants from running a qualifying aero set-up which is different from the one the team will run during the race, effectively forcing the cars to qualify with far higher downforce.
Additionally the extra boost pressure which was added yesterday, and was planned for use in qualifying, was reduced back, effectively removing 40HP. These measures combined effectively meant that instead of the anticipated qualifying speeds with the new aero kits of a predicted 234mph, was in fact a pole speed by Scott Dixon of 226.760 mph. Additionally the points allocation was removed by Indycar due to the technical regulation changes, meaning teams had a thirty-minute practice with this set-up only prior to qualifying.
Now a lot of the blame throughout the community for these incidents is directed at Chevrolet, from sidepods to wickers… I’m not an aerodynamicist and therefore aren’t going to comment on what Chevrolet should of done, or could of done. Right now I feel though it is more a case of that Chevrolet and Indycar in addition to Honda have more questions than answers.
Perhaps a more substantial test programme in hindsight from Indycar for this specification of the kit at IMS may of helped the situation? Chevrolet did do oval testing in a real world environment, not only CFD, so perhaps more was required?
The other issue it created is that whilst Chevrolet and Indycar got alot of media scrutiny and the blame directed at them. Indycar decided that, whilst stating it was not possible to fully guarantee that the Honda aero kits wouldn’t have similar problems if the situation dictated, the technical regulation changes would therefore apply to both manufacturers.
This decision led to a lot of debates throughout social media and in the Indycar paddock as to whether Honda should be effectively penalised for what appears at least right now to be a Chevrolet issue.
Personally I was a little confused by some of INDYCAR’s decisions following the technical changes. However now that qualifying has run and the objective of having a safe incident free session is achieved, the decisions to place the revised regulations on both manufacturers does make a little more sense to me.
The fallout from this will no doubt be a discussion for further weeks with discussion primarily focused on safety and what the series can do to address these issues for super-speedways later in the season, with Texas, Fontana and Pocono yet to run after next weekend’s Indianapolis 500.
I’d also suspect the series has a major dose of embarrassment and a wave of criticism to ride over the coming months additionally. These are $75,000 per car aero packages, and with what has already happened at St Petersburg and NOLA earlier in the year, in addition to what has occurred throughout this month on the biggest stage of the year for the series. I feel the image of these aero kits as a series saviour has turned into massive embarrassment and concern for Indycar. Can it be rectified? I believe so, but not overnight.
Right now I hope we can have an enjoyable, though primarily safe running of the 99th Indianapolis 500 on May 24th.
The field of 33
Row 1 – Scott Dixon / Will Power / Simon Pagenaud
Row 2 – Tony Kanaan / Helio Castroneves / Justin Wilson
Row 3 – Sebastien Bourdais / Marco Andretti / Josef Newgarden
Row 4 – J.R Hildebrand / Carlos Munoz / Ed Carpenter
Row 5 – Oriol Servia / Charlie Kimball / Juan Pablo Montoya
Row 6 – Ryan Hunter-Reay / Graham Rahal / Carlos Huertas
Row 7 – Simona De Silvestro / James Jakes / Tristan Vautier*
Row 8 – Alex Tagliani / Sage Karam / James Hinchcliffe
Row 9 – Conor Daly / Townsend Bell / Takuma Sato
Row 10 – Pippa Mann / Gabby Chaves / Sebastian Saavedra
Row 11 – Jack Hawksworth / Stefano Coletti / Bryan Clauson
*James Davison will race the car in the race, Vautier was a Super-Sub for qualifying. Finally Buddy Lazier was bumped and therefore failed to make the field.