For the first time in years IndyCars took to a track used by Formula One at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin last weekend. Were they slower? Of course! Did it matter? Not a bit. What mattered to the watchers and Twitter fans was track limits. Really?
Track Limits? Ask Lewis Hamilton why he won’t do Indianapolis. “Too scary”. So for all you armchair observers – Indy is scary, ok? For a bloody good reason.
Try piling a 2019 F1 car into a concrete wall 20ft away at 230mph. It would be reduced to many, many fragments. So now shut up comparing or even asking about track limits. Horses for courses. Rick Mears said about Turn One at Indy: “You turn left… or to the mortuary.”
Watching drivers race side by side at COTA for three or four corners (with respect for each other) and no DRS was watching pure racing. That 18-year old Colton Herta won because of a strategy mistake doesn’t matter. He was there all day long. Amazing to say it but grand teams Penske and Andretti messed up – and admitted it. A brand new team, and that 18-year-old driver nailed it.
Then Twitter was full of track limits comments and complaints, and from people who I thought knew better. “F1 wouldn’t accept that.” Me: why not? You are given a car and a track to race, so race it in the space provided. How much faster would they be at Spa without limits? And… who cares?
Any racing diver worth their salt will (or ought to) maximise every opportunity. If kerbs are an option and makes it quicker, hit them. If taking a much wider line at the final corner to start your fast lap, do it (not seen many keyboard warriors moaning about that).
But the thing that irritates most is comparing lap times. Of course IndyCars will be slower. But watching on TV, did you really notice? Would you rather watch cars on rails not being able to be go within 150m of each other or actual racing?
If Fernando Alonso had been in that race, the F1 liberati would have loved him finishing eighth.
IndyCar is a brilliant series, neither better nor worse than F1. That SkyF1 is showing IndyCar is fantastic for UK race fans.
Many years ago in the mid to late 1990s, I was lucky enough to work with CART and IndyCar. It was fantastic. Manufacturers, sponsors and a great atmosphere. The best place to be. So good in fact, it threatened F1. And you couldn’t do that then. Look at the International Touring Car Championship, and FIA World Sportscar Championship. The powers that be didn’t like that.
IndyCar is not F1, but it is bloody entertaining, full of reachable stars, makes great television and heroes. And when Alonso arrives in May, he will be welcomed by the fans, lauded by television and American fans and they will all say “Formula 1? What’s that?”
Enjoy it for what it is. Pure racing.