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The RACER Mailbag, July 10

Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to mailbag@racer.com. We love hearing your comments and opinions, but letters that include a question are more likely to be published. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.

Q: What about safety with the hybrids? OK, so the system maximum voltage is only 60 volts and therefore not high voltage. For the record, high voltage is 750 volts or greater. In industries like sawmills, motors are typically 600 volts or less and therefore not high voltage. I know this because prior to retirement I was a safety trainer in the electrical industry.

In Canada where I live, the maximum allowable voltage that you can work on without safety gloves or other apparatus is 35 volts. It used to be 50 volts but this was changed about 20 years ago because it had been proven that a person could be electrocuted on a 50-volt system.

So for electricians and technicians working on live electrical equipment, if the voltage is between 36 and 749 volts, lockout procedures or specialized safety equipment is required. True high voltage is another matter altogether, where “Limits of Approach” must be maintained.

So I am assuming that the teams will be wearing low-voltage rubber gloves at times during work on the ERS units or the unit must be completely discharged. Is that correct? 60 volts is enough to electrocute someone and the potential of 2000 amps is significant. What is being done to ensure the crews don’t get hurt?

Doug Mayer

MARSHALL PRUETT: It is, but the 60-volt system has been designed to operate in isolation within the bellhousing, instead of also being used to power the entire car, so there’s that. There’s also a requirement to discharge the system to 40 volts or less when leaving pit lane.

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Q: The upside being obvious (to me anyway), what is the downside to splitting IndyCar Q1 into three groups of nine?

Lew

MP: Assuming the time IndyCar sets aside for two is cut into thirds, I can’t think of a downside, Lew.

Q: I’m seeing IndyCars that are trying to get clean air get stacked up during practice and qualifying. With IndyCar being a spec series, wouldn’t it be better to design cars that relied on mechanical grip versus aero grip? Or would that cause a totally different problem?

Steve C, Vancouver, WA

MP: They rely on both. Take the aero grip away and we go back the roadster era, which was awesome, but if you like cars to corner at unbelievable speeds instead of behaving like dragsters on the straight and (by comparison) crawling through turns, the best way to do that is to remove the aero grip.

FWIW, they aren’t searching for clean air; they’re trying to create space to complete an uninterrupted lap to get a proper feel for the car’s handling and settings at the limit in every corner.

Q: How much does that 100-lb hybrid boat anchor cost including installation? Who pays for each unit?

Bob Gray, Canoga Park, CA

MP: We have thousands of words of answers to all kinds of IndyCar hybrid questions in a Part 1 and Part 2 Q&A feature, including these. I’d take a look. The annual lease, paid for by each team, is believed to be $90K for this half-season and $200K for the full 2025 season.

Q: Is F1 hybrid system more advanced than the IndyCar hybrid system? What’s the difference between the F1 and IndyCar hybrid systems, and will NASCAR switch to hybrids in the next few years?

Alistair, Springfield, MO

MP: Yes, far more advanced because it’s made with a giant budget. F1’s hybrid uses two ERS systems, and IndyCar uses one. F1’s is contained in a comparatively powerful and semi-long-lasting lithium-ion battery. IndyCar’s is smaller and less powerful and uses supercapacitors. I don’t know about NASCAR.

F1’s hybrid units might be more sophisticated, but they don’t have cool AC/DC lightning bolts on them. James Black/IMS Photo

Q: How come the hybrid IndyCars are so slow? Why bother?

Ken

MP: The ERS unit adds 105 lbs. Why bother? Because most auto manufacturers who participate in racing want to race with modern technology they sell in their road cars and trucks, and in IndyCar, its engine suppliers at Chevy and Honda sell a lot of hybrids.

Q: Watching on Peacock, the Mid-Ohio race was clogged with so much advertising, it was annoying to watch. I wonder if NBC is loading it up out of spite now that they’re getting rid of IndyCar?

Brad, Hollywood

MP: According to those who’ve written in to complain about the same thing with Peacock ads for a few years now, it’s nothing new.

Q: I’m sending this from the Mid-Ohio infield, where my vehicle hasn’t moved since the end of the race. You can’t have one way in and out of the racetrack. A two-lane bridge at that… What happened to the exit at Turn 8?

Green Savoree has some explaining to do and changes to make, or I am never coming back to the closest IndyCar race to the Northeast. It’s been an hour and a half since the race ended. I have a seven-hour drive.

Dave, King of Prussia, PA

MP: First, that sucks. Second, what happened to the king’s helicopter? A king should never be forced to drive among the peasants.

I’d ask our friends at Green Savoree, but when people have recently written in with questions or complaints, they haven’t been interested in answering the last few Mailbag items like yours that I’ve sent their way.

Q: What do you think about Tommy Kendall stepping back into the booth for IndyCar broadcasts with FOX? I thought he was pretty good during the Champ Car days. I don’t think he’s been racing for quite a bit, but I can imagine he has been paying attention to the sport. Just don’t ask him to do a grid walk.

Looked like a good debut for the hybrid system, unless you were Dixon.

Big Bird, St. Petersburg, FL

MP: I’d love to have Tommy back in the booth. Paired with his close friend Paul Tracy, it would be a riot.

Q: I am not sure if you have been paying attention, but F1 as of late has busted the myth of IndyCar having the most compelling racing. The majority of the IndyCar races during the aeroscreen era have been forgettable affairs (outside of Indy and crashfests like Nashville).

It appears that passing and executing exchanges for the lead is almost impossible on road and street circuits. Additionally, faster cars struggle to pass slower cars deeper into a stint. Is it the aero? Tires? A dinosuar of a chassis that has been over-engineered?

Hopefully the series is paying attention that a more popular series, with better presentation, prestige and production value is eating IndyCar’s lunch.

Woodford

MP: F1 has put on some really good races of late. Turning that into “F1 is overtaking IndyCar with better racing,” if you limit it to those recent races, would be accurate. But let’s not be the silly people who use “of late” to make grand proclamations. Let’s check back at the end of both seasons and see whose lunch has been eaten.

Q: Firestone’s contract with IndyCar Series as tire partner and supplier will expire after 2025, and I heard Pirelli will be a candidate to become the IndyCar tire supplier from 2026, as Mario Isola has said. When will be the announcement of IndyCar’s 2026-30 tire supplier?

Therius Oktavio

MP: I would look to 2025, unless IndyCar and Firestone execute an extension beforehand.

Q: I thought going hybrid was going to replace push to pass. Why have both?

Joe Mullins

MP: I’ve never heard or read about ERS replacing P2P. I’d ask the opposite question: Why not have both?

Q: I really enjoyed the Mid-Ohio race. Great display of strategy and on-track racing from both the 5 and the 10 teams. Very entertaining. I especially loved watching IndyCars fly through Mid-Ohio’s Turn 1. It made me wonder if it’s the fastest turn on the Indy road course calendar? Maybe Turn 1 at Road America is quicker? (Is The Kink at Road America really a turn?) What do you think?

Bert C. Reiser

MP: The Kink, for sure, and oh yes, it’s a turn.

Q: Which is the most accurate description:

1) Zak Brown is the modern day George Steinbrenner
2) Arrow McLaren’s constant drama is why we only have three daytime soap operas left
3) A different analogy I can’t think of?

Vincent Michael

MP: Interesting to see Arrow McLaren silence folks — me included, who weren’t impressed with some of the non-stop drama — by capturing the win and putting the turbulence to bed.

I’d go for 4): Zak Brown is the new Mr. McMahon, former WWF/WWE owner Vince McMahon whose biggest role was in his heel turn as Mr. McMahon, who wasn’t afraid to get in the ring and mix it up when he wasn’t pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

Not sure Zak Brown is all that bothered about how people describe him when the podium looks like this. Josh Tons/Motorsport Images

Q: Leading up to and following this year’s Indy 500, I read several articles, including the Indianapolis Star, that the IMS brass should do away with what they refer to as the “antiquated TV blackout policy.” A few are even suggesting it’s purely just greed on the part of the Speedway owners to keep it, so they can sell more tickets and, thus, pad their already-full wallets.

These same media types are suggesting that after a certain percentage of seats are sold, the blackout should be lifted. Some even suggest lifting the blackout regardless of the number of tickets sold leading up to the race. So, let’s say the blackout is lifted and let’s say it does have an effect on ticket sales. These same media pundits would then point out the “shocking” empty grandstand seats in the North and Northeast Vistas, making derogatory comments such as, “Indy just isn’t what it used to be” and “wasn’t it sad to see the Indy 500’s decline,” blah, blah, blah.

In fact, The Star and others jumped on the so-called “shocking and troubling” drop in TV ratings after the 2022 500. They and many others will take the same low road if attendance slips for any reason, including lifting the blackout. My point is, some will always find fault with the Speedway and the Indy 500. May I remind these naysayers what the packed stands and the lure of this great race mean to the Indiana economy? Any thoughts?

Gary, Crawfordsville, IN

MP: It’s definitely a nuanced topic that’s all about the big picture and the little picture. TV ratings continue to be the thing that powers the financial engines within the paddock as teams with traditional sponsorship deals use the audience size as the hook to sell companies on spending money to promote themselves on Indy cars. The bigger the rating/audience, the more profit for teams. Lift the blackout, and it’s safe to assume the Indy-area audience will go up and the average number will rise.

An increasing number of teams have business-to-business sponsorship arrangements which don’t rely on TV ratings, so it’s worth noting that not every IndyCar entry is reliant on big TV audiences.

But there’s a bigger item that’s being ignored in the lift-the-blackout conversation, and that’s how Penske Entertainment pays for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IndyCar, and the staff who run the track and the series. And that’s through selling tickets to live events, and parking, and food and drink concessions, and merchandise, and corporate hospitality, and vendor midway activations.

Penske Entertainment receives annual payments from its TV partners, which isn’t a giant figure. It also receives income from Chevy, Honda, NTT, Gainbridge and a few other official sponsors or partners, but as a whole, the entity that owns and operates IMS and the series isn’t known to be flush with overwhelming amounts of inbound payments in the same way a Formula 1, NFL, or NBA is flooded with annual revenue.

Put all that together, and it means Penske Entertainment, despite hosting the biggest single-day sporting event in the world, still needs IMS to be packed with paying fans to fill its bank account and, it hopes, to eventually get IndyCar to a point in the near future where it’s profitable. The Indy 500 has long been the financial engine that powers the series, and under Penske’s stewardship, he and his executive team have been working hard to take it out of the red and into the black.

That initiative takes a hit with every empty seat at the 500. The greater the sales and profits from the month of May, the bigger the benefit for IndyCar. Name all of the things IndyCar needs to do better, or to do more of, and it usually comes back to first needing more money to do those things. The best way to get there is to flood the Indy 500 with paying fans and paying vendors, and so on.

The last thing to consider is this: Once you start making attendance optional for a big regional event by making it newly and consistently available on TV, how many folks will start choosing to watch from the comfort of their couch?

I’m less concerned about the many diehards who would never consider missing the 500. My thoughts turn to the aging-out of IndyCar’s majority fan base of those who are 55 or older and the need to make new and much younger fans who don’t have a lifetime of history at IMS to fuel a first appearance or many returns. If going to the 500 to get the live 500 action isn’t a requirement, I’m not sure how that habit is formed.

I realize we’re talking percentages here; maybe the blackout only gets lifted after 80 percent or 90 percent of the tickets have been sold, but once you make attending a local institution like the Indy 500 an option by lifting the TV blackout, I just don’t see how you sustain the high attendance rate or help fund the track and series in the ways that are needed.

The Indy 500 is a pain to attend with 300,000-plus people funneling into a facility in the middle of a city with two-lane roads and a limited number of access points. Parking can be a hassle, it can be crazy hot and exhausting, and getting out of IMS can be a nightmare with traffic. It’s also the most amazing thing you’ll ever see. But take those hassles away through local TV, and I fear far too many people would start to choose to stay home.

If you’re reading this, you’re a diehard IndyCar fan. You aren’t the source of worry. It’s the other folks who know they have to go to see it live who I could see trading the hassle for the ease of their TV, and that hurts IMS and IndyCar’s financial health.

Q: In watching James Hinchcliffe’s explanation of the hybrid engine, I’m curious as to whether or not this new hybrid system will increase in power over time as IndyCar has done in the past, especially as drivers adjust to it? If so, do you think it’s possible that Luyendyk’s IMS track records will be broken within the next few years, even without the additional 120+ hp overtake?

Jamie H

MP: Yes, IndyCar intends to increase ERS power. Some extraordinary things would need to happen there for Indy 500 speed records to be set. The ERS package has driven the Dallara DW12’s minimum weight up another 105 lbs, and that’s a huge amount of mass to carry around IMS. Put 105 lbs of anything in a vehicle, and it tends to go slower unless there’s a big increase in power to compensate for that weight. The ERS boost of 60hp will need to double or triple for the weight to be nullified in lap speeds.

Also, the heavy metal drum inside motor generator unit, which is connected to the input shaft that links the turbo V6s to the transmission, spends its life spinning on that input shaft, so it was shown to produce a lot of mechanical drag when it wasn’t giving short bursts of that 60hp during the most recent Speedway test with the hybrids.

There’s no mechanism in place to decouple the MGU from the input shaft — like a clutch — on the straight and in the corners when it isn’t needed to harvest or deploy, so it saps speed while it isn’t used as the turbo V6s expend horsepower to continually rotate that mass. Granted, the same power-sapping routine happens at every track with the system, but it’s more exaggerated around the 2.5-mile Speedway oval.

So, could the system increase lap speeds if the power went really high? Yes. Is that likely? Again, it would take extraordinary changes for it to happen.

Q: Rossi out at Arrow McLaren? I didn’t see that one coming. What are his options for next year? I’m sure a few teams would be interested in his services, but if he doesn’t end up at Penske or Ganassi, I fear his career is over. It would be painful to see him struggling at a mid-level team.

Marc

MP: Came as a surprise to me as well after the team and his father/manager said they were close to a new deal. Penske, Ganassi and Andretti have no seats to offer. He’s headed to a midfield team because that’s all there is available, but he’ll make one of those teams much better than it is today.

Well, that happened fast. Chris Owens/IMS Photo

Q: Was the McLaren decision on Rossi strictly about coming to terms on a contract extension, or do they think he is beginning to lose a step? I’m a huge Rossi fan but have felt like he’s not driving as well as he did five years ago.

P. Worth Thompson

MP: He’s having his best season since 2019 when he placed third in the championship for Andretti Global, so I wouldn’t place too much emphasis on his body of work in 2024 as being an issue. He’s seventh in the standings and is delivering the kind of consistency the team needs to improve its vastly inconsistent ways.

Both sides say they came close but couldn’t make the finances work. I’m sure there’s an element of truth to that answer. But I also wonder how the signing of Nolan Siegel might have changed the team’s view on its overall lineup. Pato O’Ward’s the long-established leader among drivers and just won for the team, as he’s paid to do. With Rossi and Theo Pourchaire alongside him, I think the team saw a winner being complemented by a consistent contributor who can also win on occasion and a rookie who looked like he was going to continue being immediately effective.

With the trading of Formula 2 champ Pourchaire for a less-developed Siegel, I wonder if the team decided they needed to take a winnow approach and traded Rossi for Christian Lundgaard. Siegel is good, and has the potential to become great, but he’s a multi-year project without a specific date for when he’ll start delivering the front-running results the team believes he can bring.
In the short term, Arrow McLaren did not make itself more competitive with the O’Ward/Rossi/Siegel lineup. The team was fond of Lundgaard well before he was signed, so my guess is they see him as being able to improve Rossi’s results on a regular basis and give its team a chance to be stronger with O’Ward and Lundgaard while Siegel gains the mileage and experience he lacks in IndyCar.

Q: I have attended every IndyCar race at WWTR here in the St. Louis area since it re-opened in 2017 (back-to-back in the 2020 season). In the beginning the race was always held during the last week in August on a Saturday evening and attendance was near capacity. After the start time was moved to Sunday afternoon, attendance began dropping. In 2025 the race is scheduled to be run on Sunday, June 15 in the afternoon.

I am fairly certain that this is going to do nothing to improve attendance. St. Louis summers are usually extremely hot and humid. During this time of year people in our area are more likely to turn out for an evening event than an afternoon event. Is there any chance IndyCar/FOX would consider moving the race to Saturday evening? The track has lights (obviously) and the race would probably not have much competition from other sports on a Saturday evening. I know the schedule is always based on television ratings, but who’s to say the ratings on a Sunday afternoon in June will be any higher than a Saturday night?

Spencer Fienup, Ballwin, MO

MP: The timing of the races are usually based on windows of availability, so I’d assume that’s the case here. I hear you about the heat, but I also assume fans in the St. Louis area also go see daytime MLB games with the Cardinals and daytime MLS matches with the City SC in the summer, so hopefully it’s not an out-of-the-ordinary ask to watch a daytime IndyCar race across the border in Madison, Illinois.

Q: I understand that with the new hybrid system the drivers will have less than five seconds of the additional 60 horsepower each time it’s used. Knowing the situations will vary re: braking, etc., on how the supercapacitors get charged, how quickly could they get back to a full charge after the extra “oomf” is fully consumed?

Also, clearly one of the advantages from the new configuration is the ability for the driver to restart the engine on their own after a stall. Is it an accurate assumption that, if stalled, and the stored energy has been consumed, that the external starter will still be needed?

John J. Sullivan

MP: The system charges as quickly as it harvests. The energy storage system’s settings are such that enough power is preserved — made unavailable for boosting performance — to give drivers at least enough juice to start the car one time with the energy recovery system. You can read all about it in Part 2 of our Q&A.

Q: To Isaac W. Stephenson in last week’s Mailbag: no, this is fall at Milwaukee so it has to be the Tony Bettenhausen race! Or I suppose we could really follow tradition and call the first one the Rex Mays Classic and the second one the Tony Bettenhausen.

Chris, San Francisco, and well under the age of 50

MP: An idea: What if IndyCar dedicated each season to providing secondary, retro names for its races (which apply) to honor the greats from those events? Long Beach would be the Al “King of the Beach” Unser Jr. GP next year, and so on. Dedicate as many races as possible to legends of the event or past winners as a sub-theme for the sake of nostalgia. For those who are old enough to have seen the Bettenhausens or Unsers or even a Franchitti win at Track X in 19XX, it might be a kick to revel in the reverie.

Q: “…every IndyCar fan under the age of 50 who just read this said, ‘Who’s Rex Mays?'”

I’m 24 and will bite. I googled Rex Mays and he is a GOAT. He was from the Los Angeles area and was friends with the Hollywood stars of the era.

He was the Andretti or Dixon of his day. He was the second-ever back-to-back IndyCar champ. Mays’ luck at Indy was worse than either driver. Sat on the pole four times, and in 12 starts only once was his speed not in the top 10. Held the record of most poles for more than 40 years, and is still third all-time behind Mears and Dixon, who have more attempts. He is number two behind Michael Andretti for number of laps led without winning.

Mays had eight IndyCar wins, but during his era there were fewer races per season. During his time IndyCar drivers also raced sprint cars, and he won dozens of races in this discipline. In 1936 and 1937, IndyCar racing competed on a road course (near New York City) for the first time in 15 years. Many of the top European pre-F1-era drivers competed in these races. Mays, with little road course experience, finished third, and was offered a drive with Maserati. For some reason he didn’t accept.

As a fan, I don’t want IndyCar making a big deal out of things only when they think we already know about it. F1 and NASCAR are busy establishing museums and Halls of Fame for their great drivers, while for IndyCar (or apparently Champ Car if I’m being historic) we get nothing cool. I assume you would tell us if a museum or HoF was being planned.

It’s silly that Penske added a jacket to the laundry list of prizes a driver gets for winning he 500, when I can’t even tell you offhand what a season champion gets. A ring? A mini Astor Cup? Season champions should be the ones getting jackets, not 500 winners. If past GOATs aren’t celebrated, why should we expect future fans to hear about our GOATs of today?

Anyway, to Isaac’s point, the races at Milwaukee are sponsored by Hy-Vee and appear to be named after the Milwaukee Mile for this year. Hopefully something is done by NBC/IndyCar/Milwaukee Mile/Hy-Vee to continue honoring Mays. It wasn’t just that he was a great driver – he became a legend for saving another driver’s life at Milwaukee. One race there was an accident in front of Mays where a driver was thrown from their car onto the track. Mays was leading the race, but instead of going around the driver, Mays stopped his car in a way that protected the other driver from the pack of cars following behind.

Mays didn’t win that race, but he saved a life. For that, Rex Mays should probably always be highly honored during Milwaukee Mile races. Next year can we have Hy-Vee presents the Rex Mays 250 at the Milwaukee Mile?

Michael S., Seattle, WA

MP: That was one of my favorite letters of the year, Michael. Thank you!

One of the best. Image via IMS

Q: What was the most surprising race winner you RACER writers remember?

Kurt Perleberg

MP: It’s gotta be Carlos “Grumpy Cat” Huertas. Fabulous guy. Wickedly dry sense of humor. Completely unheralded. Had done nothing in his open-wheel career to give a one-percent inkling that he could win an IndyCar race. Was driving for Dale Coyne. And with a rare decision by IndyCar at the waterlogged Houston Race 1 in 2014 which saw the contest changed and shortened from a lap-based race to a time-certain event, Coyne pulled off a masterful strategy play that promoted Huertas to the lead. Afterwards, Coyne said he’d called on his experience in time-based races, and Huertas was the beneficiary. A once-in-a-lifetime deal for Huertas, who led an all-Colombian podium with Juan Montoya and Carlos Munoz.

CHRIS MEDLAND: That I remember watching? Olivier Panis in Monaco in 1996. But if I take the view of a race I worked at, it’s got to be Pastor Maldonado for Williams at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. Starting on pole position was a shock in itself, but for Maldonado to lose the lead at the start, stay calm, regain it from Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari with strategy and win on raw pace was just remarkable. There were other races where the Williams was at the sharp end in a really competitive year, but at that time it had come completely out of the blue and didn’t require a strange safety car or major incident, it was just pure performance and an excellently-executed weekend.

KELLY CRANDALL: John King came to mind. He won the season-opening Daytona race in 2012 in the Craftsman Truck Series driving for Red Horse Racing (which is now defunct) and no one knew who he was. It was the definition of an upset win. It was only King’s eighth start in the series, and he only made eight more in his career. King ran one race in 2014 and hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Those 16 total races were the only ones he ever ran in any of NASCAR’s top three series.

MARK GLENDENNING: Marshall stole my Huertas answer, so I’ll say Mario Dominguez at Surfers Paradise in 2002 and Alexander Rossi at Indy in 2016 instead. But my biggest “what the heck” moment was not a win, but a test — the first day of the final F1 pre-season test at Barcelona in 2009, when Brawn showed up with one car for Rubens Barrichello and blew everyone into the weeds. (Jenson Button drove it the next day.) Most of the press corps were still wrapping their heads around the double-diffuser concept and quite a lot of people suspected that the team was simply playing tricks to lure some sponsor logos onto what was then a plain white car. I was chatting off the record with a high-profile driver from another team in the paddock that night and asked him if Brawn was the real deal, and he replied, “Oh, the rest of us are f***ed.”

Q: Dare we begin to even think that we are going to see an actual competitive F1 season? Seems to me that much has hinged on the teams’ first round of major upgrades: A for McLaren and Mercedes, C for Red Bull, and an F for Ferrari. One big question for me is, with the spending cap, who is going to be able to make further gains? Obviously, the teams are not going to share their cap space numbers, but do you have any inkling from pitlane gossip who might be in the best shape going forward?

I have to say that with an equalized field, Verstappen’s skill and the team’s excellence at execution may still give Red Bull an edge, at least for the drivers’ championship. But aren’t they vulnerable in the constructors’ championship?

Al,  Boston

CM: I’d argue we’re already well into one, Al! The first five races were not all classics, but Ferrari and McLaren both looked quick in Melbourne and I think they would have troubled Red Bull there. Then since Miami, every race has been competitive, so I’d say only four of the 12 rounds so far haven’t been.

The only issue is, Verstappen has built up such a lead and then executed most of the races really well, to the point that he’s looking comfortable for the drivers’ championship already. But there are still 12 rounds remaining, and big points swings could still happen with it being so competitive, plus Verstappen will take a power unit penalty at some stage.

You’re right that Red Bull’s vulnerable in the constructors’ championship, and it really needs Sergio Perez to start scoring heavily because the last few races could easily have seen that gap to Ferrari and McLaren become much smaller. And all of the signs are that they will both keep closing in with the car performance they have and both drivers in the mix. Don’t be totally fooled by Ferrari either, in that its first upgrade in Imola deserved a higher mark than you’ve given, but the latest one in Spain has introduced porpoising issues again, and might hold it back. If it can address that, though, Ferrari will win more races too.

Perez is under real pressure now, and these next two races are going to be crucial. If he doesn’t get a good result in at least one of them, I can genuinely see Red Bull replacing him in the summer break.

In terms of the teams that are in the best shape, I’d say McLaren and Mercedes. Both have drivers who score lots of points, and both keep adding performance that moves them forwards. Mercedes might be too far off from a constructors’ championship point of view, but Toto Wolff suggested there’s more upgrades coming at the next two races that could provide another step, and that’s from a team that just won the last two races and locked out the front row at Silverstone. As the fourth-placed team right now, it also gets more wind tunnel development time than its rivals as those allowances were reset on 30 June.

It’s almost guaranteed to ebb and flow between now and the end of this year, and probably carry into 2025 too, so even if we don’t quite get a close drivers’ championship fight over the next 12 races, I can’t wait to see how competitive it is on that front next season.

Q: I saw that Joey Logano replaced Hailee Deegan in Chicago. Is Deegan going to be fired by AM Racing?

Chris Fiegler, Latham, NY

KC: Hailie Deegan and AM Racing parted ways on Monday. The statements from both parties were included in the new story.

Q: Mark, can you find any pictures of Scott Dixon’s helmet and/or fire suit from last weekend’s Mid-Ohio race? I think this is the first time in a long time I’ve noticed a new helmet design.

Kyle

MG: Unfortunately I don’t have a huge selection of shots of Dixon outside of his car last weekend. This was about the best I could come up with:

Dixon’s hybrid system clearly wasn’t a fan of the new helmet design. Chris Owens/IMS Photo

THE FINAL WORD

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, July 8, 2015

Q: “I don’t think Miles would ask to have me fired (maybe next year) but there’s nothing I can do about it if he does.”

Having lived in Indy for 30+ years, you ticking off IMS and getting fired is almost a tradition. Sorta like fireworks on the 4th of July.

Kurt, Carmel, IN

ROBIN MILLER: What’s the expression, Kurt? I was looking for a job when I got this one? I lost my radio, television and newspaper gigs back in the late ’90s for speaking out against Tony George but I’ve been fortunate since. ESPN gave me a TV and writing job from 2001-03 before RPM 2Night shut down so I left and went to SPEED for 11 years. After FOX closed down Wind Tunnel and Speed Report, RACER was kind enough to give me a home and a free speech forum. NBCSN felt sorry for the elderly and gave me work in 2011. Whatever happens, no complaints, I’ve had the best jobs you can ask for as a college dropout and half-assed midget racer.

Story originally appeared on Racer