Taking part in Part One this blog are Adrian Rickard (AR), Dave Render (DR), Jason McVeigh (JM), Matthew Spencer (MS), and Robin Panton (RP)
In the first part of our season preview, we look at the length of the season, the new , possible title challengers and the new Verizon title sponsorship deal for Indycar.
What are your feelings toward the length of this season, being only five months, and the possibility of the international races / even longer off season?
RP - I'm not a fan of the short season to be honest, it’s very short, but I do understand why they are doing it. The international (winter) series....I can’t see it happening, but I hope it does. I've not seen anything announced about it so far.
JM - This off season has felt ridiculously long to the point where even writing this paragraph feels like it's prolonging it even further. St Pete can't get here soon enough. The only problem with that is that the season will be over before we know it and we'll have an even longer wait until the 2015 season. I'm sorry but I just don't see an International schedule coming together in the Autumn and Winter months. From a logistical point of view, there are just too many variables to consider, the least of which is the financial aspect. Indycar is not Formula One (thank goodness I say) and there just isn't the same amount of money in the bank to drag equipment and crew members all around the world during what most would still consider the "off season"
DR - I must say it's disappointing in my opinion, I was hoping for a few new races (road America Michigan, Phoenix, Cleveland). I hear 2015 will be different, we will just have to wait and see. I think the extra race at Indy will either be a big success or a disaster. If the long season lay off is because of the rumoured international non-championship races then that makes sense. All I can do is keep everything crossed that one of those races is in Britain! Seeing Indycar back at Rockinham or Brands Hatch would be amazing!
MS - The season is too compact and gives teams a problem of what to do with staff over a very pro-longed off season. The season should be longer (not a Winter series) and focused on the Americas. Many sponsors have no markets in Europe etc. making internationals worthless to them so Mexico, Brazil, possible Argentina and Canada should be the foreign markets they look at only. The argument that they want to avoid clashing with football, should be forgotten. If the product is good enough, and promoted, people will watch and in the current era of DVR's watching two sports is not impossible.
AR - I don't mind the season finishing early, I would just prefer it to start earlier too! I feel for the teams though, they are going to be on one hell of a run and if their car(s) have been damaged, they are going to be on it non-stop.The idea of an international series of races is appealing but I will believe it when I see it... One up side is the chance to gain momentum with consistent race weekends, which is easier to attract fans and keep them!
With St Petersburg just around the corner, James Hinchcliffe won the race last year (first of three wins), do you see him stepping up now and becoming a title contender?
RP - I seem to recall James was very unfortunate last year in a number of races with mechanical issues and silly accidents. He has found his feet, has a few wins under his belt and I hope to see him being a challenger up front most weeks. He has the speed and cut out the rookie mistakes.
DR - I think this could be Hinchcliffe's best season, I think he will be the top Andretti driver come the end of the season.
JM - This could go either way. Either Hinch could take his winning ways to the next level and be a title challenger this year or he could suffer a little from losing Craig Hampson as his engineer. Hampson was the unsung hero of a great 2013 season for Hinch and losing him, coupled with an engine change and a really strong 2014 field, Hinch may struggle just a bit more this year than last year.
MS - Hinch's season did fall away towards the end of the season. He is PR gold and would be great for the series to see him at the front. I think he will get wins again but probably not the championship which I see more of a Penske v Ganassi affair.
AR - If the Honda performs well and can take the fight to Chevvy, there is a definite possibility of race wins for James, and then becoming a title fight, last year was a real break out season for him and can look back with confidence knowing he has won races. Possibility a bit better luck needed.
Will Marco or Graham make the step up from 'also rans' of the series to finally contest for race wins week in week out and show consistency they really should be at this stage of their Indycar careers?
RP - They have both have had top leading equipment, they have both had the chance to learn, improve and make big strides forward over a number of seasons. They have both got the backing and support from 2 legends of the sport. Will Marco or Graham make the step up from 'also rans' of the series to finally contest for race wins week in week out and show consistency they really should be at this stage of their ICS careers?Again another one of my questions, I hope they both step up this year, for the good of the series, they are both American after all and we need a strong American presence up front. But, I can see GR struggling, he’s not looked fast in testing. MA less so, he had a good season last year, made good solid strides.
DR - I remember in 2006 when Marco came on the scene and there was a lot of hype around him, he tested the Honda F1 car. Every season after that I thought 'he's going to kick on here and win a title but he just hasn't done it. I think it's harder for Graham because his team doesn't have the resources that Marco has at Andretti but saying that Graham had his chance to impress Chip when he was at Ganassi racing and didn't. I think ultimately both will end their careers without an Indycar title to their name!
JM - I'd like to say yes on both accounts as Indycar could really benefit from both being succesful (and creating a rivalry) but I'm just not sure. Both have had a few good opportunities to step up and be consistent winners but for different reasons, it hasn't happened. Sooner or later that lack of consistency has to rest on the shoulders of the drivers. If pushed, I would put my money on Marco breaking out before Graham. I was very impressed with the young Andretti last year, he showed a lot more maturity and he really seems focused on building on a good 2013 with a great 2014. Don't be surprised if you see Marco in victory lane this season at some point. On the other hand, Graham had a very disappointing 2013 and if the Barber test is anything to go by, those RLL cars might need some work to be fast.
MS - No. Both are average, Ok on their day but not going to win championships. Just look at when Andretti tried A1GP, he was not troubling the front in any shape or form.
AR - A pretty good year in 2013 for Marco is something to build on, he has the team, car and support to take it on to the next level. As for Graham, he now has possibly the best sponsorship package in Indycar, His off track work will go through the roof but most importantly they will be backing him and his team to move up, Wins for both, probably title, not sure...
With the news of Verizon becoming the series title sponsor, where do you feel this leaves Indycar and looking into the future, where it could take them?
RP - Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee made a great point this week that Verizon do a huge amount of national marketing. Hopefully Indycar can get in on this and be part of it. It’s a major US brand, even more than Izod were, however I do recall the Izod deal being as much of a coup as Verizon a few years ago, look how that turned out. Most importantly they have a title sponsor, it will give the series major medium term stability.
DR - Having Verizon on board as a title sponsor is brilliant news for Indycar, they badly need a big name, a company to take Indycar to places it just couldn't reach before. I just hope this isn't just another false dawn.
JM - Up, up and away to bigger and better things. You really cannot stress enough the importance of, not just a title sponsor but a title sponsor who wants to actively promote and market the series. The fact that Verizon are a hugely successful and wealthy company just makes it all even sweeter. Make no mistake, this won't change Indycar overnight but over time and with a lot of hard work and good decisions, this partnership has the chance to maybe, just maybe, help return Indycar to it's CART heyday.
MS - Having Verizon as a title sponsor is good news. They have already promoted their involvement in the series prior to this season and that can surely only increase. It is also a known brand to many with the potential to opening it open to new fans.
AR - This is huge for Indycar, not only gaining a big sponsor, but one that has been around the series, established their grounds and now kicking on. The most promising aspect of the deal, besides the financial injection is the work they look like they will be doing in promoting the series, car and drivers. The early promo spot was a great example, hopefully of things to come.
Part Two is out tomorrow, featuring thoughts on females, the Indy 500, Kurt Busch and double points.