From the first glimpse of the revamped 2018 IndyCar aero kit the reaction from fans was positive. The stripped-back car, with more than a nod to classic IndyCar styling, certainly looks the part.
But the championship needs the restyled aero kit on top of the familiar DW12 chassis to do more than just look good.
It follows the decision to scrap the unloved, manufacturer-designed aero kits which were introduced three years ago and blamed for increasing costs and spoiling the racing. The new kit, which has been standardised across all the cars, is intended to be cheaper to run.
There are encouraging signs this has been achieved as the championship welcomes two new full-time teams plus a part-timer. Carlin, which impressed on its debut in Indy Lights three years ago, has a two-car team, while Harding has a single-car entry. Juncos has also confirmed it will run around half of the calendar.
It should also engineer better racing. The deletion of the heavy rear wheel pod assemblies has both lightened the cars and moved the centre of gravity forward, making them more responsive. Paring back the complex wings in favour of a larger diffuser means the car generates a greater proportion of its downforce from the underside of the car, which drivers expect will allow them to run more closely and encourage overtaking.
The opening race of the season may not prove the best showcase for this. The tight St Petersburg course tends to produce processional races, though Sebastien Bourdais did his best to disprove that by winning from last on the grid 12 months ago.
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The quality of oval racing on shorter courses such as Pheonix and Gateway should benefit considerably from the new aero kit. The only new addition to the calendar this year is the Portland circuit in Oregon, scene of the unforgettable 1997 race. Like the retro-inflected cars the return of another CART-era venue is a sign of how, 10 years on from reunification, IndyCar is beginning to resemble the series it once was in style if not substance.
New life has been breathed into the driver line-up, though the series missed out on a coup when Brendon Hartley, who Ganassi courting as a replacement for Tony Kanaan, was nabbed by Toro Rosso. In his place last year’s sole full-time rookie driver Ed Jones gets a prized opportunity to learn from Scott Dixon.
Another significant arrival is former Mercedes DTM driver Robert Wickens who joins fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe at Schmidt. Jones’s place at Coyne has been taken by a pair of newcomers: Zachary Claman Demelo and Pietro Fittipaldi (grandson of F1 and IndyCar champion and two-times Indy 500 winner Emerson).
2018 IndyCar full season entry list
Top teams Penske and Ganassi previously fielded four-car squads but have trimmed their full-time entries to three and two respectively. However this has been compensated for by the arrivals on one-car team Harding and Carlin, the latter having hired two of Ganassi’s 2017 drivers.
|14||Foyt||Tony Kanaan||Seeking a new beginning after three win-less years led to Ganassi exit|
|4||Foyt||Matheus Leist (R)||At 20, the youngest full-time driver, paired with the most experienced|
|28||Andretti||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Had a stronger second half of the season but has been win-less for two years|
|27||Andretti||Alexander Rossi||Ended 2017 in great shape – can he now make the step to become a title contender?|
|26||Andretti||Zach Veach (R)||Third in Indy Lights four years ago, the 22-year-old arrives in place of Indy 500 winner Sato|
|98||Andretti||Marco Andretti||Never seemed to gel with the DW12 – perhaps the new aero kit will change that|
|59||Carlin||Max Chilton||Has a long history with Carlin and two years’ IndyCar experience with Ganassi should stand him in good stead|
|23||Carlin||Charlie Kimball||After seven years in IndyCar this will be his first not with Ganassi|
|9||Ganassi||Scott Dixon||The biggest threat to the Penskes last year but huge Indy 500 crash cost him dear|
|10||Ganassi||Ed Jones||Suffered from loss of Bourdais in first year at Coyne but has been handed a great chance at Ganassi|
|18||Coyne||Sebastien Bourdais||Indy 500 injury spoiled an encouraging start to life at Coyne – can he pick up where he left off?|
|19||Coyne||Pietro Fittipaldi (R) / |
Zachary Claman Demelo (R)
|Two newcomers will share the second Coyne including Formula V8 3.5 champion Fittipaldi|
|20||Carpenter||Ed Carpenter / |
Jordan King (R)
|Carpenter will do the oval races as usual and share his car with F2 race winner King|
|21||Carpenter||Spencer Pigot||The 2015 Indy Lights champion gets a full-time seat for the first time|
|88||Harding||Gabby Chaves||Did a full season with Herta in 2015, also in a one-car team, so he knows how tough this year will be|
|15||RLL||Graham Rahal||Blew the doors off everyone at Detroit last year, winning both races, and stayed in the title fight until the end|
|30||RLL||Takuma Sato||Last year’s Indy 500 victor has relocated and RLL should be a stronger team for running two proven winners|
|5||Schmidt||James Hinchcliffe||The likeable driver picked up a win last year but probably should have been further ahead of Mikhail Aleshin|
|6||Schmidt||Robert Wickens (R)||Has switched to IndyCar from Mercedes’ DTM squad|
|1||Penske||Josef Newgarden||The new poster boy for the series after taking the title in his first year at Penske|
|22||Penske||Simon Pagenaud||Lost his crown to team mate Newgarden last year – Gateway sparked a tasty rivalry between the pair|
|12||Penske||Will Power||Completes Penske’s all-champion line-up but had too many troughs among his peaks last year|
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Several part-time entries have already been announced. Another new team, Juncos, will run ex-Formula Two driver Rene Binder plus Kyle Kaiser at four races each. Schmidt Peterson will run a third car in co-operation with Michael Shank Racing for Jack Harvey at six races, including this weekend’s season-opener.
Some of the drivers who have lost their full-time seats since last year will return for the Indianapolis 500, including Helio Castroneves at Penske. Carlos Munoz, ousted from Foyt by Tony Kanaan, will return to Andretti for the race he finished second in as a rookie five years ago.
But with no Fernando Alonso at this year’s Indy 500 the most eye-catching addition to the entry list so far is a one-off return for Danica Patrick.
2018 IndyCar calendar
2018 IndyCar spotters’ guide
2018 IndyCar season on RaceFans
We will follow every round of the 2018 IndyCar season live on RaceFans – look out for the live commentary pages each weekend.
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