My question about the 2015 racing season is: will it witness the resurgence of the big, powerful super teams of the past? I’m talking about Penske in America in NASCAR and IndyCar and McLaren in Formula 1.
Both Penske and McLaren have gone through spells of hardship. They’ve been competitive but haven’t been winning like they used to win back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Roger Penske won his first IndyCar championship in eight years last season and McLaren had its worst F1 season in a long time, but I think you’re going to see a strong resurgence from both of them this year.
First of all let me talk about Penske. Last year on the eve of winning the IndyCar championship I asked Roger if he was on the brink of completing one of the best seasons ever for Penske Racing. At the time Will Power was in position to win the IndyCar title and both Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano had won a bunch of NASCAR races and were well-seeded in the Chase. But Roger being Roger, he didn’t want to speculate.
Indeed, Keselowski and Logano ran out of luck in the second half of the Chase. But Power won the IndyCar title and Logano started the 2015 season in style by winning last month’s Daytona 500. Logano was a dominant player in the 500 and without doubt Penske’s teams are on a strong upward swing.
In NASCAR, Roger has two young drivers who are at the top of their games and his cars and engines are as good as anything out there. His team is firing on all cylinders and able to run right there with Hendrick and the best of them.
In IndyCar Penske has a mix of savvy veterans in Juan Montoya and Hélio Castroneves and eager young talent in Power and new signing Simon Pagenaud. Power and Pagenaud are in the prime of their careers and are arguably the fastest drivers in IndyCar.
Roger has stacked the deck with the best drivers. He’s running four cars for the first time this year with four of the fastest guys in the series. The only other two drivers in IndyCar you can place in the same category as Roger’s drivers are Scott Dixon at Ganassi’s team and Ryan Hunter-Reay at Michael Andretti’s team.
I also believe Penske’s team will out-test and out-engineer everyone else in IndyCar this year as the teams develop their new ‘aero kits’. Penske’s operation has gotten a jump on the rest of the field in early testing and I expect the team to move ahead at a faster rate than most others.
In Formula 1 everybody seems to be ignoring McLaren but I think it’s the team to watch. With Ron Dennis back in control they’ve taken a long view and are hoping to rebuild the great days with Honda and Senna from the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Honda is very serious about making its latest F1 effort successful and it’s also hired Fernando Alonso who is still very much in his prime.
Alonso did wonders with Ferrari over the last few years and there’s no question that the guy is the best driver in Formula 1 today. Jenson Button is a good, solid driver, but he’s in the twilight of his career. As long as Alonso is able to bounce back from his testing accident he’s going to bring everything to the McLaren garage that they’ve lacked in recent years.
It will be interesting to see where everyone stands once the season begins. So far it’s been difficult to make any judgements from winter testing in either F1 or IndyCar. Everyone’s been very secretive about the new aero kits in IndyCar and we hope they will make the cars more attractive.
But is adding a pile of downforce to the car going to turn it into an under-powered, over-downforced car? I think what IndyCar really needs going forward is not more downforce but more power. The cars needs to be faster and harder to drive. By adding more downforce the cars will be more like slot cars. I think it’s the wrong way to go.