The opening round of the 2020 NTT IndyCar series begins this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida. After a long offseason, there are plenty of changes that will come into effect for the first time on the popular temporary circuit.
One of the most notable changes this season is the introduction of the Red Bull Advanced Technologies Aeroscreen that is mandated on all cars.
The Aeroscreen is comprised of a 3D printed titanium frame surrounding the cockpit area of the car, which can withstand an impact of 17 tons of force, and an overlaid ballistic composite screen that acts as a windshield and offers protection from small pieces of debris.
The 45-pound addition to the cars provides a significant safety improvement at all tracks, and has been met with near-unanimous approval from drivers and teams alike.
Openings in the nose of the car and at the base of the Aeroscreen will allow cooling airflow to be directed towards the drivers, which will be important at races where warmer temperatures prevail such as this weekend.
Several promising rookies will take to the track for the first time in St. Petersburg, with each of them bringing enough talent to have a real chance of securing a podium in his maiden race.
Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay, driving for Arrow McLaren SP and Ed Carpenter Racing respectively, have been battling each other in the Road to Indy feeder series for the past couple years and have both graduated to the IndyCar series this season.
Also competing in his first race will be Alex Palou, who comes most recently from the Japanese Super GT and Super Formula series, and will be racing for Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh.
Together these young drivers, the oldest of which is only 23 years old, will look to take the fight to the established guard of the sport.
One face that will not be on the grid this year in St. Petersburg is Tony Kanaan. After failing to secure enough funding to contest the entire season, the veteran will only race the five ovals of the year after having driven full time in the highest levels of American open wheel racing since 1998.
While travelling to Florida on Wednesday, one of Andretti Autosport’s transporters caught fire. At this time the damage to Colton Herta’s #88 Honda-powered car appears minor and the team has scrambled a spare transporter with pit supplies that is on its way to the track.
The team is expecting to be able to contest all sessions this race weekend, and assuming that is true there will be 26 cars in this year’s entry list – the most at the event in nearly a decade.
The course at St. Petersburg is a 1.8-mile street circuit that uses a local airport runway as the main straight. The course has been a mainstay of IndyCar since its introduction in 2005 and has served as the opening round since 2011.
Last season’s champion Josef Newgarden started the season off strong last year, winning the opening round and using that momentum to eventually secure his second championship.
Felix Rosenqvist was also impressive at this track last year and is another one to watch closely this weekend. Last year the Swedish driver, in his IndyCar debut no less, was able to decisively take the lead away from pole sitter Will Power and hold the lead for 31 laps before finishing in fourth position.
|Firestone GP of St. Petersburg Schedule (all times local)|
|Friday, March 13||Practice 1||10:45|
|Saturday, March 14||Practice 3||10:45|
|Sunday, March 15||Final Warm-up||10:25|