Dre’s Race Review – IndyCar’s 2024 Mid-Ohio 200

Pato O’Ward wins a narrow fight with Alex Palou in a Mid-Ohio slugfest, while the hybrid debut… still has teething problems.

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Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 8 mins

“Weathering The Storm”

And finally, after a triple-header weekend, the final DRR of the week is here and it’s time to take a look at IndyCar’s historic first hybrid-era weekend at the Honda Mid-Ohio 200. So in this edition of the DRR, we have to talk about said hybrid system. It doesn’t feel like the gamechanger it advertised at, and the story that dominated the entire race, Pato O’Ward breaking his 30-race “streak” of winning a race on the track, at the expense of Alex Palou looking somewhat human. Let’s get into it.

Look, I was already pretty sour about this one going in. I don’t believe mid-season regulation changes are good for anyone involved and could have major implications for a Championship already in progress. More on that later. But when they finally unveiled and demonstrated their new unit I was thoroughly… whelmed. It’s essentially a supercapacitor unit with a very small battery and charge, limited by the size of the current car. At full charge, it adds another 60 horsepower for 4.5 seconds, with some juice left in reserve to restart the car on its own, while adding another 100 pounds of weight to the car, roughly. 

A part of me couldn’t help but think “Is this it?” Super-capacitor technology was last seen with Toyota in the WEC and was phased out in… 2015. This hybrid bolt-on has less extra power and less charge an an F1 KERS system unit had in 2009 and we’re celebrating like this is a huge gain for the series?! What?! 

It seems to me like the series got a cheap as-chips deal from Mahle to build this hybrid unit and then couldn’t get it to work properly, given the two-and-a-half-year delay to finally get it working, and the intervention from both Chevy and Honda to get it working. And even after all of that, it didn’t work properly. 

The restart system didn’t work until Sunday due to software glitches, and by the time we got there for the race, the system had more glitches and ruined more people’s races. David Malukas had clutch issues when running third. Josef Newgarden had two drive-through penalties because his software was messing with his pit speed limiter. And the big one, Scott Dixon’s power-unit shutdown before the race even started, which has now plummeted his odds of winning the title given he’s now down 70 points. 

The positives in this move? It should make the sport safer in the long run if cars no longer need the Safety team and a caution put out to refire a car, like we saw with Romain Grosjean during the race. Anything to avoid the BS that race control gets up to in that box is a good move to me as long as it’s working. And no doubt, it will only get better as the manufactuers and teams figure this system out and the development race kicks on (As long as Honda stick around. No promises.)

But I’m not fully convinced. I get the whole idea of “this is where automotive is going”, but you’re the last major Motorsport series to make the switch, your unit is antiquated tech on top of more antiquated tech, and you’re hamstrung by a decade-plus old car, you’ve dropped it mid-season to avoid a further press lashing and it’s STILL not working properly. It’s doubly frustrating as I’ve spent more time getting into Sportscar racing in recent years and the GTP hybrid system is right there, it works, and there’s actual synergy with the manufacturers to the point where you’d have a much better chance of getting that precious third supplier. Instead, we’ve got…*gestures wildly*… this shit. 

There’s no getting around the fact that this is not a good look for the series at all and I get the impression that Roger Penske just doesn’t want to bite the bullet and spend the money on developing a new car. It’s exactly the sort of frustrations that Michael Andretti talked about earlier in the season about wanting the ownership to invest in the series. This to me, looks like they’ve cut corners and I fear it could lead to more backlash and bad feelings coming out down the road. 

Right, now I’ve gotten that off my chest…

It’s amazing that IndyCar often lends itself to chaos and unpredictability in its races, and yet here in Mid-Ohio, we got 85 laps of caution-free running and only two men really in contention. Alex Palou was incredible from pole to start off with, pushing out a five-second lead on Pato O’Ward in the opening 29-lap stint, with David Malukas 14 seconds down the road. I was gushing at that early stint, and thinking like last year, this was going to be a Palou walkover. 

But then the second stint on the Alternate tire kicked in and Pato handled his red tires far better than Palou did, chewing into that gap to the point where it was less than a second. Then I think Barry on the #10 garage made an error. The undercut was working on fresher rubber, and keeping Palou out there longer opened the door for an O’Ward undercut. And then when Palou came in, he hesitated to leave the box after his service was done, and that lost second likely cost him track position and ultimately the win. 

He got close on his final stint, with CGR using teammate Kyffin Simpson running behind Agustin Canapino as a blocker to stay on the lead lap, but the dirty air of all those cars was too much in the end, that half-second gap was too much without overloading his tyres. Palou will wake up smiling when he sees the Championship table in the morning because he has nearly a full race in hand on the field, but for Pato O’Ward, he’s back in the title picture, especially given he has an oval doubleheader in Iowa next week. 

Two out of the last three DRR’s I’ve had to write deep dives on McLaren and this is no exception because this team can’t help itself when it comes to weird shit. 

The latest? Another silly-season move with Christian Lundgaard heading to McLaren via his HyVee sponsorship and taking the #7 seat away from Alex Rossi, who they couldn’t agree terms with.

The talks here were baffling. I’ve been critical of Alex Rossi in the last few years, but this shaping up to be his best season in half a decade. Until Ohio, he was 10 points behind Pato O’Ward in the standings and had just come off a strong podium finish at Laguna Seca where he would have had a great shot of winning if it wasn’t for the Ghiotto caution. And McLaren running to the press and implying that Rossi was essentially cooked and only worthy of a one-year extension I found bizarre. Like I said, I’ve been critical of Rossi, but implying he’s too old in his Age 32 season in a series where two of its three best drivers are over 40 is straight bullshit. Zak Brown is a marketing guy and yet he keeps choosing weird angles to send to the media. 

If he’d have said: “We signed Rossi to be a title contender like he was in 2019 and he didn’t deliver”, I’d have been more open to that line of thinking, but when you’ve given Pato O’Ward $10m this offseason in new money, after trying and failing to sign Alex Palou as your centerpiece driver, we know where your bread is buttered. Rossi as an insurance policy #2 driver in this team was fine. 

Don’t get me wrong, Christian Lundgaard for me is a great signing. I’ve said for a while he’s an excellent road and street track racer and he’s going to a team with a much stronger oval package that should eliminate his major weakness. The fact he’s bringing his HyVee sponsorship with rumours that Arrow might be winding down their partnership with the team is a bonus. But again, given we all knew he only had a year left on his current contract, why did you feel the need to put him in the #7 car when the clear weakness was the #6 and Malukas? 

I guess it’s a humble brag to have the youngest team in the sport, but when this is a series that’s largely been won on experience barring Alex Palou’s freak talent in recent years, I’m not sure how valuable youth chasing is here compared to F1. McLaren has everything it needs in IndyCar to win. Versatile team and setup with oval and road course speed. An elite driver, and backup. Big money on facilities. Stop acting like a pantomime and make that serious run at Penske and Ganassi. 

Either that or Zak just has a thing for twink- *shot*

Right, now we got Lundgaard sorted, my next mission? #FreeLouisFoster #ThatBoyNice

One more McLaren thing – Since when did Pato O’Ward get a reputation for being a tire shredder? Heard that ring a few times amongst the journos and I’ve never seen any real evidence of that. I love Pato, but making out he’s an underdog when he’s arguably the most popular driver in the series, making huge stacks and was a title contender in his Age 21 season. I’m not sure we can play this both ways with Pato.  

Something that’s gone under the radar that I feel needs to be addressed – Jack Harvey admitted after the race that he’d been struggling with back and neck spasms all weekend and he thanked the IndyCar Medical team for helping him. Now, I’m no Doctor, but I am concerned that a man who had back and neck spasms drove a 95-minute race and pulled multiple G’s across that timespan for prolonged periods. I don’t think that was wise.

Given Motorsport’s general “gladiator” vibes when it comes to injury, and the pressure of the competitor to naturally try and persevere at risk of replacement, I think that decision needs to come out of the driver’s hands more and sporting medical staff needs to be more proactive in sitting people. The last thing the sport needs is another Oliver Askew situation. Lessons need to be learned, especially nearly a year to the day since Simon Pagenaud’s wreck at that very track. 

Well-driven overcut by Scott McLaughlin to beat the Malukas train to come out in 3rd. Only one McLaren joke for the week too, impressive discipline by the Kiwi. 

Marcus Ericsson, welcome back to the Top 5, nice work, that’s what they hired you for! (Let’s not talk about May again, phew.) Great to see Colton up there too, we’re getting some consistency out of that camp again.

Nice weekend from Christian Rasmussen; qualifying seventh and finishing ninth, ECR badly needs a shot in the arm. It begs the question though, what is going on with Rinus Veekay down in 19th?!

Whisper it quietly… this was Santino Ferrucci’s sixth Top 10 finish in nine rounds this year. Eww.

And a shoutout to Toby Sowery filling in the #51 car at Dale Coyne, straight in there with no experience, drove into the race well and ended up matching the team’s best result of the year in 13th in a 100% green flag race. Outstanding work. 

NBC’s new graphics for the hybrid didn’t quite work for me. It was jarring seeing the cars on the timing tower deploying and then regenning, we didn’t need to see that constantly, especially given it’s obvious where that power is going to be used after a while. The battery graphics for individual telemetry were nice though, just swap the yellow and orange bars around on TV and you’re good. 

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

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