Schmidt, Herta squads threaten Honda hierarchy in Barber

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Honda got its groove back Friday at Barber Motorsports Park and leading the charge besides its flagship Chip Ganassi Racing squad were the efforts from Sam Schmidt’s and Bryan Herta’s teams.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Tristan Vautier paced Friday’s first practice, then ended the day third fastest with Schmidt Hamilton teammate Simon Pagenaud in fourth. An off for Vautier at the end of practice one interrupted what had been a good day.

“It was disappointing at the end of the first practice to cause a red because of a mistake, but no, I’m very happy with the car that the team has given me today,” Vautier said. “I think that I still have some room to keep improving, and we need to carry the momentum from today into tomorrow.”

Pagenaud estimated there were still gains to be made as the car struggled in some portions of the track.

“We still have quite a bit to do, as we are losing a lot in very important sectors; otherwise the car would be golden,” said Pagenaud. “There’s still a little bit of work to do but overall whether it’s Honda, whether it’s the team, and working with Tristan, this weekend has all been quite enjoyable.”

Schmidt told IndyCar Radio he hoped Honda had done its homework after both cars suffered exhaust problems at St. Petersburg, but remained cautious until the race concluded on Sunday.

Meanwhile at Herta’s Barracuda Racing, driver Alex Tagliani ended Friday in second place and put in an early candidate for quote of the year given his position on the timesheets.

“I am really proud of what the team accomplished here this weekend,” he said. “Obviously we are accustomed to being in the Firestone Fast 6 last year. I really didn’t like using the Port-a-Potty in the back of the grid. It feels good and hopefully we can have a good qualifying and it’s a tough race to pace here, so qualifying will be key.”

Verstappen picks illegal Raikkonen pass as favorite F1 2017 overtake

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Max Verstappen has picked his illegal pass on Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap of the United States Grand Prix as his favorite overtake of the Formula 1 season.

Verstappen was one of F1’s most prolific passers through 2017, making 22 overtaking moves as per Pirelli’s end of year data.

When asked to pick out his favorite in a post-season interview on his official website, Verstappen picked his bold move on Raikkonen at the Circuit of The Americas that sparked controversy when he was penalized for completing the overtake off-track.

The Red Bull driver had charged from 16th on the grid to cross the line third, only for a five-second time penalty to deny him a podium and drop him to fourth in a snap call made before the post-race ceremony.

“Of course, at first your initial reaction is something like: ‘Why? It was a great move.’ But when you look at the rules, it was not correct,” Verstappen said.

“Nothing was by the book that whole weekend. Drivers were getting off track without being penalized for it. But you always need to focus on the positives: it was still a nice race and everyone enjoyed the excitement all the way down to the final lap.

“It’s always nice to be on the podium, but to finish fourth after having started sixteenth, is still a great result.

“It wasn’t as painful as most people thought it was. In the end I made my peace with it.”

Asked if it was his best move of the year, Verstappen said: “Yes, because this year I actually didn’t have that many overtakes.

“With this car you are actually only able to overtake on the straights, which is really not that satisfying compared to last year.”