Takuma Sato has not perhaps gotten the credit he’s deserved for his fast start to the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series season with A.J. Foyt Racing.
With a front row start in St. Petersburg and what would have been a second straight Firestone Fast Six appearance in Barber, before a penalty for blocking, Sato’s been one of the quickest drivers to start the year.
There’s still more room for improvement, though, he admits.
“We’re all pushing the max all the time,” he said Thursday. “It’s good the field is so competitive. The team is finding extra bits, and going to the limit. It shows we are really pushing each other.”
On paper, the combination of the legendary Texan owner and the diminutive veteran Japanese driver seems the “odd couple,” but Sato and team have gelled well.
“We have had good integration from the first test at Sebring, which was very successful,” Sato said. “We built our relationship. It’s been very smooth at St. Pete. After then we knew what to do better, because the speed was there.”
A year ago in Long Beach, Sato was on course for his first career podium in IndyCar before contact with Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final lap. With a good street course package, Sato looks to complete the deal this weekend.
“It’s just faster now, and we like it,” Sato said of Firestone’s 2013 tire compounds. “There is some little construction change, and a balance shift we have to accommodate. We find good pace on them and still looking for extra pace from tests. We just need to make sure there is no bad luck happening and compete really well!”
Valtteri Bottas is confident of scoring a good result in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix after qualifying third at the Sochi Autodrom on Saturday.
Bottas finished as the ‘best of the rest’ in Q3 behind the leading Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, beating the Ferrari drivers to secure P3 for the start of tomorrow’s race.
After a difficult run of form, Bottas believes that he can capitalize on this good qualifying result and make the most of the Williams car’s suitability to the track in Sochi.
“It was a strong job by the team today,” Bottas said. “We managed to set-up the car well and maximize our performance.
“I felt very good in the car all day and managed to get in a rhythm quickly and put in consistent lap times despite the limited number of laps we had completed in practice.
“Tomorrow is where it really matters but I have put myself in a very good position to capitalize.”
Bottas’ teammate, Felipe Massa, was less impressive in qualifying as a mistake and traffic caused him to drop out in Q2, finishing P15.
“I made a mistake at turn eight in my first timed lap in Q2, and then in my final two attempts I came up against a lot of traffic which lost me a lot of time,” Massa explained.
“On my final run my tires were gone at the rear and that was the end of my chances. It’s a shame and I’m very disappointed, but I have a quick car around here so we need to have a good strategy and use our pace to move up into the points tomorrow.”
The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.
Alexander Rossi claimed his third win in as many GP2 Series rounds in Saturday’s feature race at the Sochi Autodrom.
Since winning the last feature race at Monza in Italy, Rossi has made his Formula 1 debut with Manor and also raced for the team at the iconic Suzuka Circuit in Japan.
As part of his deal with Manor, Rossi has returned to GP2 for this weekend’s round in Russia as he bids to finish as runner-up to impending series champion Stoffel Vandoorne.
Vandoorne was expected to be crowned champion on Saturday, but Rossi managed to delay the Belgian’s celebrations by storming to victory as darkness forced officials to shorten the race.
Carnage on the first lap saw four drivers retire from the race, with damage caused to the barrier at turn 3 by Jordan King resulted in a 30 minute red flag delay.
Once the race restarted, a shortened distance of 15 laps was confirmed, but full points were still to be awarded.
Pole-sitter Alex Lynn managed to pull clear through the first stint, and after falling behind Rossi in the first round of pit stops, the DAMS driver regained the advantage soon after.
However, when Lynn crashed out, Rossi was able to pull clear of the chasing Pierre Gasly and Vandoorne just behind to record his third win in as many race weekends by three seconds.
Rossi will start tomorrow’s sprint race from eighth place on the grid which is reversed, handing pole to Frenchman Arthur Pic who finished P8 on Saturday.
You will be able to read all about Alexander’s success in his exclusive NBC Sports blog on Wednesday. To read his pre-Sochi thoughts, click here.