A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato led the final warmup session before today’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (4 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network), topping the 30-minute block with a lap of 1 minute, 8.5388 seconds around the 1.97-mile street circuit.
Sato, who will start on the outside of Row 2 for the 80-lap race later this afternoon, was one of three Honda-powered drivers in the Top 5 for the session; the others being Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden in second (1 minute, 8.5409 seconds) and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal in fifth (1 minute, 8.7616 seconds).
E.J. Viso and Ryan Hunter-Reay, both from Andretti Autosport and Chevrolet-powered, were third and fourth-quickest respectively. As for pole sitter Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, he was eighth-fastest in the warmup with a time of 1 minute, 8.8859 seconds.
The session featured a brief red flag period involving Simon Pagenaud (starting 17th), who spun his No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports Honda between Turns 7 and 8 in the opening moments. The Frenchman had one more spin in the warmup before coming away 20th on the time sheets.
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Car No.: 27
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Championship Position: 10th
Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.
With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.
Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.
When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.
But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.
Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.
Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.