Harvick: No Richmond win if race had stayed green

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Richard Childress Racing driver Kevin Harvick and crew chief Gil Martin are both convinced that they wouldn’t have won last night’s Toyota Owners 400 at Richmond International Raceway without the caution that came out with five laps remaining.

Harvick had moved into second place in the final laps but it looked like he’d be unable to reel in and pass Juan Pablo Montoya for the victory. However, a crash by Brian Vickers scuttled what appeared to be a sure win for Montoya, and after Harvick pitted for fresh tires with four laps to go, he raced from seventh on the green-white-checkered restart to his first win of 2013.

Still, both Harvick and Martin believed that if the race hadn’t gone into overtime, they would’ve been forced to settle for runner-up.

“I think I had a better shot to win starting seventh [on the final restart],” said Harvick. “I don’t think I was going to catch Montoya because he had a little bit better drive up off the corner at that point.”

Martin himself noted a tendency of cars on the move being unable to keep the momentum going once they got closer to the cars in front of them. For that reason, he indicated that it was Montoya’s race to lose — until Vickers’ accident changed everything.

“Within five car lengths of anybody, seems like the advantage you had went away or diminished as soon as you got close to them, then you would have to stay on them for several laps,” Martin said. “The laps were winding down so fast; Montoya was going to have to make a mistake for us to get by him at that point.”

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.