Sato looks for more Sao Paulo success

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Long Beach winner Takuma Sato charged from 25th to a third-place podium finish last year in Sao Paulo for Rahal Letterman Lanigan, and he’ll be out to replicate or improve upon that solid result tomorrow in Brazil for A.J. Foyt Racing.

However, he battled through a tough day of qualifying on Saturday and will have to go off from the 12th position alongside Panther Racing’s J.R. Hildebrand after failing to advance out of the second round.

“A difficult day for us,” said Sato, who logged nearly 13,000 air miles while flying from his hometown of Tokyo, Japan to Sao Paulo for Sunday’s race (11 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network). “We couldn’t pick up the good speed and balance. We lost something.  It was very difficult to get it all put together. It’s a shame. The guys have been working very hard but we just couldn’t find the good grip and balance.

“Tonight, we’ll review everything and hopefully we’ll find improvements for the race.”

Sato started off Saturday well, posting the fifth-fastest time in his first-round group. However, Round 2 saw the ex-Formula 1 driver only able to climb to a 1 minute, 21.36 second lap in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. Honda. The result sticks him near the mid-pack and, potentially, in the path of trouble if the race has a dodgy start.

But should he keep his nose clean, Sato feels confident that he can make his way up the pylon at a track that he enjoys.

It’s quite a unique track, I think,” he said going into the weekend. “It has one of the longest straightaways in the series and it’s followed by a tight hairpin, which requires heavy braking — and that means there are always lots of overtaking opportunities.

“It’s seriously bumpy on the straightaway but otherwise straightforward as the back sections of track are a good combination of slow, technical corners with a relatively smooth surface. I like the rhythm of this track.”

Watch tomorrow’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 online and on your mobile device.

Lauda labels Verstappen USGP penalty ‘the worst I’ve ever seen’

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Mercedes Formula 1 non-executive chairman Niki Lauda has called the FIA stewards’ decision to penalize Max Verstappen for his last-lap pass on Kimi Raikkonen in Sunday’s United States Grand Prix as “the worst I’ve ever seen”.

Verstappen charged from 16th on the grid to take third place from Raikkonen on the last lap after a stunning fight through the field, completing the fightback with a bold pass in the final sector.

However, the stewards stripped Verstappen of P3 after he appeared to put all four wheels off the circuit when riding the kerb to pass Raikkonen, causing outcry in the F1 community.

Speaking to reporters after the race in Austin, Lauda condemned the stewards’ decision, slamming them for interfering in the late fight.

“We had meetings at the start of the year to see how far stewards should go in decisions during a race because it always says ‘under investigation’,” Lauda said, as quoted by Crash.net.

“So we complained about that and we agreed all together that the stewards would not interfere – very simple.

“If the driver goes over another and upside down, only then would they weigh in. That was at the beginning of last year.

“For six months it was OK, but this decision was the worst I’ve ever seen. He did nothing wrong.”

Lauda said F1 team bosses would discuss stewarding at the next Strategy Group meeting, which is due to be held in the next two weeks.

“These are racing drivers. We are not on the normal roads and it is ridiculous to destroy the sport with these kind of decisions,” Lauda said.

“At the next strategy meeting, we will put it back on the agenda and start all over again, because we cannot do that.

“They go too far and interfere and there was nothing to interfere with. It was normal overtaking.”