After narrow loss, Sato looks ahead to Indy 500

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Despite losing a heart-pounding battle with James Hinchcliffe in the Sao Paulo Indy 300, runner-up Takuma Sato still had a great day on multiple fronts and proved that his victory two weeks ago at Long Beach was no fluke.

Sato vigorously defended his lead during the final laps and his moves against both Hinchcliffe and eventual fifth-place finisher Josef Newgarden raised some eyebrows. Nonetheless, he stayed ahead on a set of tires that were almost 40 laps old until the very last corner, where Hinchcliffe got by him on the inside and went on to take the win.

“I had the same tire [for the] last 35, 37 laps — really much longer than we predicted,” Sato said. “I was really struggling on the grip the last laps.  I really had to deal with a lot of things.

“The last few laps was great fun from a driver’s point of view.  It’s a real pity that I lost it on the final lap of the race on the final corner. But that shows how we are competitive…A win would be great, but otherwise, I really fought hard on the track today and I’m really proud of the whole team. The guys did a great job.”

With Helio Castroneves’ down day on the track this afternoon, Sato’s runner-up finish has put him on top of the IZOD IndyCar Series championship by 13 points over Marco Andretti going into the Indianapolis 500. He also earned his second consecutive podium in Brazil, having finished third for Rahal Letterman Lanigan there last year.

Sato crashed on the final lap of last year’s “500” while attempting a pass at Turn 1 for the lead on Dario Franchitti. Even so, his recent success has him believing that he can be a threat once again at the Brickyard.

“The team [has spent] a long time [preparing] from the wintertime to get to Indianapolis,” he said. “So does everyone else, so we will see. We [will] see how we build up for the month of May. I have great confidence of the team doing a great job at the ‘500’.”

F1 Paddock Pass: United States Grand Prix post-race (VIDEO)

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As Lewis Hamilton took another step towards his fourth Formula 1 World Championship Sunday at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas, plenty of other topics of discussion emerged in the wake of Round 17 of the season from Austin.

Hamilton’s win came as his Mercedes AMG Petronas team claimed its fourth consecutive Constructor’s Championship, Scuderia Ferrari came up short once again despite a valiant effort in second and third, and Max Verstappen’s penalty after the race was the major talking point.

Elsewhere Valtteri Bottas struggled again, the Sahara Force India twins continued to pick up points, Carlos Sainz Jr. made a major positive impact in his first start with Renault, Brendon Hartley impressed on debut at Toro Rosso and Romain Grosjean and Haas F1 Team endured a tough weekend on Haas’ home soil.

Check out all the recap from the latest USGP in the latest post-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass with NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton, below.