Hinchcliffe: “It’s races like this that people remember”

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James Hinchcliffe’s last-turn move on Takuma Sato to win Sunday’s Sao Paulo Indy 300 put an exclamation point — or maybe several — on one of the best races in IZOD IndyCar Series history.

Sunday’s event was a dramatic lead-in to the Indianapolis 500, filled with gutsy drives and heartbreaking moments. But it all came to a climax when Hinchcliffe moved high and then dove low on Sato through the final hairpin to take the lead and win the race in front of a roaring crowd on the Sambadromo.

And while there won’t be much carryover from the Anhembi Park street circuit to the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the electric finish will always remain in Hinchcliffe’s mind.

“It’s races like this that people remember,” said Hinchcliffe, who became the first Canadian driver to win in Brazil since his hero, the late Greg Moore, won in 1998 in Rio de Janeiro. “It was a good show right from the start of the race till the end, a lot of passing, changes in strategy, things like that. I think to make a last-corner pass, that’s something I’ll remember for a long time.”

In the final laps, Hinchcliffe made multiple attempts to pass Sato on the massive backstretch that leads to the Turn 11 hairpin, but was stopped by the ex-Formula One driver with moves that some saw as merely defensive and others saw as blatant chopping (Race Control reviewed Sato’s tactics during the final laps against both him and another contender, Josef Newgarden, but took no action on either instance).

But on the last circuit, Sato came into the hairpin too fast and needed to brake, causing his Honda’s back end to slightly but visibly step out on him. Hinchcliffe had the space he needed and proceeded to strike.

With his second win of 2013 in hand, Hinchcliffe now sets his sights on the Brickyard, where he qualified on the front row and finished sixth last season. He expects to have his highs and lows during the “Month of May,” invoking the words of a fellow driver to describe how Indy can be.

“Oriol Servia compared Indianapolis to a woman: Some days she loves you, treats you well, [and] some days, she is mad at you and you don’t know why,” said Hinchcliffe. “That’s one of the reasons for being there at Indy for the whole month, the race being as long as it is, predict what it’s going to do, change and react to the changes. It’s a very, very challenging racetrack.”

But no matter what he does at IMS in the upcoming weeks, people will indeed remember his heroics on the streets of Sao Paulo.

“That’s IndyCar racing — that’s what it’s about,” his team owner Michael Andretti said on Sunday. “It seems that so many of these races go down the last turn of the last lap. That’s what makes this such a great sport.”

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
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.