Pagenaud’s quiet run of results sets him up nicely for second half surge

Leave a comment

Because the eye-popping “big” results haven’t quite happened outside of his win at Detroit race two, it’s easy to overlook what Simon Pagenaud and the HP Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports team have done in the last five races.

Pagenaud’s month of May was quietly solid, ending as the second-best Honda finisher in eighth place. He hasn’t made any mistakes in the races since then and racked up a needed top-10 Sunday in Iowa, with sixth place. The only three drivers that have scored more points than Pagenaud since Indy are Ryan Hunter-Reay, Helio Castroneves and Iowa winner James Hinchcliffe.

“Traffic played a big role in the race, but it was great for the HP car to be up front on an oval today,” Pagenaud said. “At the end I’m not sure what we were missing because the car was really hooked up.”

“I had a blast out there,” he added. “The restarts were fun, the racing was fun, and it was just a great day of competition. From the cockpit it was back and forth going as hard as you could into pit lane and getting out just as fast. We were trying to grab positions any way we could.”

Since Pagenaud is only in his second year racing on ovals, the fact he didn’t lose substantial ground while the Hondas have struggled compared to the Chevrolets is a promising sign heading to the second half of the season.

Pagenaud exited the Indianapolis 500 10th in points, and he’s now sixth, 36 points behind Marco Andretti in third. Pagenaud has already tested at Pocono earlier this year, so he won’t be going in completely blind to “the tricky triangle” in a couple weeks.

More importantly, the run of seven straight road and street course races after Pocono sets up nicely for Pagenaud the second half of the season. Combined with the strengths of engineer Ben Bretzman, team manager Rob Edwards, look for the Frenchman to score his second win of the year and make some more regular visits to the podium.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.