After high hopes, Andretti armada struggles

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With Marco Andretti on the pole and teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe alongside him on the front row, the stage was seemingly set for Andretti Autosport to continue its strong 2013 campaign.

Instead, the Pocono IndyCar 400 saw the defending IZOD IndyCar Series champions go through a rough afternoon on the “Tricky Triangle” while fellow “Big Three” team Chip Ganassi Racing took over the podium.

The problems started from the get-go when Hinchcliffe lost control of his No. 27 GoDaddy machine and slammed into the Turn 1 wall just moments after the green flag. The Canadian driver, who will surely be the favorite of the crowd next weekend in his hometown of Toronto, has won three times this season (St. Petersburg, Sao Paulo, Iowa) but with his crash at Pocono, he now has three DNFs as well (Barber, Long Beach).

Ryan Hunter-Reay then suffered a bizarre accident as he was hit from behind by Takuma Sato while entering pit road on Lap 61. The Japanese driver was trying to slow down as he made his way to the pits but locked up his tires and instead hit the back of Hunter-Reay’s No. 1 car.

“I couldn’t believe it,” an exasperated Hunter-Reay said after the race to ESPN. “I couldn’t expect that it would be Sato coming so far back. We had a great car to start with but we had just a little too much understeer so we were going to keep adding front wing as we went.

“I think we had a great car to challenge for the win and was really looking forward to the rest of the race, and then we’re just coming to pit lane minding our own business and we get creamed from behind. [Sato] was nowhere near slowing the car down – just unplugged his brain entirely and he’s playing a role in the championship again.”

Indeed, Hunter-Reay, who returned to the track later on and finished 20th, lost ground to leader Helio Castroneves in the standings and now sits 23 points behind the Brazilian as the series heads north to Canada.

But perhaps most heartbreaking for the Andretti camp was the late-race fade of Marco Andretti, who led the most laps on Sunday but finished 10th after being victimized by poor fuel mileage.

When asked by ESPN whether there was any point in the race where he didn’t feel like he had the car to beat, a dejected Andretti replied in the negative.

“I was just having to sit there and watch the lead go away from me,” the third-generation driver said. “It was ripping my guts out.”

E.J. Viso, who crashed during qualifying on Saturday, was never a factor on Sunday, finishing 21st after being forced out of the race momentarily due to mechanical problems on his No. 5 CITGO-backed car.

Verstappen picks illegal Raikkonen pass as favorite F1 2017 overtake

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Max Verstappen has picked his illegal pass on Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap of the United States Grand Prix as his favorite overtake of the Formula 1 season.

Verstappen was one of F1’s most prolific passers through 2017, making 22 overtaking moves as per Pirelli’s end of year data.

When asked to pick out his favorite in a post-season interview on his official website, Verstappen picked his bold move on Raikkonen at the Circuit of The Americas that sparked controversy when he was penalized for completing the overtake off-track.

The Red Bull driver had charged from 16th on the grid to cross the line third, only for a five-second time penalty to deny him a podium and drop him to fourth in a snap call made before the post-race ceremony.

“Of course, at first your initial reaction is something like: ‘Why? It was a great move.’ But when you look at the rules, it was not correct,” Verstappen said.

“Nothing was by the book that whole weekend. Drivers were getting off track without being penalized for it. But you always need to focus on the positives: it was still a nice race and everyone enjoyed the excitement all the way down to the final lap.

“It’s always nice to be on the podium, but to finish fourth after having started sixteenth, is still a great result.

“It wasn’t as painful as most people thought it was. In the end I made my peace with it.”

Asked if it was his best move of the year, Verstappen said: “Yes, because this year I actually didn’t have that many overtakes.

“With this car you are actually only able to overtake on the straights, which is really not that satisfying compared to last year.”