Tough day, weekend for IndyCar’s pair of Canadians on home soil

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When all was said and done, the IZOD IndyCar Series’ pair of Canadians had a mixed and unfulfilling Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader weekend.

That’s not to say there weren’t some decent results, but a solitary eighth (James Hinchcliffe on Saturday) and 10th (Alex Tagliani on Sunday) are hardly worth celebrating.

Hinchcliffe drove a clean, consistent race one en route to eighth on Saturday, but his Sunday never had the chance to properly materialize. The Andretti Autosport team needed to change Hinchcliffe’s throttle as it stuck just prior to the start. That meant the Oakville native wouldn’t have the chance to participate in IndyCar’s first standing start.

“The throttle stuck (on the start) – it’s pretty simple. I was just going through the routine of the standing start, and as soon as I put my thumb on the throttle, it stuck 100 percent, and that was about a minute before they gave the command (to start engines). We tried WD-40, but unfortunately that wasn’t the magic fix, and we had to replace the pedal and went three laps down right off the bat. Then we had no yellows to help us out; we ran around in the back all day. Obviously gutted for the team and for GoDaddy, but more than anyone for the fans. It sucks for everyone that came out today. I was hoping for better in my hometown. But we weren’t going to give up – I wanted to go out, finish the race and get any points we could,” said the “Mayor of Hinchtown.”

Tagliani, meanwhile, at least could take some satisfaction in his and the Barracuda Racing/Bryan Herta Autosport’s first top-10 finish since the season opener at St. Petersburg on Sunday.  Usually a wordsmith who is never shy of sentences, Tagliani had a succinct quote on his day.

“I gave it everything I had out there for the Barracuda Racing boys,” he said.

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.