Lotus say Vettel, not penalties, spoiled Grosjean’s race

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The greatest damage to Romain Grosjean’s victory chances in the Hungarian Grand Prix was not done by his penalties during and after the race, according to Lotus.

The team believe the real harm to Grosjean’s hopes of scoring his first win in Hungary were done when he got stuck behind Sebastian Vettel.

Grosjean came close to passing Vettel at the start but the Red Bull driver gave him little space on the run to turn one, ensuring the Lotus stayed behind. Grosjean spent the next two stints in Vettel’s wheel tracks.

“It could have been better, yes, but we were not expecting to get stuck behind Vettel at the beginning of the race, to be honest,” team principal Boullier said to Autosport. “After that, the chance for Romain to win was off.”

Boullier added they were able to be flexible with Grosjean’s strategy because of how well the Lotus treated its tires. But as they tried to maneuver Grosjean into a position where he could jump Vettel, he ended up stuck in more traffic.

Grosjean picked up two places during the course of the race. One, for overtaking Felipe Massa off the track, resulted in a drive-through penalty. After the race he was given a further 20-second penalty for colliding with Jenson Button.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “