After Saturday crash, Sunday’s better for Hinchcliffe in Houston

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Normally a cheerful guy, James Hinchcliffe was anything but after he failed to get out of his grid spot and was then hit from behind by Ed Carpenter off the standing start of yesterday’s Race 1 of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.

Hinchcliffe wouldn’t divulge what happened during the incident on Saturday, only noting that he knew what the issue had been. But following Sunday’s Race 2, he was back to his happy self after notching a podium finish – his first since winning at Iowa Speedway seven races ago – with a third-place run.

“I’m really glad this was a doubleheader and we had a chance to redeem ourselves,” Hinchcliffe said after his fourth podium of 2013. “Obviously, yesterday didn’t go – I’m not gonna say ‘not go quite as planned’, it didn’t go anything close to planned. It was a solid race.

“We started eighth, picked some guys off, some guys had problems, but at the end of the day, when we cleared some cars, we had decent pace – not quite up to the par of Scott [Dixon] or [race winner] Will [Power], who were the class of the field for sure, but when you’re keeping guys like Justin Wilson and Sebastien Bourdais behind you on a street circuit, you’re doing something right.”

Like many, however, his thoughts were with Dario Franchitti, who was taken to a local hospital after he was launched into the Turn 5 catch fence following contact with Takuma Sato during the final lap of today’s race.

When Hinchcliffe was asked to describe making his way through the aftermath of the incident at the end of the race, he said it was the biggest debris field he had seen in a crash since what he called “that race in 2011” – a seeming reference to the massive, 15-car incident that took the life of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two years ago.

“It’s never what you want to see,” Hinchcliffe said of Sunday’s crash. “You know how fast that part of the track is. It’s bumpy and we’ve come completely sideways over some of the bumps there.

“I don’t want to say it was a matter of time before somebody got it wrong – obviously, those were two guys racing side-by-side – but it’s almost not even hard to have a single-car wreck in that corner, which should be a pretty straightforward, flat-out piece of race track. It definitely keeps you on your toes, and to get that kind of speed, to launch into the air, it’s not what you want to see.”

Hinchcliffe then expressed his relief that Franchitti would be alright – and his own belief that the three-time Indianapolis 500 winner would “fight on.”

“He’s come back from worse, that’s for sure,” he said.

Brown: Dennis would have made same decision on McLaren-Honda split

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Zak Brown believes former McLaren team boss Ron Dennis would have made the same decision to cut ties with struggling Formula 1 engine partner Honda had he still been in charge at the team in 2017.

McLaren executive director Brown helped engineer a deal for the team to split with Honda at the end of the 2017 season after three tough seasons that had seen the Japanese manufacturer offer little in the way of performance or reliability.

The decision split opinion, with McLaren spurning a significant annual financial injection from Honda in order to link up with Renault, believing its on-track fortunes had to be prioritized over its commercial interests.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Brown was asked if he believed Dennis – McLaren’s long-running team chief before stepping down at the end of 2016 – would have made the same decision to cut ties with Honda.

“I think he would have,” Brown said.

“He was here when those conversations were ongoing and I think Ron always has and always will have the best interests of McLaren in his heart.

“He is Mr. McLaren. It burns him inside as much as us not to see us winning races.”

Brown also elaborated on the decision to break off the much-lauded relationship with Honda, saying the first signs of trouble with the 2017 power unit were clear in pre-season.

After a number of attempts to try and rectify the situation, Brown and his fellow team bosses felt there was no alternative but to end the Honda deal for 2018.

“We knew we were in trouble in testing in Barcelona and we worked really hard for six months to try and find solutions that would give us confidence that we’d be much more competitive in 2018,” Brown said.

“Ultimately, after trying many different things and many different ways we felt we couldn’t get there.

“Three years is a long time in Formula 1 and so we needed to change the direction to get our team back at the top.”