On Friday ahead of the United States Grand Prix, NBCSN’s Steve Matchett was given a chance to take a look around Caterham’s garage to give some insight into the workings of a V8 F1 engine – which is entering its penultimate race before the change to turbcharged V6s – and the chassis of a Formula One car.
Haas Formula 1 junior driver Santino Ferrucci picked up his maiden podium finish in GP3 on Sunday at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
The native of Woodbury, CT, moved into GP3 for 2016 with DAMS after spending a season-and-a-half in FIA F3, scoring his first points at Silverstone.
Ferrucci arrived in Spa coming off the back of points in both races in Germany before the summer break, and followed it up with a charge to seventh in the feature race on Saturday.
Ferrucci started Sunday’s sprint race from second place on the grid, and despite falling behind Jack Aitken and Antonio Fuoco, managed to keep his cool amid a number of safety car periods to finish third, marking his first podium finish in GP3.
Ferrucci is currently the only American racing in F1’s primary feeder series ladder (GP2 and GP3), and will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of compatriots Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly, both of whom raced in the series before moving into IndyCar.
Fernando Alonso will start Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix from last place on the grid after receiving a further penalty overnight for another power unit change.
Two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso was hit with a 35-place grid drop for taking a new power unit on Friday, mirroring a move made by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.
The Spaniard was unable to set a time in qualifying after an issue on his car forced him to stop on his out lap, prompting McLaren to change more components ahead of the race, resulting in another penalty.
Alonso’s total grid drop now amounts to 60 places, meaning he starts the race behind Hamilton who has a 55-place drop. Naturally, neither can serve their penalty in full, but they will start P21 and P22.
“Obviously it’s painful when you have reliability problems such as these, but at the end of the day it’s part of our learning process,” Alonso said after qualifying.
“We know what we have to do: we have to understand what’s still too fragile in the PU, reinforce those parts, and make sure that next year we have a PU that’s powerful and strong enough to be capable of fighting at the front.”
Alonso took to Instagram to make fun of the penalties, flipping the grid so that he and Hamilton would be on the front row.
Pole-sitter Nico Rosberg wasn’t having any of it though.
The Belgian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.
FORT WORTH – If you squinted hard enough, it was 2002 all over again.
“It took some old-school Texas right there,” said Tony Kanaan, who was actually there. “I had to dig into my hard drive and remember how to do pack racing again, and it worked out pretty well.”
For a few hours Saturday night, it was as if 14 years hadn’t passed since Texas Motor Speedway’s peak era of “pack racing.”
James Hinchcliffe wishes that were the case. If it were, he might have won the 2016 Firestone 600.
“My night was great until about eight minutes to go,” Hinchcliffe joked in the TMS media center after finishing second to Graham Rahal in a race that began 77 days earlier on June 12.
Hinchcliffe led 188 laps between June 12 and Aug. 27, but Rahal led only one – the big one – by a track record .008 seconds.
“I’ve seen so many races won here on the high line, coming to the line because you just have that momentum off of (Turn) 4,” Hinchcliffe said. “I was going — thinking back to my IRL Classic days and Sam Hornish Jr.’s tricks and all the rest of it, but man, Graham just pulled through (Turns) 3 and 4 like no one had all night.”
Hinchcliffe, who lapped the field up to fifth place, said his No. 5 Honda was an “absolute rocketship.”
But after a late afternoon practice session, Rahal told his team over the radio that his No. 15 Honda was “a f—ing rocketship.”
Rahal initiated The Dive as he, Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan approached Turn 3 for the last time.
Other drivers, including Kanaan, had made similar desperate maneuvers in the seven laps since the last restart.
Rahal, who had restarted the race in 12th and at one point in the night survived a four-wide pass, was the only one who made it work.
“Once I could get there, I could drive through them,” said Rahal, who had to juggle battling Kanaan for second while also trying to overtake Hinchcliffe. “It was just a matter of trying to pick your spot, and very fortunately at the end, I knew I was going to have to try to take Hinch to the top side because there was only one way actually to clear him, which was to the bottom, and I was just very lucky it worked.”
After constantly fending off Kanaan, Hinchcliffe had expected to contend with him coming to the checkers. To Hinchcliffe’s surprise, it was the No. 15 that finally bested him as Kanaan settle into third.
“I hadn’t been next to a car all night that cleared me that quickly,” Hinchcliffe said, his right hand on his face in disbelief. “You know, he had the pace when he needed to. That was the time to make that move, and like I said, credit to him.”
Rahal, who won three times in the last two seasons, was gracious to Hinchcliffe as he wore the cowboy hat that winners at TMS are bestowed. The hat he lost to Justin Wilson in 2012.
“I have to thank Hinch a lot because, first of all, we’re flying home together tonight, so at least it’s not going to be awkward,” Rahal joked. “Second of all, he gave me some good room at the bottom and didn’t end up in tears. Have to thank him for good, clean driving.”
As Rahal and his car were pushed toward a waiting victory lane, his teammates would not stop yelling.
Amid the hollers, one gray-clad team member declared simply – “That’s racing!”
Even though he led 188 laps and finished second, Hinchcliffe agrees with those who snatched away his shot to wear a 10-gallon hat and fire off six-shooters.
“I had a blast. That’s the problem. I had an absolute blast. Had I not led every lap of the race, I would be much happier than I am,” Hinchcliffe said. “Certainly at the end we put on a hell of a show for the fans, and that’s what we’re here for … It would have been a lot more boring if some car just won by half a straightaway.”
That’s coming from the driver who until a series of late cautions, likely would have done that exact thing.
“It’s also a lot different than what it used to be,” Rahal said. “It is not just flat-out easy pack racing anymore. I mean, you were lifting a heck of a lot in traffic, but the way these cars suck up nowadays, the draft is huge so it just makes the racing awesome.”
It may have looked like 2002. But in 2016, it might have been better.
The resumption of the Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway offered Simon Pagenaud a challenge: recover from his first and thus far only mistake of the year on Monday in Pocono and put forth a championship-caliber performance, or incur a second straight dud result that could put pause to those hopes.
But despite the “weird” nature of the day that faced him going into it, Pagenaud delivered a key drive aided by a good strategic call from his No. 22 Hewlett Packard Enterprise Team Penske Chevrolet team to secure a potentially pivotal fourth place finish for the rest of the Verizon IndyCar Series season.
After a spate of late-race accidents, Pagenaud was one of two drivers along with Tony Kanaan who opted to pit for fresh Firestone tires.
The gamble paid dividends because inevitably, those cars with the fresher tires would move towards the front in the later stages.
Pagenaud, who’s certainly been better on ovals this season in his second year with Team Penske but hasn’t yet had that incredible “tip of your tongue” memory oval drive, had to balance fighting for the win with three hungry drivers who hadn’t yet won this year – Kanaan, James Hinchcliffe and eventual winner Graham Rahal.
But he did just that, fighting hard yet clean in an intense four-way battle on a night he needed a big result to restart his title momentum, in a race that was looming large on the calendar.
Yeah, he ended fourth – but with Will Power in eighth, he gained eight points to stretch his lead to 28 points – and that provides the latest pendulum swing between the two in a year full of them.
“My spotter said, ‘four-wide’, and I’m like uh, oh, that’s no good,” Pagenaud said post-race. “And then Rahal touched me and I touched Hinchcliffe, so I was actually loose going into the corner and had to back out of it.
“It’s unfortunate. I really wanted to get that first oval win. But, I think no matter what, that was a great performance. The HP car was amazing all night. Thanks to Chevy, obviously; this aero kit is really amazing. It really shows what the IndyCars can do. I think tonight we had a great show. Did you guys enjoy it? I did. I didn’t have any breath left, you know?
“Wow. That was exciting! I don’t think I have any breath left. I thought we were going to get it, but when it went four wide I got touched and pushed me into (James Hinchcliffe) and I had to back out of it or there was going to be a big wreck. The Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chevy just got better and better all night. I really thought it was going to come together right at the end when we got back on the lead lap. We were able to come in for tires. Everything nearly came together.”