IndyCar: Hawksworth drives from last to third for first career podium

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Starting 23rd and last on Sunday, there wasn’t much in the way of odds on Jack Hawksworth scoring his first career podium finish in the No. 98 Integrity Energee Drink BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda.

Then again, this was a Verizon IndyCar Series weekend in Houston where nothing seemed to go according to odds and plan. And thus, the English rookie who’s shown so much speed in qualifying and some races this year delivered a dynamic comeback drive from the rear of the field up to third by the checkered flag.

A methodical drive forward coupled with being in the right position on pit strategy left Hawksworth in the top five despite a flurry of mid-race cautions. From there, his final stint of the race saw him, Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball locked in an intense battle for fourth place, with Hawksworth doing everything within his power to hold the other two off.

Fourth became third when Will Power had a mechanical issue with two laps remaining, and suddenly Hawksworth made it through to the podium behind the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates.

It betters his Saturday result of sixth, after he’d started 21st, which had been his previous best result. Additionally, it’s the team’s first podium finish since the team’s first and thus far only career victory achieved by the late Dan Wheldon at the 2011 Indianapolis 500. In two full seasons of 2012 and 2013, the team captured several top-fives but had not returned to the top three.

“Just a fantastic day really. We’ve started at the front so many times but it’s not happened for us. Today we were terrible qualifying and ended up on the podium,” Hawksworth said to NBCSN post-race.

“We passed cars at the right time. It’s been tough, we’ve been so good this year but it hasn’t come together. I’m just so delighted for the whole team. Just really proud of all the guys, totally deserved.”

Hawksworth is the fourth rookie and 16th driver overall to score a podium this season. He praised the level of competition as well.

“The competition in the whole field has been strong all year,” he said. “Really anyone can stick it on the pole or win a race. And each weekend it seems to change. So you have to be perfect every weekend.”

And on a weekend where he had a practice crash and two of his worst starts of his young career, Hawksworth made his results count.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.