IndyCar: Double Sunday Toronto podium fuels TK’s recent surge

1 Comment

A year ago, Sebastien Bourdais finished second in race one and third in race two in Toronto to be the second driver with two podiums in the doubleheader weekend, behind double race winner Scott Dixon.

This Sunday, it was Tony Kanaan who was the only driver to bag a pair of podiums in the same weekend for the Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader. He finished third in race one, second in race two.

It’s a bit of a surprise, to be honest, given TK’s recent record on street courses. The last year he finished on the podium on street courses more than once was in 2011, when he finished third at both St. Petersburg and Baltimore driving for KV Racing Technology.

He matched that podium total in a single day today in Toronto; coupled with his third in Race 1 at Detroit, TK now has three street course podiums this season as he and the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team begins to hit its stride.

Kanaan led 325 laps in the previous two race weekends at Pocono and Iowa, coming up short on both occasions, but had by far his best weekend on a road or street course in a long time with his performance on Sunday.

The 39-year-old Brazilian put it down primarily to time, as now having had nearly a full season with Ganassi after three years with KV, Kanaan and his crew are gelling heading into the home stretch.

“I think it’s just time,” Kanaan said. “I had a big responsibility replacing Dario (Franchitti). That team was built around him. It was very unexpected, his retirement. It takes time to get to know people. It takes time to get the chemistry… Dario worked with (engineer) Chris Simmons for seven years. I worked with Eric Cowdin for 12. We found different things.  Target gives us the budget… so we need to perform. I’m not gonna say it clicked, but all those things together gives us a big improvement.”

After race one, when he finished third after starting fifth, said Kanaan’s end result was “better” but still not ultimately what they wanted.

“We knew this year we were struggling the most on the street and road courses instead of the oval, so it definitely feels good,” he said.  “I would say feels better.  Me and Dixon are putting pressure on the engineers and working closely together to make sure that’s going to happen soon.”

In race two, Kanaan survived a first lap run-in with the Turn 3 tire barrier as he stopped just shy. He moved to the back of the field but in a methodical drive, plus the call to move onto slicks in the final pit sequence, Kanaan was back in podium contention by the end of the race held in mixed conditions.

“Either I went in too deep or got hit, but I got stuck in Turn 3. The car died and I was desperate to restart,” he said, while thanking the Holmatro Safety Team for getting him going so quickly. “We did from dead last, then did a bit of a strategy. It was extremely slippery in the rain. When dry, we went for it. We just ran out of time.”

But after the near misses at Pocono and Iowa, and the would-have-been podium at Houston Race 1, Kanaan and the 10 team may not be out of time for banking a win this year. If they do, coincidentally, they’d be the 10th different winner this season – and Kanaan could well pull it off at any of the four remaining races.

Kanaan now sits eighth in points after a banner Sunday north of the border, where he banked his first two podiums in 12 career Toronto starts.

F1 Preview: 2018 Australian Grand Prix

Photo: Getty Images
Leave a comment

Save for two occasions, in 2006, and 2010, the Australian Grand Prix has served as the season-opening event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship since 1996, and this weekend’s event will be the 21st time that the city of Melbourne has kicked off the Formula 1 campaign.

The 2018 season is the fifth one of the current hybrid power unit era, the second season of the current aero regulations, and the second under Liberty Media’s guidance.

Last year saw titans Mercedes AMG Petronas and Scuderia Ferrari duel for supremacy for most of the season before Mercedes distanced Ferrari late in the season to take the constructor’s title and the driver’s title, with Lewis Hamilton, who is now tied with Sebastian Vettel on four world championships apiece.

Four drivers on the grid have Formula 1 world championships to their name: Hamilton, Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, and Fernando Alonso. Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also has a world championship to his name as a two-time titlist in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

So, what can viewers expect from the 2018 curtain-raiser in Australia? A handful of things to watch are below?

2018 Australian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Does Anyone Have Anything for Mercedes?

Only on one day during pre-season testing did a Mercedes driver lead the way – Lewis Hamilton was fastest on the final day of Week 1 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, all indications were that was by design, with the team focusing the majority of the second week, if not the entire second week, on long runs with their W09 EQ Power+ chassis.

Such a decision is an ominous one, in that it indicates the team is very comfortable with the amount of speed in the car and did not see a need, or desire, to show their hand during testing.

With that in mind, the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas may yet again have the best and fastest cars, and the team looks poised to potentially make it five constructor’s and driver’s championships in a row.

Ferrari and Red Bull Look to End Mercedes Reign

The biggest threats to Mercedes are undoubtedly Ferrari and Red Bull, the only other teams to win in 2017.

And both teams displayed a lot of pace during testing, particularly in the “one-lap speed” category. Ricciardo set a lap record around the Catalunya circuit during the second week, only for Vettel to supplant that mark later in the week. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen led the way during the final day of testing.

It is unknown how that pace will translate over the course of a race distance. Mercedes appeared to have an edge on both Ferrari and Red Bull over long runs and race simulations, but there is also a theory that neither Ferrari nor Red Bull had their true long-run form on display.

Still, if a team is going to knock off Mercedes, it will likely be either Ferrari or Red Bull.

McLaren on the Rebound?

Put simply, the previous three seasons for McLaren F1 Team were a bit of a disaster. Their partnership with Honda yielded point totals of 27 (2015), 76 (2016), and 30 (2017) in a three-year venture that was defined by poor reliability and underwhelming power.

The relationship hit a boiling point last year and both entities parted ways ahead of the 2018 season, with McLaren signing a new power unit deal with Renault.

Testing went better than in previous years, though the team continued to battle reliability problems. However, all issues appeared to be minor, needling issues rather than more significant, foundational problems, as the other Renault teams (Red Bull and Renault Sport F1 Team) had solid runs with few reliability issues.

The car does appear to have speed in it, so if the reliability problems are behind them, McLaren could be in for a rebound season.

Stuck in the Midfield Again

Formula 1’s battle amongst the midfield is set to be as fierce as ever as a host of a several teams have a chance at being “best of the rest.”

Sahara Force India has been the frontrunner from the the midfield teams each of the last two years, finishing fourth in the constructor’s title in both 2016 and 2017, though if the steady conflict between drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez continues through 2018, it could hamper their efforts significantly.

Renault Sport F1 Team and Haas F1 Team look to improve on their 2017 form, while Toro Rosso is in a new partnership with Honda power units…and has experienced a surprisingly smooth pre-season as Honda’s 2018 platform looks significantly better, with the team enjoying a solid run of testing with few, if any, reliability problems.

Williams Martini Racing and Alfa Romeo Sauber appear to be at the back of the pack entering the season, but both could battle for points finishes if those ahead of them falter.