JR Hildebrand sustains hand injury at end of Long Beach race (VIDEO)

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – A seemingly innocuous bit of contact between Mikhail Aleshin and JR Hildebrand on the 85th and final lap of today’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the second race of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, has left Hildebrand with a broken bone in his left hand and not yet cleared to drive.

Aleshin and Hildebrand collided and it knocked the Sausalito, Calif. native, back for his first full season in the series for the first time since 2012, into the runoff. Hildebrand’s car got airborne briefly when trying to overtake Aleshin, and then slid into the runoff.

Hildebrand, driver of the No. 21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing retired from the race at that point and Aleshin was docked one position for blocking.

In a statement, INDYCAR medical director Dr. Geoffrey Billows said Hildebrand will be re-evaluated upon his return to Indianapolis this week and has not been cleared to drive.

“At the end of the race, we all were bunched back up because of that last yellow,” Hildebrand explained. “I was on reds and had a little bit for at least the handful of cars in front of us. On the last lap, I was making a move on Mikhail Aleshin and I could tell he was struggling.

“I was out of push-to-pass so I was trying to make a proper, full-out pass down he front straightaway. He had been starting to move over, not a major blocking maneuver but enough to assert his line. He hit the brake a lot earlier than I was expecting and I ended up running into the back of him.

“In doing so, it ripped the steering wheel from my hand and I ended up tweaking it. At the end of the day, to come home with an 11th place finish isn’t terrible. It is a bummer though as we were certainly on our way to finishing in the Top 10 and now we are in a bit of a jam going forward. Hopefully I can get back to it here before the next race.”

The contact was Aleshin’s second of the day, the first of which occurred with Tony Kanaan and left the Brazilian with a flat left rear tire.

A less than pleased Kanaan took to Twitter shortly thereafter, as this was his second contact with Aleshin in as many races.

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.