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Hinchcliffe podium anchors strong runs for Canadian drivers in Toronto

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Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe has endured a tough run of races since his win at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. In the nine races since then, he has only had three finishes inside the top 10, with two crashes (Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway) and an engine failure (Detroit Race 2) featured in that stretch, in a season that became somewhat defined by bad luck.

However, the Honda Indy Toronto brought about a welcome change, with Hinchcliffe qualifying sixth and then catching a lucky break when he pitted right before a caution flew for Tony Kanaan nosing into the turn 1 tire barriers.

From there, Hinchcliffe cycled back into the top five, where he stayed for the rest of the race to finish third, his second consecutive podium finish in his home race.

James Hinchcliffe has scored back-to-back podiums in Toronto. Photo: IndyCar

“The yellow just came at the right time but we had the pace at the end there,” Hinchcliffe told NBCSN’s Jon Beekhuis afterward. “We were catching Alex and Josef in that last stint. The car really came alive on the blacks so big thanks to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, all the guys – great stops — and all the fans in Toronto. I mean the support that we feel each and every year is amazing. You guys are the best! You came even when the weather wasn’t looking awesome and hung out with us and we appreciate it. So thanks to all of you guys. Next year, maybe a couple of spots better.”

What’s more, Hinchcliffe’s podium completes a strong weekend for Canadian drivers across the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

Red Deer, Alberta native Parker Thompson won both races in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda for a Canadian team, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based Exclusive Autosport, while Montreal, Quebec native Zachary Claman de Melo finished second and third in his outings in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

Combined, the results of Hinchcliffe, Thompson, and Claman de Melo made it five podiums in five open-wheel races at Toronto, with a Canadian driver on the podium in every race.

“It’s great to get two podiums here in Toronto,” said Claman de Melo following his third-place finish in Race 2. “I’ve raced karts here since I was 8 years old and it’s like my second home. I’ve hit my rhythm, so things are starting to really come together for us now. The speed has always been there but we’re qualifying toward the front now, which makes the racing a lot easier.”

Thompson, meanwhile, was beyond elated to sweep both races in USF2000. “I’m surprised I still have a voice! What a feeling, to get two in ‘TO’ in front of the Canadian fans! I’d say this is unbelievable, but it’s passed that now and into its own new realm,” he revealed in Victory Lane.

For Hinchcliffe, the third-place finish puts him back in the top 10 in the championship, two points ahead of 11th-place Max Chilton.

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Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”