Last year’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach saw Will Power overcome a 10-spot grid penalty and hold off a hard-charging Simon Pagenaud in the closing laps to win at the famous street circuit for the second time.
Power and all the other Chevrolet-powered drivers were forced to take those penalties because of the Bowtie’s decision to swap all of its engines. In a test session at Sonoma Raceway just days before the event weekend, issues were discovered on James Hinchcliffe’s Chevy powerplant that the manufacturer felt could affect every driver within its ranks.
At the start of the race, Power was 12th but still made his way through the field with the help of a two-stop strategy. He took the lead on Lap 71 after Pagenaud made his third stop of the afternoon.
But the Frenchman was far from done. Coming out of the pits in fourth position, he quickly hacked into Power’s sizable advantage with laps that were more than a second quicker than the leaders. He hunted down Rubens Barrichello for third, then dusted Takuma Sato for second place with six laps left.
Unfortunately for Pagenaud, he simply ran out of time as Power held on to win by .87 of a second.
“We saved enough fuel to be able to push for the last two laps, so I felt we were pretty safe,” said Power. “The only thing was the couple of back markers there on the last [lap]. That was the only thing that really concerned me. But apart from that, it was just running as hard as I possibly could, getting a good lap time with high fuel mileage, and that was the key to the race.”
Despite the engine penalties, Chevy-powered drivers earned four of the top five spots at the finish: Power in first, Hinchcliffe in third, Tony Kanaan in fourth, and J.R. Hildebrand in fifth.
You can catch the 2013 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach next Sunday at 4 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.
Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States
Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.
“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”
In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.
With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.
In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.
“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.
“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”
Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said. “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”
Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.
“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.
“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”
Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.