Castroneves emerges from Detroit Dual 1 as points leader


Difficult days for Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato, the IZOD IndyCar Series points leaders heading into Saturday in Detroit, shuffled the deck for tomorrow’s second race of the Chevrolet Indy Dual at Detroit (grid here).

Helio Castroneves, who finished fifth, now leads the standings by three points over Ryan Hunter-Reay (182-179). Andretti (178), Sato (168) and Justin Wilson (161) are all within striking distance.

“I just saw that I’m on top of the points, but I mean really Mike Conway, great job,” said the new points leader – at least for a day. “It just proves that the series is very competitive with the teams. And now we’ve taken the points lead, which is very good.”

Castroneves also led the points after Barber and Long Beach in April, but Detroit race one marked the fourth consecutive race where the lead has changed hands. Sato led it after his runner-up finish in Brazil, and Andretti took over the top spot after the Indianapolis 500. Two-time winner James Hinchcliffe, obviously, led the points after his win to open the season in St. Petersburg.

Sunday marked Andretti’s first race this season outside the top seven. He made contact with Sebastian Saavedra and pitched the Colombian into the barriers.

Some other points notes after Saturday in Detroit:

  • The top 10: Castroneves 182, Hunter-Reay 179, Andretti 178, Sato 168, Wilson 161, Scott Dixon 154, Hinchcliffe 143, Tony Kanaan 141, Simon Pagenaud 126, Charlie Kimball 122.
  • Beyond the top 10, E.J. Viso and Simona de Silvestro (117 apiece) have just 13 points between them and Graham Rahal, who is 16th.
  • Race winner Mike Conway (58 points, 24th) is ahead of Saavedra, despite running only two races to Saavedra’s six. Conway is only two behind AJ Allmendinger, who is 23rd. Conway has the potential to take all points but one of the maximum 108 this weekend if he wins on Sunday and leads the most laps.
  • Top-10s for Will Power (eighth) and Dario Franchitti (sixth) see them now 13th and 14th in the standings, separated by three markers (113-110).
  • Dragon Racing’s teammates Saavedra and Sebastien Bourdais are the only full-season drivers not to score a top-10, and rank 25th and 21st in the points.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, 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.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“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.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will 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 chief 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.