One of the highlights of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend came not during any of the on-track scheduled sessions themselves, but in a single-lap run by Sam Schmidt in a modified 2014 Corvette C7 Stingray.
As he did in Indianapolis last year on pole day Sunday, Schmidt got behind the wheel of the SAM Car he controls only with his head – operating the car with his head and mouth only. It’s a design feat pulled off by Arrow Electronics, which initially came to Schmidt with the idea.
Sunday in Long Beach marked the first time that this vehicle designed for quadriplegic drivers navigated the twists, turns and concrete barriers of a streets course. But Schmidt pulled it off with aplomb.
“It’s basically a miracle to even be involved in the project,” Schmidt said, via IndyCar.com. “It was sort of the honeymoon effect going to Indy and getting to 107 (mph); basically checking everything off the list. But that was a seven-month process to get there. Then it was a step back and say, ‘Hey, we want to keep going and take it to the next level,’ and clearly that was make the acceleration and deceleration more in control, more intuitive.
“Then how are we going to challenge ourselves, and the challenge is to go left and right in an instantaneous fashion.”
Schmidt’s preparation for Long Beach was chronicled in an NBC Nightly News segment last night, where Harry Smith spoke to Schmidt during a test session at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.
SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.
The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.
Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.
Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.
But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.
It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.
Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.