Verstappen defends decision to defy STR team orders

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Max Verstappen has defended his decision to defy team orders from Scuderia Toro Rosso in the closing stages of Sunday’s Singapore Grand Prix en route to eighth place.

Verstappen stalled off the line, leaving him in need of a push back to the pit lane where his mechanics restarted the car and sent him out into the race, albeit a lap down on the leaders.

A safety car period allowed the Dutchman to unlap himself before rising back up through the field, running just inside the top ten in the closing stages of the race.

However, he was quickly being caught by teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. on fresher tires, and with a few laps to go, the team gave Verstappen the call to move over and let the Spaniard past so he could try and attack Sergio Perez ahead.

Verstappen reacted angrily to this, though, shouting “no!” back across the radio. The team asked him a second time, but once again he refused. He eventually crossed the line over one second clear of Sainz to finish the race eighth.

“My pace was great and once again I really enjoyed all the overtaking,” Verstappen said after the race. “I don’t think there was any reason for me to give up my position.

“After going from being one lap behind to being back in the points, I think I deserved that P8.”

Sainz was less impressed by Verstappen’s decision, and claimed that he would have given the position back to the Dutchman had he failed to pass Perez if he’d been given the chance.

“After seeing him try to overtake him for 10 laps, I just thought maybe I could try during one lap, and if I hadn’t been able to I would’ve given the position back to Max,” Sainz explained.

“I just wanted my chance, but he decided not to give it to me. It’s something we need to talk about as a team.”

Speaking after the race, team boss Franz Tost backed Verstappen’s decision, saying that Sainz had not got close enough to warrant being allowed to pass.

“At the end of the race, we thought that Carlos would catch Max faster, because he had new option tires on, while Max had fitted used options,” Tost said.

“Therefore, we calculated that Carlos could’ve had a better chance to attack Perez, but he didn’t close the gap to Max well enough to really demonstrate that he could do this, so there was no reason to end up swapping their positions.”

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens later tweeted about the possibility of racing the Indy 500 and said his goal was “always to get back to the top level of motorsport” whether it’s IndyCar or IMSA.

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.