Verstappen hit with grid penalty for dangerous parking

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Max Verstappen will start tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix from 18th place after being hit with a grid penalty for parking his Toro Rosso in a dangerous manner during qualifying on Saturday.

Verstappen suffered an electrical issue on his STR10 coming out of turn 11 at Suzuka, causing his car to lose power and come to a halt.

The Dutchman failed to park his car in a safe position that was out of the way of the oncoming cars, instead leaving it on the racing line.

This forced the marshals to issue double waved yellow flags that prevented all of the drivers behind from improving their lap times, causing some to drop out of qualifying as a result.

Verstappen managed to get through to the second session in P8, but the issue meant that he could take no part in Q2, leaving him 15th in the final classification.

The stewards looked dimly on his efforts to get the car stopped in a safe place, though, and opted to hand the 17-year-old a three-place grid penalty.

“Car 33 [Verstappen] stopped on the racing line in a potentially dangerous position,” the stewards wrote.

“The driver initially moved to the left side of the track towards a safe position and when it was about to stop, moved to the right onto the racing line, where it eventually stopped. This caused double yellow flags to be shown and endangered oncoming drivers.”

Verstappen was disappointed to have suffered the technical issue in qualifying, but remains upbeat ahead of his first grand prix at the iconic Suzuka circuit.

“Certainly not the best of days,” Verstappen said. “I had a sudden loss of power, all the electricity shut down in the hairpin and from there on I couldn’t do anything.

“It’s very frustrating, because the car was going very well, but in the end it is what it is. We might be on the back foot again before the race, but we never give up.

“Hopefully tomorrow we have a bit more luck and can enjoy a good race – it would be good if some rain spices it all up! Our objective will be to finish within the top ten. We have to do some overtaking again, but I’m ready for it!”

The Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 12:30am ET on Sunday.

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

Robert Wickens Indy 500
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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.