Late-race attrition adds twist to Monaco GP, six cars out in 20 laps (VIDEOS)

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Sebastian Vettel may have looked calm on the podium after clinching victory in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix, but some late-race drama caused by cars further back had put him under far greater pressure in the closing stages.

Vettel leapfrogged Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen through the pit stops to take the lead of the race at half distance before surging 10 seconds clear.

However, Vettel’s lead was wiped away when the safety car was deployed following a clash between Jenson Button and Pascal Wehrlein at Portier, one of the tightest parts of the circuit.

Battling for 18th place, Button tried diving down the inside of Wehrlein, only for the pair to knock wheels and the German’s Sauber to tip in the air, coming to rest at a 90-degree angle up against the wall.

The incident sparked concern among the passing drivers, but Wehrlein soon reported to his team that he was OK, and simply could not get out of his car due to the position of the wall.

The Monegasque marshals were quick to come to Wehrlein’s aid and right his car before sending him off to the medical center for a check-up.

The incident acted as the first in a string of late drama that saw six cars drop out in the close 21 laps, with the safety car bunching the field and resulting in some desperate moves.

The next retirement came courtesy of Marcus Ericsson in one of the more embarrassing mistakes you will see in F1 this year as he crashed behind the safety car.

As a lapped car, Ericsson was given the wave-by to pass the safety car and try to unlap himself, only to duff his Sauber into the wall at Turn 1 in the process.

Turn 1 would claim another victim on the restart when Stoffel Vandoorne threw away McLaren’s chance to score its first points of the year. As Sergio Perez made a divebomb move up the inside, Vandoorne was unable to slow on the marbles and careered straight into the barrier, bringing his race to an end.

Perez continued to charge after passing Vandoorne, making an opportunistic move on Daniil Kvyat through La Rascasse. The pair made contact, leaving a hole in Kvyat’s sidepod and forcing the Russian driver to park up at Casino Square.

The final casualty of the race was Lance Stroll, who after reporting concerns with his brakes was seen being parked up in his garage with seven laps to go, extending the Canadian’s point-less start to life in F1.

Rahal determined to regain winning touch in 2019 IndyCar season

Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher, INDYCAR
INDYCAR
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AUSTIN, Texas – Graham Rahal entered the room with a smile on his face and a chip on his shoulder.

It was IndyCar “Media Day” and Rahal wasn’t happy with the way last season went at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He was less happy with the fact some aren’t considering him a serious threat in 2019. He playfully chided with one media outlet for failing to mention his team as one to watch in 2019.

“We use that as motivation to show everybody how we are viewed,” Rahal said. “We are here to win.”

Rahal just turned 30 in January but is entering his 13thseason in big-time Indy car racing. He entered the 2007 Champ Car Series season when he was just 17. He missed his high school prom because he was racing at Houston.

“That was the luckiest day of my life,” Rahal said. “I didn’t have to go to the prom. It doesn’t get any better than that.

“Plus, I got my second career podium that weekend.”

Rahal drove to victory in his very first race in the combined IndyCar Series in the 2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He was hailed as the “Poster Boy of Unification” and a future star. What followed was a seven-year drought before he captured his second-career win in a thrilling race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

He won two races in 2015, one in 2016 and two in 2017. He was expected to contend for victories and possibly the championship last year but struggled through a disappointing season and finished eighth in the standings.

“I’m looking forward for chance this year,” Rahal said. “Last year was a tough one for me and for the team. I’m looking forward to what my new engineer, Allen McDonald, has done so far. He is an accomplished engineer and brings a different mindset to our program this year from what we had last year. He and (fellow engineer) Eddie Jones are very close friends and that will help us from the standpoint they are on the same page.

“We needed a bit of life brought back to the team.”

Rahal believes his challenges are to get everything in order before the season starts. The team has defined the areas where it was lacking in 2019. The team needed to improve in research and development after starting behind last season.

“I’m excited for what I see, and I know in the end it will all pay off,” Rahal said. “It’s just a matter of when.

“There is a lot to be excited about for us. We are in a great position as a team. We have great sponsorship and that will allow us to push forward and do the things we need to do.”

Rahal believes at 30, he has a long time ahead of him to win races and championships and maybe even the Indianapolis 500. In order to reach those goals, however, Rahal’s team needs to regain the competitive level he displayed prior to last year.

“We’ve been fortunate to win six times,” Rahal said. “A lot of people come into this sport and never win. I fully recognize there is no reason we can’t win a lot. I don’t care what anybody writes, what anybody thinks – I really feel that when it comes to race day, we perform better than 99 percent of the other people out there.

“As a team and for myself, we have to qualify better. If we can qualify better, we’ll be a thorn in everybody’s side. We know the rear of our cars just aren’t good enough. When we need to find that extra tenth or two, it’s just not there but absolutely, we want to win.

“I don’t come here year after year to just drive around. Our sponsors don’t invest in us year after year to not see us win. We feel that. But our cars aren’t good enough and we know that.”

Rahal believes the team has identified the problems with the setup of its car. It has a deep engineering staff but hasn’t had a chance to develop the damper program and other important areas that provide a competition setup.

Takuma Sato, the winner of the 101stIndianapolis 500 when he was with Andretti Autosport, scored the team’s only victory in 2018 with a win in the Portland Grand Prix. The two are back this year and have built a respect for each other.

“He’s a good guy,” Rahal said of Sato. “Other than Helio Castroneves, Takuma is probably the happiest man on the planet. He’s a great guy and fits in well with our organization. We pride ourselves on being a family and he fits in extremely well to that.

“We need to do a better job for him as a team. He won a race last year, but we can both do better to win with both cars.

“The Andretti cars are the best right now and the Penske cars will be good. We have a lot of space to close up on those two teams but hopefully, we can do it.”