Pagenaud wins chaotic Indy road race

Pagenaud wins chaotic Indy road race

11 May 2014 – Heading into the final few laps of the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, a handful of drivers were in position to win, it just depended on whether or not their fuel would hold out. After seeing no fewer than four race leaders have to pit for fuel with the checkered flag in sight, Simon Pagenaud emerged victorious, proving he had just enough left in the tank – both mentally and literally.

The Frenchman's car died a short distance past the yard of bricks on the cool-down lap, but the victory was already his, holding off Ryan Hunter-Reay and a charging Helio Castroneves (who was on newer tyres and had confidence in his fuel load). It was Pagenaud's third career win but undoubtedly one of his most memorable given that he's the first victor of an IndyCar road course race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 0.8906s triumph came after a carnage-filled 82 laps, the final 28 of which were spent by Sam Schmidt Motorsports wondering if their driver would make it to the end. The fuel calculations proved to be accurate, as did the choice to put on black tyres in the final pit stop – something none of the other top six runners did.

For as intense as the race's last laps turned out to be, it will also be remembered for the violent crash during the sport's second standing start of the year. Pole-sitter Sebastian Saavedra stalled his car as the lights went out, leaving him helplessly stranded as the field began to shoot around him. Carlos Munoz caught sight of the Colombian's car too late, clipping the stationary left rear tyre. Saavedra was sent right into the path of Russian Mikhail Aleshin who, after starting at the back of the pack, had gathered a head of speed before the impact.

Debris flew in every direction, including toward the mayor of Indianapolis who sustained a minor soft tissue injury as a result. Thankfully his was the only injury in the incident as all drivers were able to walk away unharmed.

That meant the first 11 laps of the race would be run under caution, though, routing the cars through the pit lane during cleanup. This allowed Juan Pablo Montoya, who stalled in an unrelated incident at the start, to get re-fired and catch up with the field, now being led by Ryan Hunter-Reay.

On the ensuing restart, a charging Jack Hawksworth, who had shared the front row with Saavedra, slid his way into P2 and then the lead around turn 4. Pagenaud also got around Hunter-Reay, who was then having to fend off Scott Dixon and Will Power. The rookie at the front of the field, though, was not concerned with the battles behind him, soon growing a 2.7s lead over the next 15 laps.

Castroneves pitted on Lap 20, slightly out of sequence to get a jump on the field – something he would embrace later in the race. It would be another eight laps before the leaders began to pit under green, most of whom switched to the black tyres. Hawksworth, who first pitted on Lap 28, chose the reds, allowing him to build another gap on his second stint.

Caution next came out on Lap 42 after a wheel-to-wheel battle between Dixon and Power led to the defending series champion locking tyres and striking the sidepod of Power. Dixon would be beached for a while, but he would be able to resume the race.

Caught again in a moment of good timing, Castroneves, who turned 39 today, was in the pit lane when the caution came out. When a few cars ahead of him pitted under caution, he made up a handful of positions to better his chances at claiming a birthday victory.

The leaders pitted again with Hawksworth going to blacks and Pagenaud to reds, setting up an important restart, but they would have to work their way through several cars who didn't pit, including new race leader Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Justin Wilson, Castroneves (who had just pitted) and Oriol Servia. Those strategies would all prove helpful, giving almost all of those men a chance to lead the race late.

An unusually clean restart saw the cars spread five abreast on the massive IMS fronstraight, but on the nearly-as-long backstretch, Martin Plowman spun under braking, hitting a kerb tail-first. He was subsequently launched into the air, landing on and destroying the back of Franck Montagny's Andretti Autosport machine. The former Super Aguri Formula 1 driver was uninjured, but his race – and perhaps that of the car Kurt Busch was to use in Indy 500 qualifying next week – was run.

More chaos ensued on the next restart with an accordion effect of cars causing Graham Rahal to be punted into retirement by Montoya.

Another round of pit stops saw the out-of-sequence Castroneves inherit the race lead with just 28 laps to go.  Trailing the Brazilian was Charlie Kimball, the man who started P23, and Hawksworth.

The race restarted again on Lap 56, calmly led to the flag by Castroneves, who slowed up the field in the penultimate turn instead of on the frontstretch. This allowed the birthday boy to get a few lengths' lead on Kimball and Hawksworth, but the shakeup was about to begin.

In a puzzling turn of events, Hinchcliffe came to a sudden stop on the runoff at the end of the backstretch. He would later be seen on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance bound for the infield care center and eventually to nearby Methodist Hospital.  Replays appear to show the Canadian's helmet coming into contact with flying debris from Wilson's car up ahead, but he was released this evening from the hospital with a concussion. IndyCar noted that he will be evaluated again before he's allowed to drive; if he's not cleared, EJ Viso will be the stand-in driver.

The track stayed green in the meantime, but for many, their chances of winning the Grand Prix of Indianapolis began to disappear like their fuel. Hawksworth was the first to show his hand, pitting on lap 61 for a splash of petrol. He would go on to finish P7.

A few laps later, Castroneves followed suit, then new leader Bourdais, then new leader Briscoe. One by one, all who inherited the race lead fell victim to a thirsty engine, except for Oriol Servia. He had pitted ten laps more recently than everyone ahead of him, but talk in the pit lane soon revealed that he, too, would be a couple of laps short. Pagenaud and Hunter-Reay were on nearly identical strategies running in P2 and P3, but behind them, the field had cycled Castroneves back to P4.

With several miles separating Servia from victory, he regrettably came down pit lane for fuel, settling for P12 and giving the Frenchman the lead. As the corners ticked down, Castroneves' fresh tyres and ability to run on full-rich allowed the Brazilian a perfect view of his rivals, now fewer than two seconds behind them on the road.

Hunter-Reay was being coached from the pit wall on the fuel mixture and engine settings he would need to follow in order to make it to the end, but this didn't end up being a problem for him. All three men would have enough fuel to cross the finish line in that order, allowing everyone at Sam Schmidt Motorsports to exhale.  It also allowed fans and drivers alike to reflect on this first Indianapolis road course race.

The idea of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis was not only to showcase the Verizon IndyCar Series' dexterity, racing both on ovals and road courses, but to center the racing world on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the entire month of May. The focus transitions now from the twisty road course to the blistering speed of the legendary oval, as teams will have one week to prepare for the first rounds of a newly-modified qualifying format ahead of the Indianapolis 500-mile race in a fortnight.

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Monday 22 September 2014

  2. Boullier questions Red Bull radio messages 15:48

    Boullier questions Red Bull radio messages

    Eric Boullier reckons Red Bull issued coded messages to Daniel Ricciardo in the Singapore Grand Prix. In the run up to...

    F1
  3. Russian Grand Prix circuit officially opened 14:08

    Russian Grand Prix circuit officially opened

    The Sochi Autodrom, location for the inaugural Russian Grand Prix, was officially opened on Saturday. Russian Prime...

    F1
  4. Red Bull not yet considering team orders 11:11

    Red Bull not yet considering team orders

    Red Bull says it is not yet considering team orders, despite Daniel Ricciardo keeping himself within touching distance of...

    F1
  5. Video: 360-degree onboard with Buemi in Assen 10:18

    Video: 360-degree onboard with Buemi in Assen

    Sébastien Buemi put a Red Bull Formula 1 car through its paces in front of 82,000 spectators last month, as part of the...

    F1
  6. Caterham encouraged despite Kobayashi non-start 10:16

    Caterham encouraged despite Kobayashi non-start

    Caterham Team Principal Manfredi Ravetto says he is encouraged by the outfit's performance in the Singapore Grand Prix, even...

    F1
  7. Gutiérrez: Almost impossible to achieve good results 09:40

    Gutiérrez: Almost impossible to achieve good results

    Esteban Gutiérrez says it is almost impossible for Sauber to achieve good results after the Mexican slumped to his sixth...

    F1
  8. Video: Rosberg reflects on Singapore retirement 09:35

    Video: Rosberg reflects on Singapore retirement

    Nico Rosberg looks back on his short-lived Singapore Grand Prix; after starting from the pit lane and retiring amid...

    F1
  9. Wolff admits Mercedes needs better reliability 08:58

    Wolff admits Mercedes needs better reliability

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has admitted that the squad needs to improve its reliability as the championship fight enters its...

    F1
  10. Mattiacci upbeat over Ferrari progress in Singapore 07:34

    Mattiacci upbeat over Ferrari progress in Singapore

    Ferrari Team Principal Marco Mattiacci says he is confident that his squad is improving following its showing in the...

    F1
  11. Video of the Day: UPS delivers special Ferrari 05:03

    Video of the Day: UPS delivers special Ferrari

    UPS delivered a special F1 car, made of bark and fittonia, to Singapore. Representing Ferrari's partnership with the...

    F1
  12. 03:04

    Championship standings after Singapore

    F1
  13. Sunday 21 September 2014

  14. Alonso rues timing of Safety Car deployment 18:54

    Alonso rues timing of Safety Car deployment

    Fernando Alonso was left to rue the timing of the Safety Car as he raced to fourth position in the Singapore Grand...

    F1
  15. Bottas links late slump to power steering 17:53

    Bottas links late slump to power steering

    Valtteri Bottas says an issue with his power steering system contributed to his tumble down the order in the Singapore Grand...

    F1
  16. 17:45

    Latest F1 photos: Sunday in Singapore

    F1
  17. Force India reclaims fifth from McLaren 17:31

    Force India reclaims fifth from McLaren

    Force India boss Vijay Mallya was suitably elated after his team moved ahead of McLaren in the battle for fifth in the...

    F1
  18. Magnussen treated for burns after scoring point 17:05

    Magnussen treated for burns after scoring point

    Kevin Magnussen was treated for burns by doctors after the McLaren driver battled to 10th place at the Singapore Grand...

    F1
  19. Vergne fights back to earn best result of season 17:05

    Vergne fights back to earn best result of season

    Outgoing Toro Rosso driver Jean-Éric Vergne recorded his best finish in over a year as he battled to sixth in the Singapore...

    F1
  20. Vettel questions timing of Hamilton move 16:35

    Vettel questions timing of Hamilton move

    Sebastian Vettel reckons Lewis Hamilton took more risks than he needed to when passing him during Sunday's Singapore Grand...

    F1
  21. Hamilton hails 'clean' Singapore weekend 16:13

    Hamilton hails 'clean' Singapore weekend

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton was pleased after a "clean" Singapore Grand Prix weekend culminated in him taking a vital...

    F1
  22. Rosberg urges Mercedes to improve reliability 15:51

    Rosberg urges Mercedes to improve reliability

    Nico Rosberg has urged Mercedes to improve its reliability after his costly retirement from Sunday night's Singapore Grand...

    F1
  23. 15:27

    In full: Singapore Grand Prix race result

    F1
  24. Hamilton takes title lead with Singapore win 15:10

    Hamilton takes title lead with Singapore win

    Lewis Hamilton moved into the lead of the championship with a commanding victory in Sunday night's Singapore Grand Prix,...

    F1
  25. 12:35

    Follow the 2014 Singapore Grand Prix live!

    F1
  26. Video: Hill, Herbert become mechanics 10:44

    Video: Hill, Herbert become mechanics

    Watch as Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert become Marussia mechanics for a practice session in Singapore.

    F1
  27. 10:42

    Photos: Historic F1 race in Singapore

    F1
  28. Hamilton: Rosberg relations 'back to normal' 10:41

    Hamilton: Rosberg relations 'back to normal'

    Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton says that his relationship with team-mate Nico Rosberg is 'back to normal' following the...

    F1
  29. Grosjean hits out at Renault problems 07:02

    Grosjean hits out at Renault problems

    Romain Grosjean has hit out at continual Renault problems, which he says are having a negative impact on the morale of his...

    F1
  30. 06:32

    Photos: Special helmets for Singapore

    F1
  31. Video of the Day: Formula 1's Safety Car 05:03

    Video of the Day: Formula 1's Safety Car

    There has never been a Singapore Grand Prix without the appearance of Formula 1's Safety Car. Ahead of the night race,...

    F1
  32. Pérez sure of Force India race recovery 01:04

    Pérez sure of Force India race recovery

    Force India driver Sergio Pérez says he is sure that he can recover from a lowly grid spot and notch up a top 10 finish in...

    F1
  33. 00:35

    Starting grid for the Singapore Grand Prix

    F1
  34. Saturday 20 September 2014

  35. Massa encouraged by Williams improvements 18:32

    Massa encouraged by Williams improvements

    Felipe Massa says he is encouraged by the progress which Williams has made since Friday's practice sessions after qualifying...

    F1
  36. 17:25

    Latest F1 photos: Saturday in Singapore

    F1
  37. Magnussen seeks help from Safety Car 17:24

    Magnussen seeks help from Safety Car

    Kevin Magnussen says he is hoping to see the Safety Car called into action during Sunday evening's Singapore Grand...

    F1
  38. Alonso hopeful of fighting for victory 17:09

    Alonso hopeful of fighting for victory

    Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso is hopeful that he will be able to challenge for victory during Sunday's Singapore Grand...

    F1
  39. Vettel reckons pole position was possible 16:42

    Vettel reckons pole position was possible

    Sebastian Vettel feels he could have had a shot at claiming pole position in Singapore with a cleaner final qualifying...

    F1
  40. Rosberg ruing late change of brakes 16:16

    Rosberg ruing late change of brakes

    Nico Rosberg was left to rue a change of brakes after Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton beat him to pole position in...

    F1
  41. Hamilton pleased to recover from early error 15:57

    Hamilton pleased to recover from early error

    Lewis Hamilton says he was pleased with his recovery after an early error threatened to ruin his final qualifying attempt in...

    F1
  42. 15:08

    Singapore GP: Qualifying results in full

    F1
  43. Hamilton pips Rosberg to Singapore pole 15:07

    Hamilton pips Rosberg to Singapore pole

    Lewis Hamilton beat Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg to pole position during a tight qualifying session in Singapore, with...

    F1
more news