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. Sunday 25 January 2015

  2. Rosberg got over 2014 disappointment quickly 08:11

    Rosberg got over 2014 disappointment quickly

    Mercedes' Nico Rosberg says it took him just a few days to get over losing out on the 2014 title and is ready to fight again...

    F1
  3. Video of the Day: Inside the Abt garage 05:04

    Video of the Day: Inside the Abt garage

    Go behind the scenes in the Audi Sport Abt Formula E garage with driver Daniel Abt.

    FE
  4. Saturday 24 January 2015

  5. 14:01

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  6. Streiff retracts comments following FIA threat 13:13

    Streiff retracts comments following FIA threat

    Philippe Streiff has retracted comments made about the FIA after President Jean Todt and Medical Commission boss Gérard...

    F1
  7. Arrivabene wants 'heavy metal band' sound in F1 07:39

    Arrivabene wants 'heavy metal band' sound in F1

    Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene has backed calls by Mercedes' Niki Lauda to boost the spectacle of Formula 1 and...

    F1
  8. Video of the Day: McLaren P1 GTR approaches 05:17

    Video of the Day: McLaren P1 GTR approaches

    In just under two months, the McLaren P1 GTR will be officially presented at the Geneva Motor Show.

    F1
  9. Friday 23 January 2015

  10. Video: Vettel in Ferrari's 2015 challenger 17:23

    Video: Vettel in Ferrari's 2015 challenger

    Ferrari has released a short video of Sebastian Vettel sitting in the team's 2015 Formula 1 car.

    F1
  11. Vettel to complete first laps in new Ferrari 16:15

    Vettel to complete first laps in new Ferrari

    Sebastian Vettel will be the first to drive Ferrari's new Formula 1 car at next month's Jerez test, a spokesman for the...

    F1
  12. Exclusive interview with Pirelli's Paul Hembery 15:32

    Exclusive interview with Pirelli's Paul Hembery

    Formula 1 returns to action at the start of next month, when the majority of teams debut their new cars at Jerez. Ahead of...

    F1
  13. 15:09

    Photos: Construction work in Mexico City

    F1
  14. Red Bull offers £10,000 reward after robbery 14:43

    Red Bull offers £10,000 reward after robbery

    Red Bull has offered a £10,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of those who stole over 60 trophies from...

    F1
  15. Sauber confirms driver schedule for Jerez 13:56

    Sauber confirms driver schedule for Jerez

    Sauber has confirmed its driver schedule for the opening pre-season test at the Circuito de Jerez, which takes place from...

    F1
  16. Marciello joins Trident for 2015 season 10:07

    Marciello joins Trident for 2015 season

    Ferrari youngster Raffaele Marciello has switched to Trident for his second GP2 season. The Swiss-born Italian, 20, made...

    GP2
  17. Hernández forced to miss first Sepang test 09:56

    Hernández forced to miss first Sepang test

    Pramac rider Yonny Hernández will skip next month's opening Sepang test after dislocating his left shoulder in a dirt track...

    MotoGP
  18. Chilton eyes IndyCar with Carlin in 2016 06:57

    Chilton eyes IndyCar with Carlin in 2016

    Ex-Marussia Formula 1 driver Max Chilton will join forces with Carlin in a joint development programme as both parties look...

    F1
  19. Video of the Day: Sauber presents Ericsson 05:12

    Video of the Day: Sauber presents Ericsson

    Sauber introduces its new signing for the 2015 season – Swedish racer Marcus Ericsson.

    F1
  20. Thursday 22 January 2015

  21. FIA launches legal action against Streiff 18:15

    FIA launches legal action against Streiff

    The FIA, President Jean Todt and Medical Commission boss Gérard Saillant are planning to take legal action against...

    F1
  22. Villeneuve-designed circuit gets approval 16:32

    Villeneuve-designed circuit gets approval

    A racing complex that will feature a road track designed by former Formula 1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve has received...

    F1
  23. Caterham administrator refuses to give up 14:34

    Caterham administrator refuses to give up

    Caterham's administrator has refused to give up on finding a new buyer for the 2015 season. Caterham entered...

    F1
  24. Melandri: Malaysia tests crucial for confidence 13:38

    Melandri: Malaysia tests crucial for confidence

    Factory Gresini Aprilia rider Marco Melandri says it is essential that he builds up his confidence levels at next month's...

    MotoGP
  25. Alonso to debut McLaren-Honda at Jerez 11:24

    Alonso to debut McLaren-Honda at Jerez

    McLaren has confirmed that Fernando Alonso will be the first to drive the upcoming MP4-30 at the opening pre-season test in...

    F1
  26. Video: 3D animation of Williams FW37 11:02

    Video: 3D animation of Williams FW37

    Watch a rotating 3D animation of the new Williams FW37, revealed online earlier this week.

    F1
  27. Ecclestone hopeful Marussia can be saved 10:19

    Ecclestone hopeful Marussia can be saved

    Bernie Ecclestone is hopeful that Marussia can be saved after meeting with a potential investor. The team's planned...

    F1
  28. Force India: Wind tunnel move behind car delay 07:23

    Force India: Wind tunnel move behind car delay

    Force India Technical Director Andrew Green says the team's decision to delay the track debut of its new Formula 1...

    F1
  29. Video of the Day: Force India livery reveal 05:08

    Video of the Day: Force India livery reveal

    Relive the entire presentation of Force India's new livery for the 2015 Formula 1 season.

    F1
  30. Wednesday 21 January 2015

  31. Force India pair hope to build on experience 17:03

    Force India pair hope to build on experience

    Force India pair Nico Hülkenberg and Sergio Pérez are sure that their experience with the team in 2014 will help drive it f...

    F1
  32. Mallya targets further podiums in 2015 16:49

    Mallya targets further podiums in 2015

    Force India team boss Vijay Mallya says the outfit's primary goal for the 2015 Formula 1 campaign will be to claim more...

    F1
  33. 15:52

    Photos: Force India showcases new look

    F1
  34. Force India presents 2015 livery in Mexico 15:38

    Force India presents 2015 livery in Mexico

    Force India presented its new look for the 2015 Formula 1 season on Wednesday, unveiling a predominantly black and silver...

    F1
  35. Hamilton 'relaxed' over Mercedes contract 13:37

    Hamilton 'relaxed' over Mercedes contract

    World Champion Lewis Hamilton says he is in no rush to sign a new contract with Mercedes, despite entering the final year of...

    F1
  36. Video: CCTV footage of Red Bull break in 12:53

    Video: CCTV footage of Red Bull break in

    CCTV footage of last month's trophy break in at Red Bull's Milton Keynes factory has been released.

    F1
  37. Ecclestone wants 2016 South Africa return 12:51

    Ecclestone wants 2016 South Africa return

    Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone hopes the sport can return to South Africa next year. Ecclestone explained last month...

    F1
  38. 11:59

    Photos: Williams presents new FW37

    F1
  39. Symonds: New nose rules had big impact 10:37

    Symonds: New nose rules had big impact

    Williams Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds has admitted that the impact of Formula 1's new nose regulations has been...

    F1
  40. Carlin signs Dillmann for FR3.5 return 10:03

    Carlin signs Dillmann for FR3.5 return

    Tom Dillmann will partner Sean Gelael for Carlin's return to Formula Renault 3.5 in 2015. Dillmann, a GP2 race winner,...

    FR 3.5
  41. Video of the Day: Spying on the new STR10 05:08

    Video of the Day: Spying on the new STR10

    Toro Rosso has released this teaser video of its new STR10, which is to be unveiled at Jerez on January 31.

    F1
  42. Tuesday 20 January 2015

  43. First image of 2015 Williams revealed 22:45

    First image of 2015 Williams revealed

    Williams has become the first Formula 1 team to reveal imagery of its 2015 contender, with a rendered picture of the new...

    F1
  44. Toro Rosso confirms Jerez car launch 14:38

    Toro Rosso confirms Jerez car launch

    Toro Rosso will launch its 2015 Formula 1 challenger on the eve of the first pre-season test at Jerez. The STR10 is to be...

    F1
  45. Palmer named as Lotus reserve driver 14:15

    Palmer named as Lotus reserve driver

    Lotus has announced that GP2 champion Jolyon Palmer will act as the team's test and reserve driver for the 2015 Formula 1...

    F1
  46. Video: McLaren-Honda – a new era begins 13:18

    Video: McLaren-Honda – a new era begins

    On January 29, the new McLaren-Honda era will officially begin with the launch of the MP4/30.

    F1
more news