Should IndyCar have called off Saturday's race?
Article by Jacob Black, photos by Jonathan Yarkony
It’s not every weekend that a major racing category lands on the Black Flag doorstep – but that’s exactly what we got this weekend when the IndyCar series came to Toronto.
Weather wasn’t kind to the event and Saturday’s race was cancelled after several aborted starts. The aborted starts were a godsend for Will Power, who spun on one start and damaged his car. He was able to start the rescheduled race on Sunday morning, albeit from the rear of the grid.
Local James Hinchcliffe’s rotten Toronto luck reared its head again. Hinch finished a reasonable eighth in the first race of the weekend, but was caught out in Juan Pablo Montoya and Mikhail Aleshin’s crash while charging through the field in the second. Hinch went four laps down while he waited for marshals to restart his car – they were understandably otherwise occupied because Montoya’s car was sitting on Aleshin’s head. For obvious reasons, marshals tended to that first. Aleshin was fortunately uninjured.
Race one victory went to Sebastien Bourdais, who celebrated with some epic donuts. It was Bourdais’ first open-wheel win since 2007.
Race two saw a downpour mid-race that triggered chaos, but as the track dried it was Mike Conway who went to slicks first. The Briton’s gamble paid off when Sebastian Saavedra triggered a caution just one lap later. There was a glimmer of hope for Tony Kanaan and Will Power when with just five minutes remaining a five-car pile-up blocked the track at turn three. IndyCar wisely threw a red flag, stopping the clock and allowing for three final laps of racing. At the restart though, Conway bolted away allowing him to take his second win of the season and the third win for the No.20 Fuzzy’s Vodka car.
Both races were riddled with multi-car battles and close racing, thrilling local fans who braved two days of miserable weather to watch IndyCar’s best do battle.
Formula 1 was at Hockenheim where a jubilant Nico Rosberg claimed a home victory and extended his championship lead over teammate Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg was untouched at the front as Hamilton fought his way from 20th on the grid to a third-place pdium finish after crashing during the first session of qualifying. The race began with carnage when Kevin Magnussen flipped Felipe Massa onto his lid in the first turn. No action was taken over the incident but Massa clearly felt Magnussen was to blame. That incident cost Aussie Daniel Ricciardo dearly, the Aussie sliding back to as low as 16th after starting fifth on the grid.
Valtteri Bottas hung on for second on fading tires while Sebastian Vettel came home a lonely fourth. Fernando Alonso took fifth by just 0.1s after a frantic late-race battle with Ricciardo. Daniil Kvyat was forced to exit his Toro Rosso poste haste when it ignited late in the race, and Adrian Sutil walked away from his Sauber in disgust after spinning and stalling in the final turn.
The Sutil incident will be a source of discussion for some time to come as F1 marshals were forced to cross the track and remove the car under double-yellows – not under safety car. The incident highlights the category’s commitment to avoiding safety cars wherever possible, but many feel that the incident put the volunteer marshals in excessive danger.
And with that, we move to this week’s flags and the recipient of the dreaded Black Flag.
First, of course, is green flag. Nico Rosberg was expected by some to sit in the shadows of Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes. After all the Briton was a child prodigy and already has a world title to his name – Rosberg does not. But Rosberg’s relentless pressure keeps forcing mistakes from Hamilton and his side of the garage, while Rosberg just marches confidently forward. Sunday’s race for the win was just pure dominance; he walked it in. Bravo Rosberg.
On the race track, as on the road, when you crash it is your responsibility to immediately get your busted-arse car the heck out of the way. Ryan Hunter-Reay knows this, but routinely fails to do it. This time it was after contact at the turn three-four complex with Tony Kanaan. Neither driver gave enough room so the crash was not really Hunter-Reay’s fault. The next six or seven he miraculously avoided causing would have been though. When you dawdle around the track in the middle of the track with a broken car at half pace you run the risk of causing serious damage – just ask Memo Gidley.
RHR wasn’t even fully off the racing line, let alone well out of the way. At best he had two wheels on the very border of the racing line, realistically; he had half a car on it. It is dangerous, stupid, ignorant, selfish and amateurish to wobble about the way he does when he has damage.
Frankly, RHR should be at least put on probation for his recklessness. It was only the skill and heads-up driving from his competitors that averted disaster this time around.
First a mild caveat – I don’t actually know if IndyCar was right or not to cancel Saturday’s race. Visibility was bad, of that there is no doubt. But by the same token we’ve seen other categories, and even IndyCar, race in worse conditions on similar tracks. And some drivers claimed that had they been circulating under yellow the track would have dried quickly – so maybe the race could have been run after all. As said on Twitter, “It’s kind of embarrassing being the only road-racing series in the world to routinely cancel in the rain.”
The real drama though was the fumbling and bumbling that went on. Once again inconsistency and indecision ruled race control. Was the race ever started? Was it not? Nobody knew. And the fact Power’s team were allowed to work on his car under red flag conditions rankled more than a few people. During race one on Sunday when Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing was unable to work on Josef Newgarden’s car under red, Sarah Fisher claimed that the difference was “Only three or four corners, or what’s on your side pod I guess” – implying that Power’s team had an exemption because it was the Verizon car.
Regardless, the stop-start angered fans, teams and drivers alike. Nobody likes indecision.