The IndyCar season so far
I’m now three races into the 2012 IndyCar season and it’s been a difficult start.
We ran out of fuel at St Petersburg, and then we had a mechanical failure in the third round at Long Beach. It’s been tough as in none of the races it’s looked like we’ve had a race-winning car. We’ve obviously got some work to do!
We’re just missing a little bit of performance and unfortunately, that’s all it takes. That’s the difference between being up at the front – challenging for the win – or being on the fringes of the top 10. At the moment we’re talking less than three-tenths between first and 10th position in qualifying on a few occasions. It really is very close. We’ve got to get the job done and we can’t come up with excuses… Let’s remember, the team on the number 10 Target car is unchanged from the group that has won the last three IndyCar championships, so we know how to get the job done.
One of the worst qualifying sessions was in the second round at Barber. It rained during two of the three sessions so we rolled the dice in qualifying and we just missed something really basic. We were out by a massive amount because in every quick corner the car was bottoming out!
We qualified well at Long Beach though, even if the balance of the car seems to be off in the race. That’s where I should come in; I should be pre-empting where the car is going to go as the track changes. We’ve struggled a bit on that. Long Beach looked worse than it was because I was really trying hard to save a lot of fuel in that first stint to make it very long – that was part of our strategy. Even when I was up to speed though we weren’t going to win the race with our pace unfortunately.
It’s very close and we’ll hopefully be back at the front very soon. It’s just some fine-tuning that’s needed.
The new cars
Everybody’s still trying to figure them out a little bit, and some people have done a better job than others. There are little things, like having the hand clutch to leave the pits with, that are a bit of a challenge.
For the driver there are simple things like the nose is now a lot longer. I broke a wing at Long Beach when somebody came across the front of me. I thought I had braked enough to miss him, but I hadn’t!
The interesting thing is that the car is quicker than the old version. On road and street courses it’s definitely a bit faster. It’s got some good downforce on it. That’s always fun and Firestone has brought a slightly softer tyre this year too so that brings better pace, but it also produces better racing as we saw at Barber.
Rubens has done a great job – he’s learning the strategy bit by bit, but to be honest I didn’t really expect him to have any problems. He’s world class isn’t he? He races hard – I was racing a bit with him at Barber and he races very, very hard – and he’s going to be a threat the more experience he gets. Towards the middle and end of the year we need to look out. At the moment the level of drivers in the series is as high as I can remember it. And I was lucky enough to get to race in the late 1990s as well, which some people saw as a golden era.
I won’t be driving at the Revival because, after the crash in the E-type in 2006, the team owner’s a little bit nervous! We’re racing at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California that weekend, but I would have loved to see the Silver Arrows race. If they can find guys brave enough to go out there and go quickly that is! It will be absolutely stunning – getting the sights, sounds and the smells of those things on the fuels that they run. Lord March and his team have done it again on that one.
The Motor Sport with Gilles Villeneuve on the cover arrived when I was away on my travels so I haven’t read it yet. I’m looking forward to it though. I remember watching Gilles as a kid. It was a few of years after that I wondered whether he was as good as I remembered so I watched some of the footage of him on YouTube. He most definitely is! A real racer.
I haven’t caught many of the races live because they’ve been on the same weekends as us and with the time changes it’s been pretty difficult. But I’ve watched them afterwards and there have been some cracking races.
It’s funny, my brother Marino and I were talking two days ago and saying that we had never watched the front of the grid going through the first corner because at the start, we’re looking to see where my cousin Paul is. We’re looking for that 10th-place Force India to see where it goes! Force India has had a very interesting season so far and Paul has done a great job.
His race in Bahrain was superb, they definitely made the most of what they had there. Keeping Fernando Alonso behind on the last lap was big because he’s known as being a bit of a terrier. He just doesn’t like to give up so that was massive.
I thought there were some interesting interpretations of the blocking rule last week! It looked to me like Hamilton was alongside Rosberg when he went onto the concrete on the side of the track. The funny comment I thought was when Rosberg said “Hamilton passed me with all four wheels off the track”. Well, of course he did because you pushed him off the track!