There’s not a lot to say about the Detroit Grand Prix that has not already been said: Unless it rains, Honda does not have much of a chance of winning a race for the rest of this season.
That scenario played out in Detroit where it rained in both races. Honda finished 1-2 in the first race (Carlos Munoz/Marco Andretti) and dominated the second race without winning. Hondas took eight of the first nine positions while Chevy’s Sebastian Bourdais won. Overall, this is the second weekend of the season where Honda scored more points on track than Chevy.
The big news leading up to the race was that Indycar ordered the Honda cars not to use the extended elements on the end of the front wings. The reason is that these are broken off easily and cause a safety issue. Here is a before-and-after picture:
It was clear after qualifying that taking them off did not help much. Takuma Sato, known for his driving under slippery conditions, was the Only Honda in the top 6 (fourth) and there were only three other Hondas in the top 12 with Marco Andretti, James Jakes, and Tristan Vautier 9th, 10th, and 11th, respectively.
In the races, what mattered was strategy. In the first race, Marco Andretti was the first car to go to slicks as the track dried. Carlos Munoz came in shortly after. They moved to the front of the field when everyone else stopped for slicks at the first yellow flag. Similarly, Munoz took the lead when he was the last car to come in for rain tires when the weather changed late in the race. Lots of teams missed that call BADLY; top teams like Penske and Ganassi. Andretti (including the strategists and drivers) nailed it.
Juan Montoya dominated the opening of Race 2, which was conducted in a torrential downpour. But again the race turned on when drivers came in for slicks. The race ended with everyone on slicks, with the winner now determined by the timing of fuel stops. Bourdais was the last Chevy to stop for fuel (along with a lot of other cars on lap 38). He and Montoya were the only Chevy’s to make their fuel last until the end of the race and/or avoid contact. Montoya almost ran out of fuel and fell from fourth to tenth on the last lap. The fact that the race ended up being a timed race ending on lap 68 (instead of 71) helped Bourdais. He would have run out of field on Lap 70.
So, what have we learned?
- The Honda’s are still slow (although there was a sector at Detroit that was repeatedly dominated by Honda in practice, qualifying and the race).
- Conor Daly can drive, and Honda needs to find a car for him for the rest of the road courses this year. It has been reported that he will drive Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 at Toronto later this month.
- Tristan Vautier can drive and SPM might have been hasty when they gave up on him.
We have also learned that Sage Karam needs to be parked for a while. For those who had not heard, Karam took out Jack Hawksworth twice in race 2. This after he was penalized for trying to take out Sato in race 1. Seems young Sage blames Taku for the accident that took Sage out of the 500.
What’s that got to do with taking Hawksworth out twice Sunday? He told his team he took out Hawksworth because he thought it was Sato’s car. Dyslexia? (Sato is 14, Hawksworth is 41).
Next up on the Schedule is Texas this weekend. For predictions, I got nothing. I have no idea what’s going to happen. Indycar has not announced what Aero configurations they will allow and Firestone is bringing new Tires that no one has tested yet.
Should be interesting. I just hope it’s not too interesting.