“Definitely traffic cost us the win today,” says Grosjean

IndyCar rookie Romain Grosjean believes traffic cost him a shot at victory in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, and described Takuma Sato’s driving as “a bit on the limit.”

“Definitely traffic cost us the win today,” says Grosjean

Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet’s Rinus VeeKay passed Grosjean’s pole-winning Dale Coyne Racing with RWR-Honda as the latter was on its out-lap following a pitstop at half-distance. VeeKay, who had started on primary compound Firestones, was on the softer, faster ‘reds’ and they were up to temperature, having stopped six laps earlier. Grosjean who had run the first two stints on reds, was obliged to take a set of the primaries, and so was vulnerable to VeeKay’s clean Turn 12 attack.

However, Grosjean felt that uncooperative backmarkers rather than tire strategy was what swung the race against him. He had to battle past Juan Pablo Montoya’s Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet, he lost time to Takuma Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda, especially when the Japanese driver re-passed him to unlap himself, and then couldn’t get around Sebastien Bourdais’ delayed AJ Foyt Racing-Chevy.

Grosjean eventually came home 4.95sec adrift of winner VeeKay.

“Every series is different, and you’ve got blue flag issues everywhere,” commented Grosjean, for whom this was just the third IndyCar race. “In Formula 1, I was shown the blue flags quite a bit over the last few years and it was terrible for us! The leader complained that it wasn’t good enough.

“Today I wish [blue flags were shown] more often because I was the guy that was chasing them, but it’s the rule that IndyCar use.

“Is there room for improvement? Probably. Is there a perfect solution? No. But definitely traffic cost us the win today.”

Asked if the tire marble build-up was a particular issue, that meant drivers dare not go off line in the heavy brake zones, Grosjean replied: “There was a bit of marbles but I don’t think that was the biggest issue.

“I think the fact that the backmarker can use the push-to-pass to defend from the leader, that’s a bit more annoying because… you use your push-to-pass… well you should use actually use it to fight Rinus or Alex today. You don’t want to use it [on a backmarker].

“I think we were also a bit short in sixth gear because the wind changed a bit direction so I was actually hitting the limiter. Didn’t make my life easier to overtake the guys.

“With Takuma it was a bit on the limit, I would say, and another car as well, and if you lose three seconds over two laps and another couple of seconds passing a guy – that’s five seconds – and that would have been more than enough to keep Rinus behind us.”

Grosjean admitted that he had expected VeeKay to offer strong opposition at this track.

“Rinus was superfast in Free Practice 1, as well as in the warm-up in the cooler conditions, so I knew he was going to be good,” he said. “He didn’t quite make it to the Fast Six so I knew he would have more [fresher] red tires available for the race. He started on blacks.

“When I was catching a slower car, he pitted early from the blacks and got on the reds and got some free air. I knew they were on a different strategy so I knew he was going to be tough.

“And also on the last stint I got stuck behind Sebastien Bourdais, who’s a super quick driver and he was on new tires, and I was on old reds. I couldn’t pass him for a long time until he actually locked up and went straight on into Turn 1.

“I could see Rinus four or five seconds ahead and didn’t get a chance to come back to him. That’s what I learned: I just had to push all the way. It shows you can have a seven or eight second lead in the first stint and it doesn’t mean you’re going to win the race.

“[VeeKay] came out of the pits with a good lead and I was behind two cars in pitlane, backmarkers, so it was a tough day in terms of overtaking people. I know it’s a really good track, really good straight lines, but when lapped cars are using their push-to-pass, it’s hard to get by and then obviously you’re going to push harder on your tires and then you can’t really do the pace you want.

“When [Rinus] passed me, I was on blacks, he was on reds, and I asked the team if he was on the same strategy [now], they said yes, and that therefore I had to try and stay close on the blacks but I couldn’t quite do it.

“And then on the last stint, as I say, I was stuck behind the #14 [Bourdais] which was going fast – too fast for me to pass him but too slow to catch Rinus!”

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