Another race in the books, another win for Will Power and another dagger into the hearts of all championship hopefuls that may be left. The man is decimating the competition and his attack doesn’t look to be slowing any. Behind Power’s dominant drive, we had a bit more of a jumbled race. Wrecks and spins were the main objectives of the day as we had a season high 15 laps of yellow to punctuate the Power win. It looked like there were a few more brain-detached-from-head moves than we have seen in the previous three events. I wonder if the drivers are really starting to find some comfort in their new, stronger than ever chassis and finally taking the risks that have been absent from the season thus far. But is a calculated risk the same as the bone-headed moves we saw on Sunday? I don’t think so and if this is how the drivers perceive risky maneuvers; we could be in for more of the same for the remainder of 2012.
Honda – Wow. I don’t have much more to say in an initial capacity other than… wow. I don’t know how Honda can spin the results of this weekend in any other light other than they dropped the ball. The weekend started strong for the Japanese manufacturer; they were allowed to update their single turbo housing without too much blood shed and qualifying finally looked to have gained a bit of parity back. Three Honda’s and three Chevy’s made for a more balanced fast six than we were accustomed to for the past three events. After the dust settled and the race results were tabulated, Honda walked away with a mere three drivers in the top ten. I don’t think this was the result that Honda, or any of us for that matter, had expected. Will the league help Honda, again, before the now comical June target for engine equalization? I really hope not; Honda has made their bed with a single turbo and now they must lay in it.
Turn 1 – After more than a few quality, double file restarts, we saw twice, the drivers lose their minds in the T1/2 complex. This is after circuit designers and up-keepers NZR consulting made more changes to this very area in preparation for this years event. After seeing this complex for two years and now a third in the dry, I think a redesign to open the corner a bit may be needed. Coming off of the long Sambadrome straight, the entrance to T1 proper is in pretty good shape. The transition to and including the T2 exit itself is what looked to cause a fair amount of trouble. It is just too tight for our Dallaras to make the complex in a racy, side by side manner without having to absolutely tiptoe through the complex in protection mode; often losing more than is warranted by simply staying out of trouble. But maybe forcing the drivers to slow and protect instead of having a fast, wide open turn is a bit more conducive to clean racing. The room is there for plenty of expansion in the form of painted runoff, but I’m still not sure its needed.
Brazil – After two years of rain on raceday, we finally got to see what a true dry event looked like at the Sambadrome street circuit, and the locals were not disappointed. A record crowd descended onto the South American home of indycar and anyone who was left at home tuned into the local TV broadcast. Indycar was the only thing on Brazilian minds this last weekend. Even without the added hype of Rubens Barrichello in our paddock; Brazilians know and love their American open wheel racing. No more clear than when pit reporter Kevin Lee had to do a bit of wrestling with a local reporter to ensure the US was the first to hear from the race winner. Remember back to Japan last year and it would seem that indycar is absolutely loved outside of the US. Now if we could bottle even one percent of that magic nationally, indycar racing would be a much happier.
Will Power – Of the Captain’s three bullets in his gun; no one can deny that Will Power is the most important. He leaves round four of sixteen 45 points ahead of second place Helio Castroneves; eight less points than the 53 that cover second through tenth in the championship standings. With the maximum amount of points available to any driver over the race weekend set at 53 points; 50 for a win with 1 for pole and 2 for most laps lead, real fear should be starting to creep into the minds of the other 25 drivers chasing the unwavering Power. It was six years ago that Sam Hornish brought home the championship hardware last for Team Penske and it doesn’t look like Roger will have to wait much longer to add the next trophy to his case. Attention indycar drivers: the gauntlet has been thrown.
Tires - In retrospect, I don’t think I would ever have been focused on this years Firestone rubber if it weren’t for Pirelli showing us what was possible with open wheel tires. Pirelli has created a safe, yet short lived tire with nary an explosive de-lamination to be seen; an open wheel pilots greatest fear. Don’t get me wrong, Firestone does a fantastic job with their oval tires, but our street compounds have a bit to be desired. Both Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay ran their fastest laps of the day on the final lap. They were both on reds and it had been 23 laps since either of them had visited the pits. Fastest laps should not have been possible in this situation because both drivers should have been absolutely struggling for grip. Hunting for traction on every inch of that last lap, not turning fastest laps at the end of a fuel run.
So… IT’S FINALLY MAY. Well, not really but the waving of the checkers in Sao Paulo means that the next time a green flag is dropped, it will be for The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Will Power leaves the first twistie leg of the championship with a healthy points lead, and as we embark on a stretch of four ovals in five races; I still think he needs it. The race in Brazil was not amazingly fantastic but it surely wasn’t a stinker either. If this and St. Pete are the low water marks for the season, there really should be nothing to worry about. We have suffered through much worse in the past and I am really starting to think the DW12 is a true street fighter in every sense of the word. Now… onto the ovals…