Former F1 driver Takuma Sato almost won Sunday’s running of the fabled Indy 500. Instead, the Japanese 35-year-old, the former Jordan, Honda and Super Aguri driver until 2008, crashed into the wall after an audacious last-lap attempt to pass Dario Franchitti, who went on to win under yellow flags.
The Indianapolis Star’s Bob Kravitz said the move was “brave; it was stupid. It was courageous; it was irresponsible. If it had worked … it would have become the stuff of legend”.
Former Toyota test driver Ryan Briscoe, the polesitter, finished fifth, while ex Minardi and Jaguar racer Justin Wilson was seventh. Rubens Barrichello finished his first Indy 500 11th, while former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Bourdais was 20th. Jean Alesi, with his heavily underpowered Lotus engine, was disqualified for running slower than the allowed 105 per cent.
Sebastien Bourdais is ruing his bad luck over the weekend a mechanical fault left him sitting on the grid at the start of the formation lap a stark contrast to his team-mate who started from pole position and went on to win the race.
Bourdais was unable to get back onto the track quickly and ended up losing a lap before he rejoined the race. Despite setting the second quickest lap of the race, he was unable to make up many places and ended the race in 18th place.
“I m not sure what happened on the grid,â€ Bourdais explained. “When I tried to get first I couldn’t and so then I let go of the flipper a bit quickly and when the gear selected I stalled, when normally the anti-stall should have come in. Then we couldn’t get neutral and that was it, I had lost a lap immediately as the race started behind the Safety Car.
“It should have been a dream weekend with a chance of finishing first and third but, sadly for me, it was first and nothing. However, this has been a great day for Sebastian and the team.”
Sebastien Bourdais narrowly missed out on a podium in Spa-Francorchamps after losing several places in the dramatic final few laps.
The Toro Rosso ace had driven sublimely all weekend and he vaulted up to fifth place from ninth with a lightening start. He managed to fend of Mark Webber and Robert Kubica throughout most of the race, and when Kimi Raikkonen crashed out of the race, the Frenchman found himself poised for a first career podium.
The stakes being so high, Bourdais had no choice but to stay on the dry tyres, and he eventually lost out to the wet-tyre gamblers of Fernando Alonso and Nick Heidfeld as he battled to keep his car on the road. He eventually placed seventh with team-mate Sebastian Vettel also getting past on the final lap.
“On the last lap it was a lottery with the car getting away from you with every turn of the wheel,” exuberated Bourdais afterwards. “It’s a horrible situation, as everything had been under control up until then.”
“But I am not in a situation where I can risk everything and at the end of the race I didn’t even know where I finished. It was so close to being a great result I felt I could almost touch it and so it was a very frustrating way to finish what was a great weekend up to that point.”
Sebastian Vettel who started tenth dropped a couple of places at the start and was delighted to have carved his way into fifth place as a result of the chaos.
“Both me and Seb have good reason to smile after a race like that,” he enthused. “The last lap was unbelievable and I was shocked as I got passed in the last fifty metres and then Heidfeld followed by Alonso drove past me with a “whoosh” on their intermediates.”
“It was very tricky at the end and you really had to trust your car. We were all saying that Eau Rouge and Blanchimont are now flat, but with a few drops of rain, I tell you, you see the real nature of these corners.”
“Overall it was a fantastic race, even though I was stuck in traffic for a while. But I was very happy with the car and we had a very strong pace today. The guys at the front are still in a different dimension, but we have made some good steps forward and now it is up to us to use that potential at the next few races.”
The result marks the second straight race where Toro Rosso have finished in the points, and with both cars reaching the top ten in qualifying on Saturday, the team had every reason to smile ahead of Monza.
“I am really very happy with this result and now we head for our home race in Monza, hoping to carry the momentum with us,” said Team Principal Franz Tost. “It’s also the home race for our engine supplier and I expect the Prancing Horse to be on very good form next weekend.”
“A very good start and a very good race from Bourdais until he was unlucky on the last lap, as the rain came a bit too early for him. But that’s the game at Spa. It was definitely his best race for Toro Rosso and I am very happy for him.”
“Vettel struggled a bit at the start, but then he too drove a fantastic race, passing Glock and Piquet with some good moves. At the end, he also passed his teammate. In the closing stages we thought about bringing them in for intermediates but by then it was too late to make that call.”
“But in the dry, in straightforward conditions, it was undoubtedly our best performance. We have moved ahead of Honda and are now on equal points with Williams and I hope we can score more points in the remaining five races. Fantastic!”
Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger may have to think twice about his driver line-up for next year after Sebastien Bourdais delivered one of his best qualifying performances to date.
The Toro Rosso driver has come under intense pressure to sharpen up his act at the team having been consistently out performed by Sebastian Vettel.
And with several new talents linked to the Faenza-based outfit it has been rumoured that the multiple champ car champion could find himself without a seat for next year.
A sterling qualifying performance at Spa-Francorchamps for the Belgian Grand prix may have just saved the Frenchman’s bacon though: he unexpectedly went quickest of all in Q2 after bolting on the soft tyres in the closing stages, before edging out his team-mate for ninth place in the shoot out.
“It was nice to see my name at the top of a time sheet in Q1,” he said afterwards, “It’s been a long time!”
“It was a qualifying session when I can get out of the car and say that I drove well and that the team, as usual did a good job.”
“The car worked well even if we couldn’t mix it too much with those ahead of us. But let’s see what strategies the others are on in terms of fuel loads tomorrow.”
“A couple of tenths is all that separated us from sixth or seventh. It’s beginning to come together and it’s been a good weekend so far. I feel this track and its corners suit me better.”
Team-mate and Red-Bull bound Sebastian Vettel was pleased to have progressed into the shoot-out but admitted that he could have gone quicker had he not made a mistake on his final run.
“I’m quite happy and we can be satisfied to get both cars in Q3, which we did not expect at this track. It was a strong qualifying performance. I was struggling a bit on those sections where the driver doesn’t have to do much.”
“I could not find the pace my teammate had. I messed up my last run a bit but it didn’t affect the result in the end. I think we have a good strategy for both cars so let’s see what happens. At the moment, I’m starting on the dirty side of the track but if it rains for the race it becomes the clean side.”
It is the second time in a row that Toro Rosso, aided by Ferrari engines, have got both their cars into the top ten. Technical Director Giorgio Ascanelli admits that the result exceeded expectations:
“I had predicted tenth and thirteenth. It is the second race in a row that we get both cars into Q3 and they have run reliably. Clearly our guys are on two different strategies, so Vettel didn’t get the full potential out of the car as he is clearly heavier and he didn’t have the benefit of a first sighting run in Q3.
“Anything can happen at this track and for the race we wanted to have our cars positioned differently: the fastest driver and today that was Bourdais, gets the fastest strategy in Q3. Overall, it was a strong performance.”
Sebastien Bourdais has been left to look back at the poor luck he endured during the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Frenchman was one of several drivers who had problems with the refuelling rigs during one of his routine pit-stops, there was a flash fire on his car. The Toro Rosso mechanics were quickly on top of the situation, dousing the car and driver with extinguisher foam.
The car appeared undamaged and Bourdais was able to continue however his visor was covered in extinguisher foam and he had to pit again in order to get it cleaned. Bourdais eventually finished the race in 18th place.
“There have been two sides to this weekend: it got off to a good start and then I had some problems in qualifying,” Bourdais explained. “The race also started quite well, as I had a good pace. Then it all went to hell at the first pit stop, as the guys had to use the fire extinguisher and I got a lot of foam on my visor.
“It happened again at the second stop and this time I had foam inside and outside my visor and couldn’t see a thing so had to make another stop to get it cleaned.
“By this stage, we had lost so much time, there was nothing else to do and I preferred to make the extra stop as the lack of visibility was dangerous.”
Heidfeld’s final flying lap, along with his hopes of making it into Q2, were written off when he closed up onto the gearbox of the Scuderia Toro Rosso driver on his final flying lap and ran wide on the final corner.
The German made his frustration clear as he waved angrily at the Frenchman down the start-finish straight. Heidfeld, who was forced to settle for sixteenth place is promoted to fifteenth place, which will no doubt be little consolation for the BMW Sauber driver, while Bourdais, who progressed to Q2 and qualified fourteenth, will start the race five spots lower in nineteenth.
“I’m totally disappointed, an angry Heidfeld reflected after qualifying. “It had looked quite good at the end of yesterday’s practice and also this morning, but on my last lap in Q1 I had four cars in my way. Most of them at least tried to give me room, but it still cost me time.
“Certainly Nick’s result is disappointing,” added BMW Motorsport Director Dr Mario Theissen. “He complained several times about traffic on his last – and important – fast lap and missed getting into Q2. We should be very happy if he scores a point from this grid position.”
“For Nick it didn’t go as expected,” added the Munich and Hinwil-based concern’s technical director Willy Rampf. “He reported traffic on his last lap. For him we are facing a very difficult race tomorrow, because overtaking is almost impossible at the Hungaroring.”