Published April 29, 2011
SAO PAULO – IndyCar's new double-file restarts remain a concern to most drivers in the Sao Paulo 300.
The restarts have added plenty of excitement, increasing the chance for trouble.
The drama is expected to be heightened Sunday on the narrow streets of South America's biggest city.
Last year's race winner, Will Power of Australia, was blunt on his opinion on what the double-fire restarts will bring to the Sao Paulo race: "Lots of crashes. That's basically what I have to say."
Power was taken out by Penske teammate Helio Castroneves in one of those crashes at a restart in Long Beach and it cost him a chance to win the race.
The start-finish line at the Anhembi track goes through a stadium-like Sambadrome and then into a tight chicane that should increase the difficulty to drivers in every restart.
The chicane was where a scary accident took place at the start last year, when Brazil's Mario Moraes spun and crashed into the back of Andretti's slowing car as they approached the first corner.
Moraes' car finished on top of Andretti's and they slid tangled for several yards. The bottom of Moraes' car nearly touched Andretti's helmet.
"If you saw last year there, I think you can expect that in every restart," Power said.
Long Beach winner Mike Conway also said he is expecting plenty of action on the restarts.
"It should be interesting coming from the long straight into the tight chicane," the British driver said. "Everybody will have to pay attention to make sure we all get through there, but it's going to be difficult."
Conway said the new side-by-side restarts "can either work in your favor or work against you."
"You can control the race itself, but at the restart you are kind of looking in your mirror and hoping you don't get wiped out," he said. "Hopefully we will keep learning from each event and hopefully we will keep it clean this time."
Two-time series champion Dario Franchitti has mixed feelings about the new restart system.
He said he took advantage of the double-file restarts to make a series of passes both in the season opener in St. Petersburg and in the second race of the year, in Alabama. His teammate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Scott Dixon, hasn't been so lucky, however, and Franchitti remains wary.
"I've also seen the other side of it," the Scot said. "Dixon has been wiped out twice in three races for no fault of his own. Some of it is side-by-side (racing), some of it is people making stupid decisions, making mistakes."
He complained that IndyCar officials are not doing enough to stop drivers from being too aggressive on the restarts.
"The though part for us as drivers is that we are not seeing any punishment being given out, so we don't know what the law is and that's very difficult," Franchitti said.
He agreed though, that even more punishment to drivers may not be enough.
"We all make mistakes some times, and side-by-side restarts put us in closer proximity. Pretty quickly that can turn a small mistake into a big mistake, into a costly mistake for yourself and others."