There are two sides to every story, and both are pleading their sides as the news emerged this morning about the penalty and probation to Marco Andretti for ignoring race control’s instructions in race 1 at the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston.
The full text of the release from IndyCar reads as follows:
HOUSTON (Sunday, June 29, 2014) – INDYCAR announced today that it has issued penalties against Verizon IndyCar Series driver Marco Andretti and entrant Andretti Autosport for actions in Race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston presented by the Greater Houston Honda Dealers on June 28.
INDYCAR has fined Andretti $2,500 and has placed him on probation for three races, beginning with Race 2 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston on June 29, for violating Rule 126.96.36.199 (failure to heed the blue flag) of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook.
INDYCAR has fined Andretti Autosport $2,500.
The members may contest the imposition of the penalty pursuant to the procedures and timelines detailed in the review and appeal procedures of the Verizon IndyCar Series rulebook.
What is not specified in the release is whether it was merely Andretti’s unwillingness to let the race leader, Takuma Sato, pass him and put him down a lap that drew the penalty or if some evidence of team collusion played into the decision as Hinchcliffe was in second place and the gap between he and Sato closed rapidly during the incident.
Marco Andretti’s side is that he was not helping Hinchcliffe. “There was 70 laps to go in the race,” he said on Twitter this morning. “Was fighting for my life.”
In audio supplied to More Front Wing this morning by Matt Weaver of Open Wheel Now, Joey Barnes of Tribute Racing, and Christopher DeHarde of Motorsport.com, Andretti was asked whether he was told the penalty was due to team collusion.
“They didn’t say that,” Andretti said. “I think they’d be in trouble if they said that, actually, to suggest that’s why they gave me the penalty.”
However, a source who asked not to be named told More Front Wing this morning that Hinchcliffe was informed over his radio that Andretti was in front of Sato and was going to hold him up. Comments from Derrick Walker in the audio supplied to More Front Wing corroborate that suggestion.
“We were listening on the radio and they were talking about it,” Walker says. “They knew what was going on and they were using it to their advantage.
“The fact that he ignored (the blue flag) long enough for his teammate to catch up with Sato, we said we’re going to review that and that’s what we did.”
That said, Walker specified that the penalty in question was explicitly for ignoring the blue flags.
“Marco was going to be a lapped car and he was given a blue flag,” Walker says. “That wasn’t a penalty. It was an instruction from Race Control. He disobeyed that for – I don’t know how many laps – more laps than he should have.
“When we looked at his lap times earlier when we said give him the first blue, he wasn’t that quick. He got quicker as the run went on and he knew we were watching him and the blue flag was waving. He got quicker to then say look, I’m quicker, don’t blue flag me. But the damage was done. (Sato) went from a 4-second lead to (Hinchcliffe) was right on his ass.
“It was about ignoring race control’s decision. You can’t just say screw you, mate, I’m going to do it because I think I’m right. You have to argue about that later.
“It came down to race control saying to itself, can people just tell us to take a hike or is there some price to be paid to do that?”
Walker said that a precedent did not exist for the action race control took in this situation.
“A last car on the lead lap is not being blue flagged like that,” he says. “That’s something we haven’t done. So, we made a new rule. That’s another discussion.”