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Why IndyCar’s race management ought to tweak yellow flag coverage

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There was a second at Laguna on Sunday that undoubtedly adopted IndyCar race management’s protocol, nevertheless it left many questioning why that’s so within the first place.

With 21 laps to go, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard was attacking Marcus Armstrong, who’d simply exited the pits and was on chilly tyres.

The Dane lunged to the within of Armstrong going into Flip 5, which led to contact and despatched the #11 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda off beam close to the tyre barrier. His try to avoid wasting the automotive whipped him again throughout the monitor – with Graham Rahal almost ploughing into the aspect of him on the exit of a nook that’s between 130-140mph – earlier than coming to a cease on the within of the nook’s exit, stalled whereas sitting inclined on the fringe of the race monitor.

The incident occurred because the day’s frontrunners already pitted between laps 67-70 of 95, however the warning was held as Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden cycled to the lead and got here in for his last pitstop on lap 75, with the yellow flag popping out proper earlier than sliding into his pitbox.

Josef Newgarden, Group Penske Chevrolet pit cease

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Photograph by: Perry Nelson / Motorsport Images

Newgarden, who had been penalised for an improper pit exit by race management earlier within the race, pitted on lap 75 and benefit from the warning, which neutralised the sector and allowed him to fit second within the area, round eighth to 10 spots greater than the place he would have cycled by had he been pressured to run an out-lap like his opponents on chilly rubber.

Though in a extra advantageous place, Newgarden – the reigning two-time Indianapolis 500 champion – never challenged eventual race winner Alex Palou and ultimately trashed his potential top-five outcome after spinning in Flip 6 on the penultimate lap to complete nineteenth.

Regardless, although, it was a foul look by Race Management as doubts of favouritism – since Newgarden drives for the very group proprietor that additionally owns the collection – rolled to the entrance of the minds of quite a few individuals within the paddock, together with a number of followers sharing their views on social media.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet, wins the 2023 Indy 500 after a last-lap shootout

Josef Newgarden, Group Penske Chevrolet, wins the 2023 Indy 500 after a last-lap shootout

Photograph by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

It was additionally yet one more controversial name that Newgarden was concerned in; he received final 12 months’s Indy 500 after race management arrange an unprecedented one-lap shootout with vehicles rolling off pitlane and taking the inexperienced and white flag, with Newgarden operating second and making the race-deciding go on chief Marcus Ericsson heading into Flip 3.

Going again to the incident at Laguna Seca, it took 1 minute and 21 seconds for the warning to return out after the second of contact between Armstrong and Lundgaard, and 1 minute and 14 seconds after the previous was evidently left stranded and the cloud of mud had cleared. For perspective, the quickest race lap on the day was 1 minute and 9 seconds by Ericsson within the #28 Andretti World Honda.

And this isn’t the primary time a scenario like this has taken place in North America’s premier open-wheel championship.

Agustín Canapino, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet,  at Portland in 2023

Agustín Canapino, Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet, at Portland in 2023

Photograph by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images

Final 12 months at Portland Worldwide Raceway, Agustin Canapino overshot Flip 10 and spun by the nook, coming to a cease simply off monitor in Flip 11 with 27 laps to go within the 110-lap race. When timing from the beginning of the spin, race management held off from throwing the warning for 1 minute, 11 seconds. The quickest race lap on the 1.964-mile, 12-turn street course was finished in 59.3s by Newgarden.

Moreover, it took Felix Rosenqvist – the race chief that had but to pit – 42 seconds of that timeframe to return to the pits, with the warning popping out as he was being serviced. He was the one driver to pit on lap 84 and returned to second place, not needing to push on an out-lap, as the remainder of the sector was slowed by the warning. He ended up ending second.

One factor that has been constant in all of this – and “constant” is an important phrase – is that race management has maintained the method to carry off throwing the warning except a automotive has crashed right into a wall or tyre barrier.

Nevertheless, there are higher methods to do issues and doubtlessly make it simpler for brand new followers making an attempt to observe the collection.

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda takes the yellow flags

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda takes the yellow flags

Photograph by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

The truth is by holding off the warning throughout a pit cycle whereas a automotive is stranded places the sector in a frenzy to push even tougher as a result of they know the yellow flag will ultimately come out, which solely will increase the proportion of a good worse incident occurring. That is a kind of conditions the place Race Management is enjoying a harmful sport and the optics make it appear to be security shouldn’t be a precedence.

If that is the system that Race Management needs to proceed with when a automotive is unable to get shifting once more, why not permit the complete pit cycle to run its course so the sector blends accordingly? If it didn’t warrant a yellow flag immediately, and the timeframe is already exceeding a full minute in each the aforementioned cases, what’s a couple of seconds extra?

As a result of the truth is that by throwing the yellow flag when the ultimate automotive is making their respective pitstop, the remainder of the sector is being penalised by being neutralised.

A Formula 1 VSC board on the entrance to Mirabeau Bas

A Formulation 1 VSC board on the doorway to Mirabeau Bas

Photograph by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Another ideas embody an F1-style Digital Security Automotive choice to be enabled instantly when it turns into apparent the automotive stalled. This is able to permit the tempo to be considerably slowed and gaps maintained whereas the AMR Security Group offers help to the stranded automotive.

Race Management can resolve whether or not the pits needs to be open or not throughout this era, but when left open there would nonetheless be a degree of integrity maintained as people who wanted to pit would cycle out with much less of a bonus beneath the present system.

There may be additionally a notion to only throw the yellow flag when a automotive is straight away stranded and rattling the price of what follows. If a driver stayed out too lengthy, that’s on them. Looking for the suitable technique in an ever-evolving race is a bet: at occasions you’re going to return away with the jackpot, whereas at different moments you would possibly lose all of your chips.

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet car stalled

Patricio O’Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet automotive stalled

Photograph by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

It needs to be mentioned, although, that the implementation of IndyCar’s hybrid unit starting on the subsequent spherical at Mid-Ohio will begin a brand new period that ought to see fewer conditions of vehicles stranded on monitor.

That’s as a result of the low voltage system could have the power for drivers to restart the automotive by themselves within the occasion of a stall on monitor, which is able to keep away from the necessity for the AMR Security Group to be deployed and help. The self-start capacity will cut back issues of vehicles stalled on monitor, nevertheless it received’t erase them.

Whereas these calls are undoubtedly tough, on the finish of the day, a extra simple system by Race Management would absolutely enhance the legitimacy and purity for any race end result.

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