Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
Your questions for Robin should continue to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
Q: If IndyCar doesn’t have the balls to run in the rain anymore, why bother having rain tires at all? At this point it’s a given that if there’s any rain, they won’t run. Sad to see that IndyCar and F1 won’t run in the rain, while those clowns in NASCAR will. Way to kill all of the good momentum the series had built up from the start of the year.
RM: I think you’re being a little tough on the boys. First off, with the small lakes in three different places around the track, the cars were aquaplaning (Oriol Servia was driving the pace car, and said he almost spun out two or three times because it was so treacherous), and nobody could see beyond their nose cone. Drivers that run 230mph into Turn 1 don’t lack balls, this was more about conditions. F1 has three sets of rain tires but IndyCar only has one, and it’s not designed to handle excessive amounts of water like we saw Sunday. But they performed just fine Monday in a steady rain, and a new rain tire will be ready for Detroit. One race isn’t going to kill any momentum and there was enough drama at the end between JoNew and Seabass to make things interesting.
Q: I watched the Barber GP and while I agree with P.T. that they should have run (Senna won in similar conditions in Donington – that was legendary), I was fine with the postponement. The series can’t afford the costs of machinery, or worse, had they run. But when I read that they allowed the field to fill up on fuel, it just showed that this series cannot get out of its own way. Who is running this? Bozo the clown? It’s a postponement to be resumed the next day – no team should be allowed to touch the cars for any reason! No fuel! This completely screwed Andretti and Pagenaud who would have been in a great position to get in front due to pit strategy. If you want to even things out and be fair then go back to lap one, put everyone back into their qualifying spots, let Power and T.K. fix their cars, and start the race as new in the morning.
RM: I will say that most of the mechanics I talked to on Monday morning were shocked to show up at the track and learn they could fuel up, change tires and basically start over. But you can read what IndyCar boss Jay Frye told RACER.com here.
Q: First off, the drivers were showing some great driving skills to keep the cars on track for the beginning of the race. If the race had stayed green throughout (that’s a big if), I bet the race would have started and finished on Sunday. Now, I wonder why doesn’t IndyCar have an intermediate rain tire and a full wet rain tire? I feel like a deeper tread tire that would be more efficient in throwing water off the racing surface would have allowed for the race to continue under yellow until the cars removed enough standing water to resume. I assume this has to do with costs – or does Firestone just find it more practical to make a wet tire that can cope with semi-dry conditions that a intermediate tire with less tread would be better suited in? Also, are you glad you were not the one interviewing Hinch when he got out of the car, or do you see it as having missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity?
RM: Good observation, they did a very good job considering the elements and it was very treacherous on Sunday. Not sure a better rain tire would have helped with that much water, but Firestone has a new one that will be ready by Detroit. Rain just isn’t much of a factor most of the time for IndyCar, so it’s not paramount to build a super-duper F1-type tire. After all the publicity he got on ESPN, Hinch declared his bladder relief: “The piss heard round the world.” Of course the sad thing is that ESPN ran his sound byte non-stop, but nary a word on the race.
Q: If IndyCar is gonna pull a stunt like this every time it rains, why do they even bother with rain tires? Everyone knows where the standing water is – drive around it! What a disservice to the fans and the sport in caving to the whining drivers.
Kevin in Greenville, SC
RM: You can’t drive around it if it’s pooling and running across the track. Drivers enjoy racing the rain, but not when they can’t see and when they’re riding on top of the water.
Q: What happened to parc ferme? I thought it was really unfair that many teams got a free stop before resuming while others were penalized for pitting before the red. Hard to call it a “continuation” of the race when you allow that sort of thing. What do you think?
Justin in Indy
RM: I think the rain and subsequent five laps of yellow on Sunday prior to the red flag hosed those early stoppers, and refueling all the cars and changing tires had little effect on their strategy.
Q: WTF? They allow teams to change tires from wets to dry before restart? They all should have had to start the race in the manner it was stopped. Then Kanaan gets penalized for pitting before the green, but Chilton loses a lap? Power can work on his car before the green, but T.K. couldn’t? And Frye’s explanation is BS! All teams that attempted strategic pit stops were dumped on! Also, no charge to get in on Monday? Seems nice, but a slap to those who actually paid for weekend tickets!
Skip Ranfone, Summerfield FL
RM: Whoa. Chilton’s car stopped on the track prior to the green, and he sat in the pits for 15 laps. T.K. evidently violated some kind of pit rule, but Power’s team couldn’t work on the car during red, only when the cars restarted under caution. Pit strategy went away with the rain. I don’t have a problem with allowing free admission on a Monday, and I didn’t hear any complaints from the paying customers I talked to in the paddock.