Rahal, Hinchcliffe scoff at Lewis Hamilton's jabs at IndyCar
Both Detroit winner Graham Rahal and third-place finisher James Hinchcliffe have scoffed at Lewis Hamilton’s pre-Indy 500 quotes which have been perceived as denigrating the depth of driver quality in the IndyCar field.
The prestigious L’Equipe magazine in France last week quoted Hamilton as saying of Fernando Alonso’s IndyCar debut in the 101st Indianapolis 500, “I looked at the times and, frankly, for his first ever qualifying, for Fernando to be fifth – what does that say about Indy?
"A great driver, if he cannot win in Formula 1, will look for other races to win. But to see him fifth against drivers who are [in the series] all year is… interesting."
Rahal, who became the seventh winner in the seven IndyCar races of 2017, today stated: “When I saw Lewis Hamilton's comment… it took me everything I had in my body not to say something. Legitimately, in Formula 1, over his entire career, it's been a two-car race, four max.
“Here you have, like, Hinch who spins on Lap 1 [today]. You're going, ‘He's done.’ No, he had the pace, he had a great strategy, he made some moves. I think he went for a three-stopper, ran blacks, ran hard, had the speed to get through. Next thing you know he's in third."
Rahal said the sheer competitiveness of the Verizon IndyCar Series validated its importance within the racing world.
“IndyCar racing, this is the seventh race, seventh different winner,” he said. “That doesn't happen in other motorsports, period.
“So no matter what anybody wants to say, it's a great form of motorsports – I think Esteban [Gutierrez, three-year F1 racer who made his IndyCar debut this weekend] will tell you. I just talked to him briefly, he said this is the most fun car he's ever driven in his life. It's man and machine. It's as simple as that. It's a lot of fun.
“When you win here, a day like today, you truly feel like you really accomplished something great. As a driver, as a team, as an engineer, all across the board. So today is extremely, extremely rewarding.”
Rahal, who led 55 of the race’s 70 laps, mocked the lack of competition for the front-running drivers in Formula 1 and also stated his belief that four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon would be a frontrunner in F1.
“I can't imagine the feeling of going to each and every race weekend and knowing that all I got to do is beat my teammate and I'm going to win,” said Rahal. “That doesn't happen here.
“And, look, truth. I put Scott Dixon in a Mercedes [F1 car] all day long, and Lewis is going to have more than he really wants to deal with. I can guarantee you that. Maybe not me, but Scott Dixon.”
Hinchcliffe, was similarly dismissive of Hamilton’s comments, noting: “It's funny hearing criticism about the depth of our field from someone who has to race three other cars, when we have seven winners in the first seven races. It shows how competitive this series is, the parity between the manufacturers, between teams, just how difficult it is to win one of these races.”
The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver also said he believed that the team element is emphasized in IndyCar and that there is a need for perfection throughout the race to succeed.
“You really have to have everything go your way,” he observed. “Pit stops have to be perfect, [yellow] flags have to fall in your favor, and – oh yeah – you have to be pretty good behind the wheel of a good car.
“For me, I think it's the greatest racing on four wheels on the planet. We're all very privileged to be able to race in such a deep field. Such a high class of driver here.”
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