Bourdais, Dixon concede Sato was unstoppable at Barber

Neither third-placed Sebastien Bourdais, who ran the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on a rare two-stop strategy, nor runner-up Scott Dixon believe there was any way to beat eventual winner Takuma Sato on Sunday.

Bourdais, Dixon concede Sato was unstoppable at Barber

Polesitter Sato led 74 of the 90 laps around Barber Motorsports Park, and despite a late-race mistake that saw the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-Honda launch off the track at the Turn 8/9 chicane, his nearest pursuers admit they probably didn’t have the pace to beat him.

Bourdais, who started fifth on a two-stop strategy, said that making the necessary fuel mileage in his Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda wasn’t an issue but he did worry that the tires wouldn’t hold up for 30-lap stints.

He recalled: “By lap 15, 16, I was like, ‘Guys, I am not so sure I can hang on to that car for another 10 laps…’ It was really tricky, and for us to start with the Firestone red [softer alternate compound] used tires already might have been a little bit over-optimistic. But it worked out.

“Hats off to the boys and the SealMaster Honda crew. They obviously had maybe more faith than I had myself to be able to wheel that thing all the way through lap 26 or whatever it was.

"The plan was to hit 29, so when I saw that, I was like, ‘Man, that's going to be a long end of the race and divide that race in one more stop. I wasn't worried about fuel – fuel was not a concern today. It was very easily achievable, but the problem was to be able to hang on to the tires.

“The sun came out, and that was the last thing I needed to go as long as we did and as deep as we did on the stint. As soon as the sun came out every time, it was not consistent, but every time the sun would come out, the temp would go up instantly, and you would lose a half a second a lap.”

Bourdais moved into the lead when his three-stopping rivals pitted for the first time, and when he made his own first stop he came out in second ahead of Dixon. But a longer stop when everyone pitted under caution approaching two-thirds distance, because his tank was nearer empty than his rivals, dropped him behind Dixon.

Although Bourdais had a pace advantage over the Ganassi driver in the final stint – fresh alternate-compound tires and more push-to-pass boost left – he said Dixon’s defense was “played to perfection” and that Sato was never going to be beaten.

Said Bourdais: “I think Sato had us pretty much covered just by the fact that he managed to get himself a very big lead early on and distance himself from the rest of the pack.

"He did that by kind of playing his strengths early and going [with the tire strategy sequence] brand new reds and then new blacks, new blacks. In hindsight, maybe that would have been the right thing to do for us. We had the tires, we just really thought that the option tire was going to be better.

“I wish I would have seen the outcome of the race without the yellow, but I don't know that I would have had anything for Sato because he was just too far up the road for us, and it would turn into, again, track position.”

Five-time and reigning IndyCar champion Dixon concurred with Bourdais verdict on Sato admitting his only hope had been Sato’s brief trip into the Turn 8/9 sand trap.

“I saw it, and I was hoping he went a little further off,” grinned the Ganassi driver, “but it was his race today. He deserved it. That was the only thing he did wrong, and he caught it.

“We tried to put pressure on him. It was actually quite tough to get close this year, and I think that's because the grip level was quite low, so it was really hard to get close. In that situation when I pressured him, my tires went off.

“Bourdais really charged with about 10 to go and then he made another run with a couple to go. He had a lot of [push-to-pass] left and he nearly had us. It was definitely a nail-biting situation for the #9 car there.”

shares
comments
McLaren reveals Alonso's Indy 500 car

Previous article

McLaren reveals Alonso's Indy 500 car

Next article

Dixon praises Race Control for delayed Barber caution

Dixon praises Race Control for delayed Barber caution
Load comments

About this article

Series IndyCar
Event Birmingham
Drivers Sébastien Bourdais , Takuma Sato , Scott Dixon
Author David Malsher-Lopez
Why IndyCar's new aero parts should improve racing at Indy Prime

Why IndyCar's new aero parts should improve racing at Indy

Tino Belli, IndyCar’s director of aerodynamic development, believes the changes to the underside of the cars will allow them to run closer at Indy and make passes. The moment of truth comes on its biggest stage, writes David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
May 10, 2021
Colton Herta – America's next racing hero Prime

Colton Herta – America's next racing hero

Last Sunday, Colton Herta demolished his IndyCar opposition in the second round of the season. David Malsher-Lopez explains why Andretti Autosport’s youngest ace bears all the hallmarks of becoming the country’s next homegrown motorsport hero.

IndyCar
Apr 29, 2021
How good is Palou and is he Dixon’s strongest title rival? Prime

How good is Palou and is he Dixon’s strongest title rival?

Last Sunday, Alex Palou delivered his first IndyCar victory on his Chip Ganassi Racing debut. Is the young Spaniard going to become his legendary teammate Scott Dixon’s biggest title threat? David Malsher-Lopez reports.

IndyCar
Apr 21, 2021
Preview: Why IndyCar in 2021 is too close to call Prime

Preview: Why IndyCar in 2021 is too close to call

The fight for supremacy in the NTT IndyCar Series will be as intense as ever. David Malsher-Lopez is your guide to the main contenders and six intriguing sub-plots.

IndyCar
Apr 15, 2021
Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight? Prime

Is Arrow McLaren SP ready for IndyCar’s title fight?

With Patricio O'Ward and Felix Rosenqvist leading its line-up, 2021 could be the year Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet joins the IndyCar elite, writes David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Feb 21, 2021
Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team Prime

Dale Coyne picks the Top 10 drivers in his giant-slaying team

Over 37 seasons, Dale Coyne has run no fewer than 80 Indy car drivers – including himself! Ahead of his first season running Romain Grosjean, we asked Coyne to pick the best 10 drivers ever to compete for him. By David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Feb 10, 2021
Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed Prime

Why enigmatic Marco Andretti will be missed

Last Friday, Marco Andretti announced he is withdrawing from fulltime IndyCar racing. David Malsher-Lopez explains how this third-gen racer was a puzzle in the car, but a straight shooter off-track.

IndyCar
Jan 19, 2021
Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon Prime

Why Roger Penske is an American motorsport icon

In this exclusive one-on-one interview, Roger Penske reveals the inner drive that has made him not only a hugely successful team owner and businessman but also the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. He spoke to David Malsher-Lopez.

IndyCar
Dec 28, 2020