Sonoma Raceway “full of variables” says Castroneves

IndyCar’s Friday pacesetter Helio Castroneves says he’s thrilled to be able to translate his strong testing form at Sonoma to P1 in practice, because the track throws out so many challenges.

Sonoma Raceway “full of variables” says Castroneves
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Bodywork for Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Third place Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet
Helio Castroneves, Team Penske Chevrolet

Helio Castroneves, who is aiming to complete Team Penske’s first 1-2-3 in the IndyCar championship for 22 years, says Sonoma Raceway offers a very different challenge to Watkins Glen because “there are so many variables in this place.”

The Brazilian veteran, who topped both practices today, said: “I have to praise the setup of my car because it was pretty similar to what we finished with here [in testing]. So I'm very happy. It shows that we have a consistency.

“We did roll out the way we thought was the best possible. From the test from last weekend, we were able to gather all the data from the four guys [teammates Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Juan Pablo Montoya], put it together, try to develop an even better situation for this weekend. And so far it's been on the right track."

Asked to compare the undulations of Watkins Glen with the wind-blown, sand-blasted undulations of Sonoma, Castroneves explained: "In Watkins Glen, everything is kind of like pushing down. When you go into the corners, there is even a little banking, it makes the cars push down.

“Here, because of the way the track is, a lot of elevation, when you go into Turn 3, when you go to the back of the Esses, it's a rise but completely different from Watkins Glen. When you add that element, whew, man, it's becoming more tricky.

“Before practice, the wind went one direction, and in practice the wind went a different direction. When it happens like that, it throws another curve ball at you.

“And the temperature – in the morning, it's cooler. When you come to the afternoon, it's a rise in temperature, which means you lose downforce.”

Aside from the behavior of the car getting light over the humps on the 2.238-mile road course, Castroneves says the challenge of getting the best from the tire compounds leaves no margin for error.

“The tire degradation means you've got to get really right in one lap,” he commented. “I mean really right in one lap. If you're lucky, you can get a second one.

"That's why it's so important to have a consistent car because if you can really be confident on the first one, you have a very good chance to do well in qualifying.”

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