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Takuma Sato in Brazil: Block, or not a block?

May 6, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

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So, how about those final few laps in Sao Paulo when Takuma Sato battled first Josef Newgarden, and then James Hinchcliffe for the win in the final IndyCar race before the Indianapolis 500?

Social media lit up in the immediate aftermath of Sato’s driving during the final few laps. There were a plethora of posts on Twitter that said some variation of, “This is blocking, and a penalty must be enforced!”

The Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates offered their thoughts. From Scott Dixon: “Quick look at twitter… Sounds like race control had to leave early to catch a flight… Can’t wait to hear the excuses!” Dario Franchitti added, “Maybe the 14 had a broken steering rack that caused him to weave across the whole width of the straight multiple times?”

Others said it was a form of gamesmanship where Sato used both the nature of the straight and the width of his car to his advantage. The backstraight in Sao Paulo is curved, and the natural racing line is to move from the outside, back across closer to the inside, and then back out again to arc into the final Turn 11 right-hand hairpin.

Race Control ruled no further action on any of Sato’s moves against Newgarden and later Hinchcliffe, but Hinchcliffe snookered the Long Beach winner anyway with a cross-over move to come out ahead onto the front straight and take his second win of the year.

From the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series Rulebook, blocking (Section 9.3.2) is defined as such:

“A Driver must not alter his/her racing line based on the actions of pursuing Drivers to inhibit or prevent passing. Blocking will result in a minimum of a black flag “drive through” penalty.”

The mantra IndyCar race director Beaux Barfield has worked to establish during his year and four races in the series is that you can defend, where you make a proactive move on a straight and hold that line, but not block, where you move in reaction to another car’s move.

Did Sato’s driving during the final stages violate that mantra, and should he have been penalized? Or, by Barfield and Race Control holding back and letting them race, was the finish of the race enhanced?

For what it’s worth, Sato has been issued one blocking penalty already this year, during qualifying at Barber Motorsports Park.

  1. midtec2005 - May 6, 2013 at 1:16 PM

    I’d say it was definitely a block… but I would also say it changed my opinion of blocking. If they penalized Sato it would not have been nearly as exciting. I say good call Beaux!

  2. manik56 - May 6, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    There were three incidents on that last stint with Sato. The first two didn’t bother me, but the third one on the last lap was a definite block. Sato overcooked the corner and got passed anyway so the damage done was already fixed. All the lenalty would have done was reward the other lead lap cars, not Hinch so there was no need for a penalty on the third “block.” But does the rule book give Beaux that discretion?

  3. purplesectornet - May 6, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    The FIA has it right, IndyCar has it wrong.

    • indycarseries500 - May 6, 2013 at 3:42 PM

      They pretty much have the same rule, the FIA just lets the idiots get away with it. Blocking is stupid, dangerous and not racing, Foyt didn’t need to block, Mario didn’t need to block, Richard Petty didn;t need to block, Jim Clark didn’t need to block, Jackie Stewart didn’t need to block.

      The funny thing is everyone who defends blocking in motorsport imediately calls the blocker an idiot when it all goes wrong and someone has a Mark Webber Valencia-type accident.

      • icemanpjn - May 6, 2013 at 5:58 PM

        If you don’t know what you’re talking about, stop posting. The two don’t have pretty much the same rule. The FIA allows blocking, but limits how many moves you can make. With the FIA, it isn’t “pick a line and stick with it.” You can swerve to block, but just not repeatedly.

      • purplesectornet - May 6, 2013 at 8:30 PM

        Another stupid totally uninformed comment on this site today. Mark Webber got airborne trying to overtake a backmarker…that wasnt a block…

        The FIA has the same rule as IndyCar? And you call yourself a fan? You don’t even know the bloody rules! Truly pathetic.

  4. indycarseries500 - May 6, 2013 at 3:51 PM

    I’ll have to watch it again but I’m calling it racing. I absolutely can’t stand blocking and love IndyCar’s defensive moves must be proactive not reactive rule but there was no room at all for a car to get to the inside of Sato.

    From the officials point of view, the back straight at Sao Paulo isn’t straight and Sato’s defensive line meant he had to apex the bend so it looked like he cut down in reaction to Josef or Hinch. That combined with the fact there wasn’t anywhere near a car width between Sato and the wall they had to give Sato the benefit of the doubt.

  5. purplesectornet - May 6, 2013 at 8:46 PM

    That is literally the dumbest rule in racing and is another example of why IndyCar will forever be second tier to not just F1, but to GP2 as well…

    So you have to “proactively” throw the block…which means its not a block because the driver behind you gets to see it happen then simply drive around it and wave as he goes by….”thanks buddy!!”

    IndyCar…what a joke….this is the series that tried to make a rule that stated you have to maintain your line through a corner, as if the race track had painted lanes like a freeway…its a JOKE.

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