Sato, Grosjean feuding heading into Sunday’s INDYCAR season opener in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — Who had Romain Grosjean vs. Takuma Sato as the first rivalry brewing inside of the NTT INDYCAR Series paddock to start the 2022 season. The thing is, here we are. Grosjean, drove Sato’s car last year but had a front row seat at his former ride in Turn 10 for Saturday morning’s practice session.

As a group of cars were slowing into Turn 10 to get a clean lap, Grosjean who was already at speed, slammed into the back of Sato at turn entry creating the second red flag of the session.

“It’s a shame,” Sato told the broadcast on Saturday morning. “Everybody is trying to make a gap. We were just slowing down, and I had to hit the brake coming through 9. Grosjean, I don’t know what he was thinking. He was reckless. I don’t know what he was thinking. He could clearly see the cars in front.”

Grosjean, wasn’t happy about the incident either. He wasn’t mad at Sato. That’s part of the nature of this business he says. In fact, the two spoke after the crash where Grosjean says that they, “agreed to disagree, so that’s fine,” he said.

Takuma Sato – Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

One problem that’s creeping up lately is that cars slow on track during practice in search for a clean lap. I get it. I truly do too. There’s no real gain by trying to do a qualifying practice and having cars in traffic. It gives us false data.

However, on a track of just 1.8-miles and 26 cars looking for real estate, what you saw between Grosjean and Sato is more common than you think. The only real reason for this incident was a traffic jam in Turn 10. Several cars were slow in that corner, all looking to let the car ahead of them get a clear gap.

But, when other cars at wanting to go at speed, you get contact.

“Well, there was just no flags on the track, and I think we should have flags when these cars are that slow to corner,” Grosjean said. “Yeah, that’s all. I just think if I had known there were like four cars — because you cannot see. I know there was one on the left, one on the right. That’s all I knew. I didn’t know there were some in front.

“If there’s only one, the guy should accelerate. Obviously there were more, but I think just a white flag to tell us that, and I just think you shouldn’t be driving that slow on the racing line, that’s all.”

What can INDYCAR do? Do you cut the session in half between two groups? Do you make everyone go all out any time they’re on track?

“Sorry, but I think that the alternate start-finish line, I probably don’t agree with it,” Scott McLaughlin said. “I think it should just be the start-finish line. I said that before; it happened at Portland a couple times, and I caught Grosjean — Romain in a peculiar spot. I feel like coming around a blind corner, everyone is trying to get a lap started. That’s the only point we can really start our lap to get a good run. It does choke up there and it’s just — you don’t see. Unless we get a flag, you don’t see.

“I’m probably a big fan of probably moving the line depending on what track we go to. That’s just my personal opinion.”

Will Power says though that there’s not much more that needs to be done. It’s up to the drivers and teams to get this sorted out.

“I mean, we’re splitting the field, so everyone should be able to get a clean lap,” he said. “It’s up to the guys to sort it out. You know when you’re leaving the pits in a line of cars that you’re going to have to give the guy a gap. I just think it’s ridiculous when some of these guys go out and try to pass the line of cars that are all trying to get their gap to start the lap.

“Practice you’ve got the whole field, so you’ve got to try to sort it out. Sometimes it’s a bit rough, but that’s just the way it is. We don’t run on the longest tracks here. We have some short street courses, and yeah, it’s a game. Not much you can do about it. The only way you can fix that stuff is have less cars. But I don’t think anyone wants to split practice up.”

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