Power explodes at IndyCar race control after ECU failure costs him Detroit win


Posted on

| Written by

Will Power was left fuming at IndyCar race control’s decision to red flag Saturday’s first race of the Detroit Grand Prix, a decision that he adamantly believes cost him his first victory of the season when his car would not restart in a timely manner due to an engine control unit failure.

“I’m mad at IndyCar,” Power exclaimed to pit reporter Kevin Lee after the race. “Because I’m the first car in (the pits), and they wait for the last car to come before they get a fan on that car, and it roasts the ECU.”

“The guys, up there in race control, never listen to any of the drivers. They never listen, they don’t care!” Power barked. “We’ve given them so many good suggestions, and they don’t care.”

Power was running ahead of Marcus Ericsson, and had led 37 laps – more than any other driver – when Romain Grosjean crashed at turn nine, bringing out a second caution period that quickly turned into the second red flag of the race.

Power’s car failed to fire up when the race resumed with six laps to go, and he was moved out of line as Ericsson proceeded to take his first career victory. Eventually, Power’s Team Penske crew were able to restart the car, but he had lost three laps by then, and ultimately finished in 20th.

The Australian continued to vent his frustrations on the air after the race, saying, “I worked my arse off today! To have this happen…like I’m screaming in the radio, ‘we need a fan, get a fan!'”

“They wait for everyone – these guys still got air coming in their car…you work our arse off in this sport, so much money goes into it, and it’s just…dumb decisions like that! If it’s not a yellow they throw, it’s some stupid idea like this, a red flag…!”

Never mind that a 40th career victory had eluded him, Power’s gut-wrenching defeat deprived him of a much-needed result to turn his flagging fortunes around. Just two weeks ago, Power had to endure a nail-biting last row qualifying shootout to avoid the indignity of failing to qualify for this year’s Indianapolis 500. Power would finish a lowly 30th place in the 500, after being one of a number of drivers to spin out at the entrance of pit lane due to cold brakes.

After this latest misfortune, Power has now dropped to 12th in the IndyCar standings after seven races, and hasn’t finished in the top ten since the second race in St. Petersburg, Florida. But his next opportunity is less than 24 hours away, when the second race of the Detroit Grand Prix double-header goes green at 5:50 PM EDT.


Browse all IndyCar articles

Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

16 comments on “Power explodes at IndyCar race control after ECU failure costs him Detroit win”

  1. He wasn’t fuming at red flagging the race, but not getting the fan immediately when he was in the pits.

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      13th June 2021, 7:21

      @silfen Yeah this is what I’m reading as well. Admittedly it is quite a big oversight and one that should probably be fixed.

  2. Less than a week after Baku and my posting in reply to another comment that Indycar hadn’t thrown a red flag since the 2014 Indy 500 to ensure a green flag finish, this happens.

    Like Baku, both were completely arbitrary to “spice up the show”. And both resulted in a massive change in the result vs had they finished under yellow (Will Power losing a near certain win, Lewis Hamilton losing a possible win and near certain 2nd). And that’s factoring in the 90 minute delay for the earlier red flag, you’d think the TV network would want the race to be over ASAP so they could go to the next program (especially as it had already been delayed by 60minutes).

    I can’t answer for whether there’s anything in the rulebook for either series about it, but I’m not happy with the idea that a red flag should be thrown to clean up a crash that otherwise would be dealt with under a yellow flag/safety car simply because it’s in the final few laps and there’s a risk the race ends under yellow. I’d be more receptive to it if the rules stated as much but I’d still be unhappy with that outcome – to me, if a crash happens close to the end of the race and the race finishes under yellow as a result, so be it.

    No doubt the red flag for Felix Rosenqvist’s crash was justified when a whole concrete block was punted out of the wall. But it was obvious within around a minute of it happening that a red was needed based on the camera shots shown on TV and 2 laps were wasted before the call which ruined some drivers’ races thanks to running low on fuel. Could be argued as luck of the draw but I’d counter that it feels like the race officials impacted on the result by not making the call faster.

    Not a good 7 days for motorsport officiating in my book.

    1. Indycar’s thrown a few red flags since the 2014 500 that were mostly intended to ensure a green flag finish, actually. Curiously almost all of them were at Indy or Detroit.

      The 2019 500 and the 2nd Detroit races in 2015 and 2019 were both red-flagged to clean up cars but not to repair tracks, similarly for Fontana 2015 as well. So this isn’t exactly a new problem for the series.

    2. @skydiverian I couldn’t agree more with you. COTD material.
      Racing fairness and pureness shouldn’t get sacrificed for the show, entertainment, randomness, etc.

      1. RandomMallard (@)
        13th June 2021, 10:34

        @jerejj but flip this on its head. Let’s have a theoretical scenario where one driver is low on fuel, and knows they won’t make the end without a caution, e.g. McLaughlin at the Indy 500. If a caution comes out, he wins due to sheer luck and good fortune. Is that ‘racing fairness’?

        1. @randommallard Not really or truly.

        2. @randommallard It’s fair in that going onto a different strategy is down to the team & making it work comes down to the driver been able to hit the fuel number to extend the stint as drivers marginal on fuel rarely run flat out in that final stint due to knowing they are marginal on fuel.

          And don’t forget that at times a driver only ends up off strategy because of the way cautions fall earlier in a race or because they hit other problems which put them out of position & going off strategy was the only chance they had to get back to where they were.

          1. @stefmeister yellow flags are a whataboutism in this case – the issue is with throwing a red flag because you want to end the race under green “for the show”. It’s not better than NASCAR’s Green-White-Chequer rule of having 2 laps under green to end the race, regardless of how many laps over the scheduled distance that is (which also screws drivers over if they’re short on fuel as they need to stretch it out for an unknown number of laps).

            Yes, caution periods in Indycar can work out to be a lottery – Indycar does try to stay green if possible, as evidenced by race 2 today with Dalton Kellet’s car stopping at the pit exit due to a lost wheelnut. Over the last few years Indycar has, where possible, restrained from throwing a caution until everyone has had a lap to pit under green to prevent a disadvantage to anyone.

  3. Not a fan of Power, but I felt bad for him. The red also felt unnecessary to me because I felt Grosjean’s car could be cleared quickly, the car didn’t look too badly wrecked (although they didn’t show the recovery). He crashed with about 5 and a half laps left, and if it was cleared in 3 or 4 laps, they could have had a race for a lap or two without stopping the others. And if they can’t clear the track in time, tough luck, it’s an anticlimactic finish. I hope this “throwing in a late red flag for the show” is not a trend that continues, after Baku and Detroit I’m not a fan. It’s also weird they can’t do servicing on the car in Indy during a red flag…

    By the way is there a protocol for how long the pace car has to stay out after a red flag? I didn’t count so I might be mistaken, but it felt like they did 3 or 4 laps behind the PC after Rosenqvist’s crash, and only 2 at the end. Generally, having multiple warmup laps at the start is to give the drivers time to warm up the tires, right?

    1. RandomMallard (@)
      13th June 2021, 7:19

      @hunosci This practice of throwing a red flag late in the race to ensure it finishes under green is pretty common in Indycar. They’ve been doing it for years, and honestly I don’t mind it. What it appears is that Power is not actually annoyed at the red flag itself, but the fact that he couldn’t get a fan fitted until the last car pulled into the pitlane, which admittedly is a pretty large oversight and something thatb should be fixed by Indycar.

      1. RandomMallard (@)
        13th June 2021, 10:31

        I really need to work on my spelling of usernames @hunocsi

        1. @randommallard Haha don’t worry, every 2nd person that tries to spell my username writes hunosci.

          Yes I know that Power wasn’t complaining about the red flag itself, I probably should have put this comment under the race report.

  4. So unfortunate for Will Power that his ECU failed preventing the engine from starting after the red flag. Incidentally, ECU’s are owned and distributed by Indycar, so no fault on Chev’s equipment..

  5. Along with Indycar’s highly questionable late Red flag call, and letting the field complete WAY TO MANY laps with obvious crash fence damage (seriously, what were they thinking taking so long to red flag the race after Felix’s incident), there needs to be a discussion about track safety for responders.

    Take Romain’s crash as example – there were responders walking all around the crash scene, with cars pacing around under yellow (no pace car) going… what.. 60? 80mph? around that corner… just a few feet away from the relatively clueless safety personal and responders who were putting themselves between the wreck and the lapping cars – often with their back to the traffic.

    You can see Rossi loose his rear end in what seemed a controlled spinning of the wheels during the laps before the red for Felix, with about half a dozen responders in the path of his car if he had slid during that. Romain’s incident could have easily been caused by some oil on the track at that corned – the responders would have been sitting ducks – or perhaps bowling pins, to additional off’s.

    I have a hard enough time with the emergency response vehicles (pick-up trucks) pulling directly into the racing line; I admire the response time they often achieve and certainly would appreciate their timing if it was me in the wreck, but I also remember JPM sliding into a jet dryer at a nascar event.

  6. Jonathan Parkin
    13th June 2021, 14:27

    Do street circuits not have trolleys anymore to remove damaged cars. Monaco used to have them back in the 2000’s and with the cranes around the circuit they cleared cars pretty quickly. It took 11 years to bring out the SC at Monaco because they had efficient marshalls and procedures to remove cars. The Grosjean crash doesn’t look like it should take long to clear

Comments are closed.