Trying to pass Kirkwood for win would have been “too much risk” – Grosjean


Posted on

| Written by

Romain Grosjean says he did not make a bid to chase down his team mate to win yesterday’s Long Beach Grand Prix as it would have involved too much risk.

Kyle Kirkwood claimed the first win of his IndyCar career yesterday by less than a second from the former Haas Formula 1 driver.

Grosjean faced an uphill task to catch Kirkwood after making his final pit stop a lap before his team mate, meaning he had less fuel for the final stint and therefore couldn’t use his engine as aggressively.

Afterwards Grosjean admitted “I did not even want to try to go for the win today, it would have been taking too much risk.

Grosjean congratulated Kirkwood on his breakthrough win
“Kyle drove a brilliant weekend. He had the best strategy out there, but he was on pole. He was fast. He didn’t make any mistake. He drove well. He deserved the race.”

Grosjean was running third behind Kirkwood and leader Josef Newgarden before the final round of pit stops. Both Andretti drivers ran longer than their Penske rival to get ahead of him.

“We knew that in-lap and out-lap were going to be critical,” said Grosjean. “I was hoping that I was going to be the one going a lap longer than everyone else, but it was Kyle at the end.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“It’s normal, he was the leader. We had to cover Josef Newgarden. We did that well.”

Second place for the second year in a row for Grosjean
Over the final stint Grosjean had much more of his push-to-pass allocation available than Kirkwood, but as he had to make his remaining fuel last one lap more, he wasn’t able to use it.

“Because the way the race turned out I have to save a lot of fuel on the last stint,” said Grosjean. “I had 188 seconds of push-to-pass left, but I was not allowed to use it. For once I saved too much, I guess.”

“It sucks,” he added. “I just wanted to push the button and I wasn’t allowed to.”

Keeping within his fuel allocation made the run to the chequered flag tricky, he admitted. “The fuel situation was not easy to manage through the end of the race. It created a lot of issues with brakes getting too cool, tyres losing temperature. But we had good cars and managed to get one-two.”

Yesterday’s race was Grosjean’s fourth second-place finish since joining the IndyCar series two years ago. He is still looking for his first win, but remains encouraged by the pace he has shown over the opening races this year.

“If we had won St. Pete, finished on the podium in Texas, things would have been slightly different. But we did not. I think it’s more important that we’re first and second than just trying to fight for the win.

“We’re coming to Barber in two weeks. I’m not worried. I’m going to have a fast car and get a chance there. Could win Barber, could win Indy [road course]. At the Indy 500, try to catch Ganassi, they did such a good job last year. We improving a lot, as well.

“It’s a different situation. I think we’re going to be strong everywhere. Wasn’t for today but maybe for tomorrow.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free


Browse all IndyCar articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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

15 comments on “Trying to pass Kirkwood for win would have been “too much risk” – Grosjean”

  1. Just doing some regular old Sunday driving. All in the name of saving fuel. In a race.

    Lovely job, everyone involved.

    1. Maybe you don’t understand, they have an allotted amount of fuel for the race. Unlike F1 with a huge fuel tank that they run the entire race with, IndyCar has pitstops for tires and fuel. Sometimes they need to save fuel during the race. It’s like saving your tires. Getting your fuel strategy right so you can run hard is part of the competition.

      1. It’s Indycar’s choice to go for a specific set of laps, on this circuit, with a mandated maximum load of fuel, all of which conspire to produce a 2-stop, leisurely Sunday stroll as the quickest way to complete the race.

        Indycar could increase the lap count. Indycar could reduce the time lost for a stop. Indycar could cut the maximum fuel load per stop.

        Indycar chose to do nothing, and we ended up with a race where the eventual runner-up could keep within a second of the eventual winner for dozens of laps while not being allowed to touch the overtake button more than twice during the entire race.

        1. The reason this race played out the way it did was because based on previous experience most teams gambled on a late race yellow. Which would punish everyone who did not had their last stop already done, and would provide enough laps behind the pace car to let them run full speed without the need to save fuel. It didn’t happen, so we ended up having a dud of a race.

          IndyCar can decide to increase or reduce the number of laps, size of fuel tanks, or both – and still the same scenario could unfold depending on the situation with FCY periods.

  2. Kinda like saving tires.

  3. Hontestly from Grosjean at this point I take it – he’s thrown away/lost a few good results already due to crashes and I can see he would like to just take the points, especially with it being his teammate in the other car, I am sure his team would also have told him that.

  4. Being just a casual viewer of Indycar (but warming more and more to it), I would be super grateful if someone could enlighten me as to why pitting a lap earlier was an issue here for Grosjean. Couldn’t they just have given him more fuel?
    Also, couldn’t all this fuel saving have been prevented by making an extra stop? Is the pit lane time loss just too big, or is there some kind of botched fuel limit a la F1 2014 in place?

    Hard to understand (for me) why not a single one of all those drivers who were making no progress in the race tried something different…

    1. Yeah, I don’t quite understand that either. It doesn’t really seem to follow the normal pitting using an undercut or overcut, but obviously they did it for a reason. Maybe the thinking was they knew how quick Kirkwood’s stop was and how much time they needed in the pits to get back out before him, but screwed up because of time for fuel? An undercut is when a driver makes a pit stop before other cars to get a fresh set of tires. With these tires, the driver expects to go faster than others. An overcut is when a driver takes a pit stop later than others. This strategy is used when undercutting won’t work to pass a competitor. Overcut is done with the hope that fresh tires will make them faster when they eventually go for a pit stop.

    2. RandomMallard
      18th April 2023, 17:27

      @mzs1 and Don My understanding following the race was that when they pitted, they were right on the edge of how far a full tank could take them. As in, a full tank could only last about 30 laps, and they all pitted about 30 laps from the end, meaning if Grosjean and Kirkwood both received a full tank (which it’s likely they did), then Grosjean still had to go a lap longer on the same amount of fuel, and they couldn’t add any more fuel because it was already a full tank.

      1. RandomMallard
        18th April 2023, 17:28

        Whoops meant to be @mzs16

      2. RandomMallard
        18th April 2023, 17:35

        I still don’t think I’ve explained that very well sorry. On the whole, I think they were limited by the size of the fuel tank as opposed to a regulated fuel limit. And yeah, I think the reason they didn’t make an extra stop was due to the pit lane time loss. All through the race, they were talking about how most teams were hoping to make it on a 2 stop, and how difficult passing can be, which makes an extra pitstop even more damaging as it becomes even harder to recover.

        And Don with regards to undercuts and overcuts, an undercut is often more difficult in Indycar than F1 because of the fuel element. If you make an earlier stop, you’re usually carrying more fuel than the driver staying out, which can negate or even nullify the effect of the fresher tyres.

      3. RandomMallard, Not a fuel tank capacity issue. The problem for the drivers was the caution on lap 20 being that bit too early for a 2 stop to work nicely if you started on the primary tyres as, like F1, you have to run 2 compounds in a race. And the alternate (soft) tyres just didn’t really last long enough to run for a 30+ lap stint.

        As everyone pitted under yellow on lap 22, that meant splitting 63 laps into 2 stints – and everyone stopped on laps 52-55. Ideally you’d run stints of sub-30 laps (especially the stint on the alternate tyres)… but under the circumstances it wasn’t possible.

        It was a big problem for those who started on the primary hard tyres as you lose 35 seconds by pitting, at a track with a 67.9s fastest lap. Josef Newgarden pitted as early as possible on lap 52 to get off the alternate tyre after 30 laps (including 2 under caution)… but that early stop compromised him on fuel as he then had to run 33 laps at full speed and… couldn’t without running out of fuel. As picked up on team radio, once committed he had to save heavily and let people go or finish 18th (last on the lead lap) had he stopped again.

        As Kyle Kirkwood started on the alternates, he could run 2x primary stints to end the race and therefore could pit solely based on fuel consumption and did so 2 laps later as his tyres were in better shape. That’s why he he was fine as 31 laps is viable on the primary tyres. Grojean stopped on lap 53 for a 32 lap final stint – which is why he used so little push to pass as like Formula Es attack mode it uses more energy and he was tight to make it to the end (but not as tight as Newgarden).

        Also, Penske runs Chevy engines – which apparently are not as good on fuel economy as Honda (though they might produce more power if memory is right). That combined with the early stop cost Newgarden any shot at the win.

        As an aside, changing race distance isn’t unheard of. Indycar (and CART) have changed race distances to basically force a strategy in the past – Elkhart Lake was extended from 50 to 55 laps in 1999 to force an extra stop as they wanted drivers to go flat out and not fuel save. It’s certainly happened on some ovals over the last decade as well but that’s more for extra running rather than strategy.

        @mzs16 Indycar generally favours stopping as little as possible as you lose so much time and track position and the difference between tyres is usually less significant than in F1 (combined with 7-8 second stops for fuel and tyres). The circumstances of this race were different thanks to that caution being that bit too early for a comfortable 2 stop strategy, but it’s basically been that way for the last 7-10 years on street & road courses. You also lose half a lap by stopping at Long Beach (35 seconds or so total for a stop, on a track where the fastest lap was 67.9469 seconds). When you combine that with a track where it’s tricky to pass, track position becomes key.

    3. @mzs16 just to add to my previous comment, but the length of those stints meant that the tanks were being fully brimmed on the final stops. Adding more fuel just wasn’t possible unless you stopped again, and obviously that would cost you so much track position that you wouldn’t be able to make it back up.

  5. Sergey Martyn
    18th April 2023, 15:59

    “Too much risk” divides winners from losers…

    1. Crashing while taking unnecessary risks chasing after a win does the same too.

      And RoGro did that twice this year already.

Comments are closed.