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Injuries add edge to double-file restart row

St Petersburg was dominated by controversy over new-style restarts, with top drivers calling them dangerous while others hailed them for adding new excitement and overtaking opportunities.
The decision to move to double-file restarts for all IndyCar races in 2011 rather than just oval events was controversial even before the green flag came out at St Peterburg, and what followed - a multiple-car wreck at the first corner, followed by a series of starts and stops over the next 15 laps and wrist injuries to Ana Beatriz and Justin Wilson who had been caught up in incidents - offered plenty of proof to those who felt the new style restarts were a major mistake.

"We need to make the show good," said Tony Kanaan in calling for the change to be reconsidered. "I don't think it's good for the show to have the first 15 laps under the yellow. It's crazy."

Given the drivers' concerns that the succession of early yellows would spoil the show for fans, the ABC TV network reported that the St Petersburg event delivered the highest overnight ratings since 2007 for a televised IndyCar race other than the Indy 500. The race's "1.4 rating" is still a fraction compared with NASCAR, but a huge improvement on last year's 0.32 rating for a rain-delayed event and a feeble 0.19 rating in 2009.

Although no one was injured during the first eye-catching multiple-car wreck on lap 1, some of the other less spectacular accidents later on in the race sparked by the new restarts did have repercussions.

After the first restart bunched the field up again, Danica Patrick and Graham Rahal both had collisions with Ana Beatriz and as a result Beatriz was subsequently diagnosed with a fractured scaphoid bone (wrist) because of the violent motion of the steering wheel resulting from the impact. "I could feel that my hand was sore and as the race went on it started to bother me more," Beatriz said afterwards. The injury will require surgery this week and consequently it's doubtful whether she will race at next week's second IndyCar event, at Barber Motor Speedway.

Patrick was involved in another collision after the restart on lap 44 which saw her clash with Beatriz's Dreyer & Reinbold team mate Justin Wilson out of turn 1, and this time it was Wilson who ended up with a small fracture of his wrist bone. "As our wheels bumped my steering wheel wrenched in my hand," Wilson said. "I knew at that point that I had broken something." He will need to be fitted with a carbon-fibre brace, although it should not stop him competing at Barber.

The injuries add a pressing safety dimension to calls to reconsider the new restarts, which are rather more persuasive than general discussion of whether or not the restart accidents spoiled or enhanced the racing and the spectacle.

Tony Kanaan was one of those to benefit most from the new style restart, the outside line into the first corner enabling him to make up positions on his way to a third place finish in his d├ębut outing for his new KV Racing Technology team. "If you're lucky then you make it, and if you're not then you're done," he summarised.

Simona de Silvestro was an even greater winner from the new restarts, finishing fourth from 17th on the grid. No wonder she described the new system as "pretty fun," as "it actually gave us a chance to make positions," she said, adding: "Last year, we would start single file every time, it would be hard. You would be just following the leader. I think it made it exciting and I really enjoyed it."

Related Pictures

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26-28 March 2010, St petersburg, Florida USA #12 Team Penske`s Will Power and Scott Dixon into turn one.
Justin Wilson (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson roars up the frontstretch during practice for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson on course during practice for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson and Charlie Kimball go side-by-side for the start of the Pocono INDYCAR 500 (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson exits Turn 2 during practice for the Pocono INDYCAR 500 at Pocono Raceway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson waits on pit lane prior to qualifications for the Pocono INDYCAR 500 (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Johnny Rutherford speaks with official pace car driver Dario Franchitti (Photo by: Dana Garrett for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan, Justin Wilson, Will Power, Scott Dixon (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson (Photo by: Eric Anderson for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Tony Kanaan and Gil De Ferran during a press conference at IMS (Photo by: Tim Holle for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud, Tony Kanaan and Gil De Ferran during a press conference at IMS (Photo by: Tim Holle for IndyCar Media)
Oriol Servia waits out the rain (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
The most high speed action available dor Justin Wilson`s car at Indianapolis during Wednesday`s rain delay. (Photo by: Mike Young for IndyCar Media)
Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan on Monday at practice for the Indianapolis 500. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Sponsor Brantley Gilbert and Indy Lights champion Sage Karam prior to restarting Rookie Orientation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Justin Wilson during the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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Kiko - Unregistered

March 29, 2011 10:39 PM

So, what that drivers are saying is "We don't have the ability to work out braking points or drive a car when there are others around us" Can drive at 200mph but can't do a low speed restart. Sigh.

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