20 July 2012
Castroneves tops stop-start session
Helio Castroneves topped the timesheets after a second hour of practice in Edmonton, with a lap just three thousandths of a second faster than Scott Dixon in second.
Red flags were the order of the day in the Friday afternoon second practice session for the Edmonton Indy. But despite causing two of the flags themselves, Helio Castroneves and Mike Conway both finished in the top three, sandwiching Scott Dixon in the timings.
Unlike the somewhat laid-back pace of the morning session, most cars were quickly out onto the track at Edmonton City Center Airport and were setting representative times within the first five minutes of the start of the second hour-long session of the day.
Simon Pagenaud initially continued the way that he'd left off in the morning by going top of the timesheets, with a lap of 1:16.9387s on his fifth lap of the session. However, local hero Alex Tagliani proved that his Bryan Herta Autosports machine was also a force to be reckoned with by going top with a lap of 1:16.7686s, and Rubens Barrichello also laid out his stall by setting a time just four hundredths of a second off Tagliani to slip into second place.
Simona de Silvestro was late joining the fray, after the team spent the inter-session break tracking down and fixing down the oil leak problem responsible for the reports during the morning session of smoke coming from the back of the HVM-Lotus car.
James Hinchcliffe had just gone top with a lap of 1:16.5740s ahead of Tagliani to make it a Canadian one-two when Justin Wilson spun and stalled across the apex of turn 5 to bring out the first brief red flag of the day. The track had barely gone green when Charlie Kimball caused a sequel, locking up trying to beat Simona de Silvestro into turn 1 so that he didn't get stuck behind the HVM on his fast lap. As a result of the near miss Kimball went into the runoff and lightly nudged the tyre wall, avoiding any damage to the #83 but triggering the red flags for the second time just before the midpoint of the hour.
Turns 1 and 5 on the bumpy, challenging circuit continued to prove particularly problematic for the drivers, but for the most part the drivers were able to keep the engine running and rejoin the track under local waved yellows. Oriol Servia was a frequent flier through both run-offs, and Dennis Reinbold confirmed that the team were having problems with the #22's braking system that were causing them concern and stopping them running at a representative pace.
Penske's Helio Castroneves was the first of the top championship drivers to top the timesheets with a lap of 1:16.4920s, but then he stumbled over his team mate Will Power in turn 1 and spun the #3 car, forcing the third red flag of the session with a little over 15 minutes remaining. There was no contact, and Castroneves was quickly refired and sent on his way again.
The stop-start nature of the session continued when a fourth red flag came out five minutes later for Mike Conway, who rolled to a halt near the entrance to pit lane with a seeming technical problem. That proved to be one of the longest stoppages of the afternoon and by the time the track went green again there were only five and a half minutes remaining for the entire field to stream out and make a last frantic assault on the 2.24-mile, 13-turn temporary circuit, which also included some drafting practice down the straights.
Scott Dixon popped up to second spot just 0.0027s behind Castroneves, and Mike Conway put his earlier glitch behind him to jump ahead of James Hinchcliffe into third place just after the chequered flag came out. Less than a tenth of a second covered the top four, with the top 18 cars all in the 1:16s by the end of the hour. With the singular exception of Simon Pagenaud, everyone improved their times over their practice 1 outings.
Simona de Silvestro
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