Notebook: Swirling breezes causes drivers problems at Sonoma

SONOMA — Dario Franchitti came out a caution about halfway through Sunday's Grand Prix of Sonoma and noticed that the track suddenly felt different.

“The first thing I did was look over at the flags,” said Franchitti, who would finish third.

And the flags told him quite a story. They were aimed in a different direction he had observed just a little while earlier. After qualifying Saturday, several IndyCar drivers had lamented at how quickly the wind changes course here at Sonoma Raceway. Sunday's race only confirmed the notion.

“Probably changes more than any track, certainly any road course that we drive on,” Franchitti said. “A massive difference. ... It completely changes the balance of the car in most corners.”

In effect, drivers must recalibrate their strategy depending on which way the wind is blowing through the Carneros vineyards.

“We picked up a headwind through (Turn) 3,” said Justin Wilson, who finished second. “Rather than being tiptoes, floating all the way over the top, not getting to the power until you were almost at Turn 4, now you're back on the throttle. ... All of a sudden you can't stop in some corners where you were braking earlier in the race.”


Of the 25 drivers who competed here Sunday, no one improved her position like Simona de Silvestro. The 24-year-old Swiss woman started 22nd, far back in the pack, and worked her way up to ninth, her best finish in 11 races.

“Our race was chaos out there,” de Silvestro said. “We had really good restarts every time except one, and I was able to move up the field. Then we got hit by Sebastien (Bourdais), which I think was pretty dumb because there was plenty of space to get by. That put us back in the back and then we had to fight our way through the field again.”

De Silvestro is currently 18th in the standings.


One Chip Ganassi Racing driver, Scott Dixon, wound up ticked off at Will Power — for obvious reasons. But he wasn't the only one. Franchitti also had issues with the 2013 race winner.

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