While he wished for just one more position on Sunday, Takuma Sato will eventually be pleased with his 4th place finish at Road America.
Following a hard-fought race at the historic Wisconsin circuit, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver slotted just one spot off of the podium after 55 laps of action.
Sato improved on his qualifying position of 7th and placed ahead of teammate Graham Rahal (6th) and other notables such as Robert Wickens, Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais and Alexander Rossi.
“We had a fast car,” said Sato. “It’s a shame that we missed the podium, but we need to find a little more speed. Thanks to the fans for all the support. It was another great event at Road America.
“We struggled at the beginning of the season and lost too much ground, but Graham (Rahal) and I are working close with the engineering side and shared a lot of stuff and picked up speed. I made a good start at the beginning and it was really fun.”
While Sato mentioned the benefits he gleaned from having a teammate this weekend, its Rahal that enjoyed the extra data the most.
On multiple occasions in 2018, information from Sato’s No. 30 team plus brave and talented driving from Rahal himself have helped the No. 15 team turn around poor qualifying efforts into fine race results.
Despite a strong top-five finish, Sato lamented some of the race’s events and voiced his displeasure with Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi.
“At one point I was side-by-side (with Rossi) and pushed hard, and obviously, not very happy with that,” Sato explained regarding a run-in with his former teammate. “But in the end we got the spot back and close to the podium.
“In high-level, professional racing, you shouldn’t really be bumping each other. Obviously, I gave him room enough and he came inside. He just couldn’t stop and came into me and bumped me. He did exactly the same thing to (Robert) Wickens at the start and I’m surprised the stewards didn’t take action.
“I’m OK with side-by-side, just don’t touch me.”
Sato was not the only driver who was displeased with Rossi’s race craft on Sunday. It was Canadian driver Robert Wickens who made his feelings known to the Indy Star after frustration boiled over following the race.
“The thing with Alex is he puts himself in situations where if the other person doesn’t give, they’re going to crash,” Wickens said to Jim Ayello. “He’s just that kind of guy. If you race him different you’re just going to crash. I mean, that’s just the way I look at it. I’m not trying to beat on the kid. It’s just every now and then you have to use some judgement. I mean think of how many points he’s thrown away this year.
“At one point, he should sit down and rethink how he’s approaching the problem.”
Despite all of the drama, Sato and Wickens would emerge with top-five finishes while Rossi would place 16th.
For Sato, the Japanese driver hopes this result will jump-start his season and fuel a second half run to crack the top-10 in points. Currently the veteran is 13th in the championship, 31 markers back of 10th place Marco Andretti. This time last season, Sato was 4th in points with Andretti Autosport.
“The guys did a tremendous job over the weekend and we hope to carry momentum to Iowa,” Sato concluded.
The Honda-powered No. 30 team will look to cherish this finish and arrive to Iowa Speedway in a couple of weeks with renewed vigor.
Image courtesy of Zach Wenzel/Open-Wheels.com.