INDYCAR: Heat Intensifying At The Top

The friendly rivalry between Dario Franchitti and Will Power in 2010 was set aside with the Scot’s pass on the Aussie at Turn 1 at St. Pete.

Marshall Pruett Posted April 05, 2011 Fremont, CA

It was discussed to some degree in our race report, but the message sent by Dario Franchitti during his pass of Will Power for the lead at St. Pete was packed with different meanings.

In terms of season-long implications, have we ever seen a more bold and declarative statement made by a defending champion in an opening round? Racing fans are accustomed to championship contenders making risky moves in the final stages of the season, but rarely have we seen it happen just a handful of laps into the first race, and done with so much conviction.

For those old enough to have lived through the heated Ayrton Senna vs. Alain Prost rivalry in Formula One, the sight of the Brazilian turning up the heat on the Frenchman whenever possible became an accepted part of the show.

Senna’s style of forcing the issue—of placing himself in a position where Prost had to relinquish the corner or risk crashing both cars—was an unpopular tactic at the time, but the precedent was set and has been used in every level of racing since.

From that point on, the measure of how badly a driver wanted to take a position away from a rival had found its ceiling, with Senna’s “let me pass or we both crash” approach serving as the most extreme option available, short of intentionally crashing a driver out of the race (Senna tried that one, too…).

Michael Schumacher made an entire career out of the Senna-style pass, and it was used constantly during CART’s heartier times in the 1990s, but it hadn’t been seen much of late.


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