Due to the ongoing global health emergency, many motorsports events have been cancelled or postponed to a later date. As a result, most racing series pivoted to online-based virtual races to keep fans and drivers engaged.
One such event was the IndyCar iRacing series, with its finale held last weekend. The race featured a 33-strong driver line-up consisting of actual IndyCar drivers, as well as drivers from other racing series such as Lando Norris from Formula 1 – his second race in an IndyCar series, after winning the first.
The race was packed with action throughout, but the three largest and most controversial incidents happened in the final three laps of the race. The insanity is better experienced in its entirety, but if you’re strapped for time, here’s a brief overview of what went down.
The chain of events started when Lando Norris, leading the race with just three laps to the finish line, was involved in an incident with backmarker Simon Pagenaud.
The race spiralled further into madness when new race leader Marcus Ericsson was taken out by Pato O’Ward’s “divebomb” move at the last corner in the final lap. Less than 15 seconds later, Santino Ferrucci gave Oliver Askew a side swipe, allowing Scott McLaughlin sneak through and win the race within 30 metres of the finish line.
See, we weren’t kidding when we said it was insanity. Now, let’s take a deep breath and unpack a little shall we?
To better understand the Norris/Pagenaud incident, we need to rewind the tape by five laps to when Norris made a move for the lead by diving into the low side of the banked turn – going three abreast with Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud.
Norris’s overtake was clean and brilliantly executed. However, Rahal – either through overreaction or a case of spotty netcode – twitched his car to the right and unfortunately took Pagenaud out of contention to win the race.
Pagenaud later apologised and explained to Norris that he was trying to slow down before entering the pits. However, things may not be so simple as it seems – on Pagenaud’s own stream of the race, he was caught clearly saying “Let’s take Lando out” when he exited the pits, a couple of laps before his incident with Norris.
As for the first crash on the last lap, O’Ward explained to Ericsson on Twitter saying that he thought he’d be given the space for his “now or never” overtake move. Ericsson clearly thought otherwise, though, based on his response.
In terms of the degree of controversy though, this incident is perhaps the least controversial amongst the three – that award has to be given to the incident involving Santino Ferrucci and Oliver Askew.
After the race, Ferrucci said in an interview that he made a mistake while trying to get into the slipstream. However, when asked for an explanation by Askew himself, Ferrucci said “Last lap, last straight, come on. It’s for the TV, it’s for the fans.”
Ferrucci’s track record doesn’t do him any favour, either. He was previously banned from Formula 2 for deliberately crashing into his teammate, and later fired from his team due to bad behaviour and payment issues. He was also fined previously for using his phone while driving a Formula 2 car between paddocks.
Ferrucci later added “Dude, it’s a video game, come on,” suggesting that Askew shouldn’t take the race too seriously. Funnily enough, a Nascar driver was recently dropped from sponsorship for not taking his virtual race seriously.