SATO'S SIGH OF RELIEF – Amazing what seeing a checkered flag can do. Proving his and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's team's pace was not a fluke from the first two races, although they both ended with mechanical issues, Takuma Sato recorded his first career podium at Brazil after a great outbraking maneuver on Franchitti into Turn 1. Despite his contact with Hunter-Reay at Long Beach, Sato still ended eighth there.
In two races, Sato has leapt from 24th to a tie for seventh in points, with more to come if he finds that consistency to match his speed.
BEST IN CLASS – In the unofficial “Lotus class,” Oriol Servia emerged with 64 points (tied for 16th) to lead the five-car brigade ahead of Sebastien Bourdais on 59 (20th). Simona de Silvestro and Katherine Legge have yet to score beyond 12 points per race, so they sit on a near-minimum possible 48 and 46 points in four races, while Alex Tagliani's withdrawal in advance of Brazil leaves him with just 37. Those three stand 24th, 25th and 26th in points.
Without being saddled by the inferior powerplant, Servia and Tagliani have the rest of the season to fulfill both their own and their Dreyer & Reinbold and Bryan Herta Autosport teams' potential. Unfortunately for the other three, it's a case of making the best out of a very challenging situation.
BEYOND THE BOX SCORE – A few other stats worth noting after the first four races of 2012:
Big points movers: Castroneves (second in 2012/17th in 2011), Hinchcliffe (third/19th), Hunter-Reay (fourth/23rd), JR Hildebrand (tied seventh/16th), E.J. Viso (12th/24th), Charlie Kimball (15th/21st) and Bourdais (20th/25th) have all advanced five positions or more from their spots leaving Brazil last year.
Big points losers: Franchitti (10th in 2012/second in 2011), Graham Rahal (13th/ninth), Kanaan (14th/sixth), Servia (tied for 16th/third), Mike Conway (18th/fourth), Andretti (19th/13th), de Silvestro (24th/11th) and Tagliani (26th/seventh) have all gotten off to sluggish starts, largely for reasons outside their control.
Rubens Barrichello has scored three straight top 10 finishes, and is one of only six drivers with at least three top 10s from the first four races. He trails Pagenaud by 39 points among first-year drivers, although Barrichello is not classified as a full-season rookie. He also ranks highest of the three KV Racing Technology drivers, who are clustered in 11th, 12th (Viso, quietly impressive so far) and Kanaan (14th).
Hinchcliffe, Pagenaud and Takuma Sato all have scored their first career podiums in 2012, while Franchitti is yet to record a top-three finish. Meanwhile, Pagenaud leads Josef Newgarden by some 64 points for rookie-of-the-year honors.
The order of manufacturers has gone Chevrolet-Honda-Lotus in each of the first four races, so Chevrolet leads with 36 points, Honda on 24 and Lotus on 16 in the manufacturer's standings. Honda would need to finish better than Chevrolet in each of the next four races (based on the 9-6-4 breakdown) to match Chevrolet for the lead if a Chevrolet was second best.
LASTLY – The teams have the rest of the month in Indianapolis after the Texas open test May 7 to hone their oval setups, and prepare for the stretch of five races in five weekends – four on ovals – starting with the Indianapolis 500 May 27. That's going to be the time to make hay with Power's supposed “vulnerability” on ovals – yet with that said, he won at Texas and should have won Kentucky last year.
Having been out of town on a prior commitment last weekend, I didn't get to see the Brazil race live, and without the benefit of a live Twitter feed and live timing & scoring to complement the race coverage, it felt like there was a serious void when I watched on the DVR. I don't know whether that says more about what it takes to watch an IndyCar race these days, or whether I can't watch a race without these extra add-ons.