First it was Fernando Alonso, now maybe Lewis Hamilton wants to try the Indianapolis 500?
The three-time Formula 1 champion drew a step closer to a fourth F1 crown on Sunday when he won the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. But uppermost on the Mercedes driver’s mind during the post-race podium interview was checking out the Indy 500 winner’s ring worn by Takuma Sato.
Formula 1 invites a celebrity to conduct the podium television interviews for each event and selected Sato, who won the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in May, to be the interviewer at the race in his home country. Sato is a national hero since becoming the first Japanese driver to win "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."
When Sato summoned Hamilton to be interviewed, the Brit was more interested in trying on Sato’s ring than talking about the race he had just won.
“Can I try this ring?” Hamilton asked Sato before the latter had the chance to ask a question about the race. “Can I just see if it’s worth me going and doing it one day?”
Sato gave the ring to Hamilton, who tried it on and showed it off to the crowd.
“It looks pretty good,” Hamilton said. “Congratulations.”
OK, maybe the chances of Hamilton making a bid for an Indy 500 winner’s ring and his likeness on the Borg-Warner Trophy are remote. But people were stunned when the announcement came that Alonso was giving it a try, and that turned out well. Alonso, the two-time F1 champion, started his first Verizon IndyCar Series race from fifth and led 27 laps before an engine failure ended his day 20 laps from the finish.
Watch the clip from the NBCSN telecast of the Japanese Grand Prix post-race interview here, compliments of a story on NBCSports.com.
During the Japanese GP weekend, Sato also caught up with Alonso, his Andretti Autosport teammate at the Indianapolis 500 in May.
A visit to the #JapaneseGP Fan Zone for Fernando, who's joined on stage by his #Indy500 pal, @TakumaSatoRacer. 👊👍 pic.twitter.com/lMroe97v9b
He also got the thrill of driving one of Honda's legendary Formula One winning RA300s around the famous circuit.
#Indy500 winner @TakumaSatoRacer took the #Honda #RA300 for a #Suzuka spin. A legendary driver in a legendary car on a legendary track 🏎👌 pic.twitter.com/4DA0Pk9SNL
In addition to hosting the post-race interview, Sato, who is moving to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series competition, waved the checkered flag at the race.
Checkered!!🏁 #JapaneseGP pic.twitter.com/Pc8dneSxUJ
— Takuma Sato (@TakumaSatoRacer) October 8, 2017
Team Penske finishes third in Petit Le Mans
After 10 straight hours of endurance sports car racing, only 8 seconds separated Team Penske from victory in the Motul Petit Le Mans on Saturday night.
Helio Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud -- with five Indy 500 wins, two Indy car championships and 56 race wins among them -- finished third overall in the Team Penske ORECA as a precursor to the team's full-time involvement in the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a pair of Acura DPi cars. The team went a lap down early while making mechanical repairs but battled back to finish on the podium.
The winning team from Tequila Petron ESM, which completed 402 laps in the 10-hour race, contained a pair of former Indy car drivers in Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel.
Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay didn't fare as well, as his Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi went out with mechanical problems after just 97 laps, but teammates Ricky and Jordan Taylor were still able to clinch the season championship on the strength of five wins early in the season.
In the GT Le Mans class, Sebastien Bourdais of Dale Coyne Racing was part of the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT team that finished seventh, while Ganassi's Scott Dixon was part of the eighth-place team in the sister Ford GT. Mazda Road to Indy driver Garret Grist was part of the winning team on the Prototype Challenge class.
Northern California wildfires touch Sonoma Raceway grounds
Sonoma Raceway property has been burned by the latest round of wildfires in northern California, but the track's structures and facilities are not under threat, according to track president and general manager Steve Page.
“All of us at Sonoma Raceway extend our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to those who have been touched by the devastating North Bay fires," Page said in a release.
"Our facilities team and a number of local fire companies have been battling grassland fires on Cougar Mountain and elsewhere around our property, and at this point it does not appear any of the raceway’s structures or other facilities are at immediate risk. We appreciate all of the good wishes that have flooded in from friends around the state and country.”