Felipe Massa’s safety comments draw backlash from IndyCar paddock

IndyCar drivers are continuing to push back on comments made by retired Formula One star Felipe Massa about the American open-wheel series’ perceived lack of safety enhancements.

Massa, now the president of the FIA’s International Karting Commission, criticized IndyCar this week in the wake of Robert Wickens’ Pocono crash and Charles Leclerc’s close call with Fernando Alonso, in which Leclerc was saved by F1’s “halo” device.

Massa tweeted F1 is “always trying to improve” while IndyCar “is not doing much.”

Dario Franchitti and Michael Andretti were among those to initially disagree via Twitter, along with Graham Rahal — who expanded on his comments Wednesday.

“First of all, in his position with the FIA, I think you need to be a little more professional before lashing out like that,” Rahal said after a news conference promoting the Portland Grand Prix. “Second of all, the risk we take is different than the risk they take. Being wheel-to-wheel on an oval at the speeds we go, you’re always going to face these inherent risks.”

Sebastien Bourdais agreed and said others should be more careful about making comments when they aren’t in IndyCar to see what’s actually going on with safety.

I can understand both sides of the story where you could think from afar what we do is overly dangerous and we’re not really doing everything we should do about it, but it’s not true,” he said. “It’s the challenge of getting cars safely around a superspeedway at 220 mph between two walls. That’s always going to be extremely complicated.”

Rahal noted despite Wickens’ serious injuries — spine, leg and arm — none were to his head. So the criticism about not having a halo for head protection, Rahal said, isn’t applicable in this case.

He added a halo wouldn’t work for IndyCars since they race on high-banked ovals.

On the ovals when you look through the corner, like at Texas, you’re kind of looking up,” Rahal said. “If you’re looking straight, the halo would block a visual. It doesn’t work for us. That’s not a concept that works.”

Rahal noted the IndyCar windscreen — which looks like half of a fighter jet canopy — is still in development and “needs to be implemented.” But he added “it’s not that easy.”

The biggest difference is we don’t build a new car every year (like F1),” he said. “So how do you attach that properly? How do you make sure it’s not going to just fall off in the case of an impact like (Josef) Newgarden took where the roll hoop went into the wall first (at Texas)?”

Bourdais said he’d put IndyCars to the test against F1 cars in many safety situations “and they’d be pretty surprised by the results.”

“There’s a lot of effort that’s been put on the safety side for IndyCar,” he said. “The places and the kind of racing we have is exposing us more, which is why we’re trying as hard as we can.”

Long Beach Grand Prix: Sebastian Bourdais infuriated after race goes sour

Sebastien Bourdais finished a disappointing 13th in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach after challenging for the win early in the race. (Action Sports Photography)

Have you ever purchased a delicious-looking donut, dropped the donut after one bite, watched it roll into the street and get run over by a semi-truck?

If so, you might be able to relate to Sebastien Bourdais’ afternoon at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

Bourdais made a holy-crap, did-you-see-that pass of three cars in a single corner entering Turn 1, which lit up social media with a collective “WOW.”

But that move to take second place turned out to be the highlight of his day, because it all went to crap shortly thereafter.

First of all, Bourdais was penalized by IndyCar race control — which ruled he used the pit exit lane to make the pass. He had to drop back and give one of his spots back as a result.

But Bourdais insisted he was actually forced into the lane by Scott Dixon — who was one of the cars he passed three-wide — which made the incident “an avoided crash that turned into a brilliant pass,” he said.

“It was the biggest save of the day,” Bourdais said, sitting at his pit box well after the race had ended. “When you get forced in there, then you’re braking in an area that has no grip and you’ve got to go over the eggs to come back on track, the car is bouncing up and down and you’re trying to save your life. I don’t see what I was supposed to do, honestly.”


After the penalty, Bourdais fell back to third and said he was so fired up about it that he made another bold pass to retake second place the very next lap.

“I was plain straight pissed off (about the penalty),” he said. “When I make a mistake or violate a rule, I’m the first one to raise my hand. But I did nothing wrong on that one.”


He only got angrier five laps later, when a caution brought out by teammate Zachary Claman De Melo occurred right when Bourdais was coming to pit road. As a result, Bourdais had to drive through pit road — losing track position — and return for his pit stop under caution.

“It was pretty straightforward until my teammate made a mess of it and hung us out to dry,” he said. “On top of that, race control decided to hang us out for two seconds. Greatly appreciated. These races turn into circuses when that happens.”

But that wasn’t even the end of it. Bourdais got even more upset after he had to restart back in the pack — where “you end up racing idiots who don’t give you any room.” He had only gotten back up to 10th when rookie Jordan King spun him around in the hairpin turn, finishing off the bad day.

“Jordan feels like a million dollars, dumps it in there and turns us around. Alright. Have at it, boys,” Bourdais said sarcastically.


Bourdais, who won four championships during the open-wheel split, said he was deeply disappointed in finishing 13th because he “drove one of my best races in quite sometime.”

He just had nothing to show for it.

Oh, and there was one more thing he was mad about, Bourdais said.

“What really upsets me the way the races are run these days,” he said. “You have a Graham Rahal who turns someone (Simon Pagenaud) around at the start of the race and ends up, what, fourth? (Rahal finished fifth.) I’m sorry, that’s just…we got to do something about this. It’s infuriating.”