HOUSTON (AP) — IndyCar fined Marco Andretti $2,500 Sunday for ignoring an order from race control, saying he held up Takuma Sato and allowed his teammate catch the leader.
Andretti was ahead of Sato and fighting to stay on the lead lap early in Houston on Saturday. IndyCar officials showed him the blue flag — the signal to move over and let Sato pass. Andretti did not heed the flag because he wanted to stay on the lead lap, and that drew a black flag, drive-thru penalty.
As punishment for ignoring the initial blue flag, IndyCar fined him and placed him on probation for three races, including Sunday's second event of the Grand Prix of Houston. Andretti Autosport was also fined $2,500.
"The blue flag was because (Andretti) was in front of the leader, who had a 4-second lead on his teammate. And we felt he was obstructing the leader by not letting the leader go," said Derrick Walker, IndyCar president of competition.
Sato was leading Saturday's race and Andretti driver James Hinchcliffe was second. Marco Andretti found himself in the mix because an earlier spin had sent him to pit road, and when he rejoined the action, he was ahead of the pack. Being passed by Sato would have put him a lap down.
Walker alleged Hinchcliffe was able to close the gap on Sato from four seconds to about half a second while Andretti was ahead of Sato. And because of rain earlier in the race, track conditions provided "limited places for the leader to get by Andretti," Walker said.
But, Walker noted, once IndyCar had given Andretti the blue flag, Andretti suddenly "went quicker and quicker."
"The leader couldn't go quicker, that's fact that that's what happened," Walker said. "Once he (Andretti) got his car going and up to speed, he'd already been given the blue flag instructions. If he'd moved out of the way right away, it would have been no foul.
"But he continued to fight it, by their admission, that they would keep going because they were in the right. When you get a command from race control, you have to obey it."