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What do Indy 500 drivers do the next day? Not much

James Hinchcliffe waits for the start of the final practice for the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Friday, May 23, 2014.

Michael Conroy/AP Photo

On tap this week:

  • Indy takes a mental toll
  • Wheldon in a class of his own
  • F1 rookie Kyvat impresses
  • Quote of the week: Villeneuve on being young
  • Vettel doing a Webber?
  • Cracks form at Mercedes

After 500 miles of wheel-to-wheel racing at speeds of more than 350 kilometres per hour, don't expect IndyCar drivers to be doing much on Monday.

Although they could easily handle another 500-mile race from on the physical side, it's the emotional drain of competing in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" that takes its toll.

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"It's literally nothing," said Canadian James Hinchcliffe when asked what he does on Monday after the Indianapolis 500.

"To be fair, you're usually recovering from not only being tired but also you usually stay up pretty late on Sunday either celebrating or commiserating and you don't go to bed a at reasonable hour. So Monday is a time of pure recovery."

And after crashing out of the race with 25 laps to go and ending the day in 28th place, Hinchcliffe will also be nursing a couple of bruises too.

While bumps and bruises need attention, emotion often plays a key role in how quickly an Indy 500 result can be filed away and forgotten.

Last year's Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan thought he had won the race back in 2007 when the race went into a lengthy rain delay and it looked like it wouldn't be resumed.

Things finally got going again three hours later and then ended abruptly again with an accident on Lap 166 that gave Dario Franchitti his maiden win at the Brickyard. Seeing an Indianapolis 500 title slip through his fingers was a bitter pill for Kanaan.

"The only good thing in 2007 was that Dario won, but that one took me a couple of months to get over," said Kanaan, who led a race high 83 laps, but finished 12th.

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"It can take a big toll on your personal life: If my racing life is good my life is good; if my racing is not good, then everything is bad because I am not very good at separating them."

For the Indy 500 winner, having time to recover from the mental drain of the race is not an option.

"I finished the race last year and didn't get back to my bus until 11 that night and then I went out with my friends to celebrate," said Kanaan, going through the events after his win last year.

"Then you wake up at seven in the morning to do all the [winner's] pictures and that takes hours. Then you go to the [champion's] banquet and after that you hop on a plane straight to New York [to appear on Late Night with David Letterman]. It took about a month to get back to normal, but it was a good problem to have."

A detailed view of the Borg-Warner Trophy which is presented to the winner of the Indianapolis 500. USA Today SportsMike DinovoUSA Today Sports 

By the Numbers: Of the 100 faces on the Borg-Warner Trophy, there is only one driver whose silver bust's position corresponds to the number of his car: the late Dan Wheldon. The Englishman scored his second Indianapolis 500 championship in 2011 while driving the No. 98 car for Bryan Herta Autosport and his face subsequently went into the same spot on the Borg-Warner.

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In that year, Wheldon also set the record for the least laps led by an Indy 500 winner at one. The BHA driver actually led for only about a quarter mile of the 500 that day after taking the lead when J.R. Hildebrandt crashed in Turn Four on the final lap.

Unfortunately, two-time Indy 500 winner Wheldon never saw his second bust on the Borg-Warner. He died a few months after his second Brickyard win in a multi-car accident during the IndyCar season finale at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

With the Borg-Warner adding its 101st face this year, it's unlikely any other driver will repeat Wheldon's oddity. Yesterday's race was the 98th edition, but there were two sets of co-winners, in 1924 and 1941. A 24-karat gold bust of Tony Hulman was added to honour the late IMS owner in 1988, bringing the total to 101.

Random Thoughts: With a third of the Formula One season in the books, Russian rookie Daniil Kyvat has exceeded expectations. The Toro Rosso driver became the youngest driver to score a grand prix point in the season's first race in Australia – knocking none other than four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel out of the record books by 25 days – and he continues to impress with his poise and speed.

So far in six starts, he's outqualified his more experienced teammate Jean-Éric Vergne twice and scored points in three races. When the pair has both finished, Kyvat has beaten Vergne once and finished behind him once.

His ability to learn quickly and shrug off adversity is impressive. For example, during qualifying on the twisty and daunting streets of Monaco on Saturday, Kyvat had a huge moment coming out of the tunnel when he lost the back of the car and fishtailed through a chicane. He ended up spinning out of control and kissing an Armco barrier with the front of his car.

After a quick change of his nose, the 20-year-old quickly got back on track, finishing ninth on the grid.

Things didn't work out in the race after he moved up quickly to eighth at the start only to have his exhaust break. He retired 10 laps into the Monaco Grand Prix and finished 19th.

Quote of the Week: "It reminds me of when I raced against Emerson [Fittipaldi], Mario [Andretti] and Nigel [Mansell]. I grew up watching Mario and Emerson and I think some of the first words I ever said were "Merson Paldi." My mother told me I saw him in the paddock in Formula One when my father [Gilles] started racing and I was speechless because I was seven years old and Emerson was in front of me. And then I raced against him. So, I try to remember how I felt then, which is probably how he feels. That's a bit weird and cool in a way. I just hope that now he's seen me for real, it wasn't too much of a disappointment."

– 1995 Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve on what it's like to line in the Indianapolis 500 against James Hinchcliffe, whose first memory of racing was watching his fellow Canadian win the 1997 Formula One world championship.

Technically Speaking: Perhaps Sebastian Vettel now knows how Mark Webber felt. When the pair was at Red Bull Racing for five seasons beginning in 2009, it seemed that it was always Webber's car that sputtered.

Since Webber left the team after last season, his bad luck seems to have shifted to Vettel's car, with new teammate Daniel Ricciardo enjoying success while the four-time champion struggles with reliability.

So far in 2014, Vettel has suffered the same number of retirements due to mechanical issues that he had in the past two F1 seasons combined. He bowed out of his second race in six 2014 starts on Sunday in Monaco after losing boost pressure from the car's Renault turbo engine.

And when things go right for Vettel, he seems to have issues that don't affect Ricciardo. For example, he needed an extra pitstop in Malaysia for tires while Ricciardo sailed away in the distance.

With the F1 circus heading to Montreal in two weeks, Ricciardo is fourth overall in the championship standings, nine points ahead of Vettel, who is sixth. In races where they both finished, Ricciardo is 3-0 against his champion teammate.

The Last Word: It looks like the honeymoon period for Mercedes F1 teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg is over. Although the pair has maintained that their relationship was good, a pronounced schism formed in Monaco.

It came to light when Rosberg made a mistake late in qualifying on Saturday just as Hamilton started his last chance effort to knock this fellow Mercedes driver off pole position.

The waving yellows at the Mirabeau Corner where Rosberg went off and into the escape road meant Hamilton's fast lap was ruined. The 2008 world champion ended the session second on the grid, 0.059 seconds behind Rosberg — and he wasn't happy about it.

After the incident Hamilton threatened to pull a "Senna" at the start in Monaco, a reference to the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix where the late three-times world champion Ayrton Senna intentionally drove into the side of arch rival and four times world champion Alain Prost in the first corner. Both cars went off and retired, handing Senna the 1990 world title.

That declaration didn't play out as Rosberg got away ahead of Hamilton and stayed in the lead for the entire 78 lap race on Sunday.

While Monaco was the first overt sign that things were not all smiles inside the Mercedes garage, cracks apparently began to form at least two weeks ago.

It came out in Monaco that Hamilton had disobeyed team orders to turn down his engine in the previous race in Barcelona as he tried to keep Rosberg behind. On the other hand, Rosberg dutifully turned his engine down in Spain when asked. Hamilton won the race in Spain, 0.636 seconds ahead of his teammate who nipped at his teammate's heels for the final few laps but could not find enough speed to make a late race pass.

Then, in the days prior to the race in Monaco, Hamilton told the BBC that he didn't think Rosberg was as hungry as he because he grew up in Monaco playing on yachts and private jets. Hamilton later said his comments were taken out of context.

Asked about their relationship after his second consecutive win in Monaco on Sunday, Rosberg told reporters that he and Hamilton were colleagues and worked well together, but would not confirm they were friends.

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About the Author
Motorsports columnist

There's an old saying about timing being everything in racing and Jeff Pappone's career as a motorsport correspondent shows that it also applies to journalists covering the sport too. More

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