Sebastian Vettel

Red Bull locks out Australian GP front row


Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber have locked out an all-Red Bull Renault front row for the Rolex Australian Grand Prix, the opening round of the 2013 FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

After qualifying sessions two and three were delayed due to rain during the original Saturday session, they resumed early Sunday morning. More wet conditions greeted runners in Q2, with intermediate tires from Pirelli the option of choice at least to start. The track dried once Q3 had gotten underway.

Times began in the 1 minute, 40 second range around the Albert Park street circuit in Melbourne but quickly dipped into the 1:30s by the end of the session.

Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Nico Rosberg all had their turn at the top of the timesheets. Those failing to advance into the final Q3 shootout were the two Toro Rossos (Jean-Eric Vergne, Daniel Ricciardo), Nico Hulkenberg’s Sauber, Adrian Sutil’s Force India, Sergio Perez’s McLaren and Valtteri Bottas’ Williams.

While most drivers went out once the green flag flew in Q3, Jenson Button (McLaren) and Paul di Resta (Force India) waited in the garage.

Rosberg was first to set the top mark at a 1:33.6, which was then bettered by Mercedes teammate Hamilton. Despite a serious moment in the final two corners, Vettel then topped them both as the first driver into the 1:32 range.

With four minutes remaining the track had dried enough to where teams could run on dry weather tires. Super softs were the option of choice after the inters and immediately produced improved times as could be expected.

Hamilton got down to a 1:29.1 to take the provisional top mark, later bettered by Vettel with just 23 seconds left in the session for the eventual pole time of 1:27.407, some 1.5 seconds clear of the field at the time. Webber was next, also in the 1:27s.

Hamilton got down to a 1:28.0, good enough for third on his Mercedes debut, ahead of Massa and Alonso in the two Ferraris.

Rosberg, the two Lotus Renaults (Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean), di Resta and Button completed the top 10. Raikkonen had a small moment in the pits when he drove over a jack while exiting, but the session otherwise ran without incident.

The lights go out for the opening round of the 2013 Formula 1 season at 2:00 a.m. EDT, with live coverage of the race beginning half an hour earlier on the NBC Sports Network at 1:30 a.m. Qualifying will be shown one hour earlier at 12:30 a.m.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Simon Pagenaud

Simon Pagenaud
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Simon Pagenaud’s first season at Team Penske.

Simon Pagenaud, No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet

  • 2014: 5th Place, 2 Wins, 1 Pole, 3 Podiums, 8 Top-5, 12 Top-10, 59 Laps Led, 8.6 Avg. Start, 8.8 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 11th Place, Best Finish 3rd, 1 Pole, 2 Podiums, 4 Top-5, 9 Top-10, 132 Laps Led, 5.2 Avg. Start, 10.6 Avg. Finish

The 2015 season was always going to be a weird one for Simon Pagenaud, in his first season with Team Penske, adapting and adjusting to being with what’s widely regarded as one of the best if not the best teams in the sport. From a career standpoint he needed to move on from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, where he overachieved for three seasons. And given what became of the Honda aero kit this year, having a Chevrolet at his disposal was always going to be a benefit.

In actuality, Pagenaud didn’t have a bad year, but it was one where the burden of expectation probably hurt his overall stats more than the reality of the situation.

Let’s face facts – he’d finished in the top five in points each of his first three seasons back in IndyCar the last two years, won four races and been in championship contention before. Take all that, apply it to Team Penske and you’d assume wins and title contention would follow, but it didn’t. Still, it was a new team, a fourth team, and that took time to gel.

His qualifying was dynamic, which went against his career form and was markedly improved. His average leapt from 8.6 to 5.2 this year, which was third best in the field. The problem? It trailed two of his three teammates, Will Power and Helio Castroneves, and was only one spot clear of Juan Pablo Montoya.

And then – and there is no easy way to put this – there were his finishes. In 12 of 16 races this season, Pagenaud finished worse than he started. For a driver renowned for making the most of his circumstances on race day, often times things went south when all the marbles, all the points were on the line. Some you could put down to strategy or particularly in the later part of the year, sampling different setups to aid his title-contending teammates.

There were highlights, in particular his speed at the three 500-mile races. Pagenaud was probably the quickest of the four Penske entries at Indianapolis, scored the pole in Fontana and also starred in Pocono, but he didn’t have results to back it up in any of the three. Contact at Indy halted what was certainly winning potential. He also scored a pair of thirds at Detroit race one and Mid-Ohio, although those were cases where he was lucky rather than good.

It was hard to view Pagenaud’s season positively on the whole because you know his potential and ability hasn’t gone missing. But finishing 11th in points when your three teammates end second, third and fifth is definitely a tough pill to swallow, and an early motivator to make the fast Frenchman a top comeback driver in 2016.

Nicky Hayden announces World Superbikes move

ALCANIZ, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 25:  Nicky Hayden of USA and Aspar Team MotoGP rounds the bend during the MotoGP of Spain - Free Practice at Motorland Aragon Circuit on September 25, 2015 in Alcaniz, Spain.  (Photo by Mirco Lazzari gp/Getty Images)
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2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden will leave the series at the end of the season ahead of a move into the World Superbike Championship in 2016, it has been announced.

Hayden has raced in MotoGP since 2003 and is currently the only American rider racing in the series, but has struggled to match the form of his early years, scoring just 13 points in 2015.

It had been rumored that Hayden would be walking away from MotoGP at the end of the season for some time, but this has now been confirmed in a statement from WorldSBK.

Hayden will join Honda’s factory team in the rival series, racing alongside Michael van der Mark. The 34-year-old will bid to become the first rider to win both MotoGP and WorldSBK titles.

“Well, my next stop is Superbike with Honda! I’m very excited, obviously, to stick with Honda; it’s where I’ve had the most success in my career,” Hayden said.

“World Superbikes is a championship that I followed closely as a kid when a lot of American riders were fighting at the front. It just seems like the right time and the right team to go with.

“I know I’ve got a lot to learn and it’s going to be a big challenge, but also I’m very motivated to start and learn what I can.

“I’d like to say thanks to everyone who has supported me through my MotoGP career. We had a good run but now it’s time to move on and try something different.”

Hayden’s departure acts as another blow to MotoGP’s profile in the United States, which has seen a downturn in recent years.

The exit of Ben Spies from Yamaha in 2013 was followed by the loss of the race at Laguna Seca the same year, while last month, it was confirmed that Indianapolis would not be returning to the calendar in 2016, leaving just one US round on the schedule.