Top teams are quicker than we thought – Sauber

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Sauber emerged from a tough first weekend of the year in Melbourne surprised by the pace of the leading teams.

Neither Sauber driver made it into the top ten shoot-out in qualifying: Esteban Gutierrez crashed out in Q1 and Nico Hulkenberg failed to make the cut by four tenths of a second in Q2.

Making matters worse, Hulkenberg failed to even start the race after the team discovered a fuel system problem on his car shortly before the start. Gutierrez brought his car home in 13th place, a lap down.

Sauber’s chief designer Matt Morris said the team were “definitely surprised” at how much quicker the likes of Red Bull and the other top teams were during practice on Friday.

“If you look at where the Force Indias finished, Nico would have been fighting with them, which is not too bad really and I don’t think we are as far off as where we finished.”

Hulkenberg’s failure to start the race made it difficult for the team to judge their true performance. He will have a new chassis for this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

“Sepang will be a circuit where we will see everybody being perhaps a little closer and after that we will have a better picture,” added Morris.

The track was a happy hunting ground for the team last year as Sergio Perez came close to winning the race, finishing second behind Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images
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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

Fast 12

Josef Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Will Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480 mph), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.