Will Power claims pole for St. Pete

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Will Power netted his fourth consecutive pole at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, out-hustling Takuma Sato and a surging Simona de Silvestro to claim P1 for Sunday’s 110-lap main event (Noon ET, NBC Sports Network).

Power, who won at St. Pete in 2010 and was the fastest driver in yesterday’s practice sessions, threw down a lap of 1 minute, 1.2070 seconds around the 1.8-mile street course to earn his 30th career pole. With that, he became the first driver to score four consecutive poles at the same venue since Sebastien Bourdais pulled off the feat at Monterrey, Mexico from 2003 to 2006 in Champ Car.

“It’s been a very good start to the season,” Power told NBC Sports Network afterwards. “We just had to get through the [Firestone] Fast Six and look after the tires in the first two rounds, then see what we could do in the last one.”

Sato, who achieved A.J. Foyt Racing’s best qualifying result since 1998 (Billy Boat, Texas Motor Speedway), said that P2 was “a little [of a] shame” but was still happy with the result.

“The whole team did a fantastic job — not just for this weekend, but throughout the course of the winter,” said Sato.

But the biggest surprise came from De Silvestro, who struggled mightily with a Lotus engine in 2012 but now runs with Chevy-powered KV Racing Technology — and with the help of that stronger motor, she established herself as a potential podium threat for Sunday.

“The whole weekend has been going really well for us, and it’s really cool to finally get the results we wanted,” she said. “It’s unbelievable. We were right there with [Power] and Sato…It’s just really fun to be up there with them.”

James Hinchcliffe will start alongside De Silvestro in Row 2, while defending St. Pete champion Helio Castroneves and rookie racer Tristan Vautier make up Row 3.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Honda GP of St. Petersburg

Starting Lineup

Row 1

12-Will Power
14-Takuma Sato

Row 2

78-Simona de Silvestro
27-James Hinchcliffe

Row 3

3-Helio Castroneves
55-Tristan Vautier

Row 4

25-Marco Andretti
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay

Row 5

6-Sebastian Saavedra
10-Dario Franchitti

Row 6

11-Tony Kanaan
22-Oriol Servia

Row 7

19-Justin Wilson
83-Charlie Kimball

Row 8

15-Graham Rahal
67-Josef Newgarden

Row 9

98-Alex Tagliani
16-James Jakes

Row 10

77-Simon Pagenaud
9-Scott Dixon

Row 11

7-Sebastien Bourdais
5-EJ Viso

Row 12

20-Ed Carpenter
4-JR Hildebrand

Row 13

18-Ana Beatriz

F1 2017 driver review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 2
Podiums (excluding wins): 2
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 168
Laps Led: 133
Championship Position: 6th

Max Verstappen rise as a once-in-a-generation talent continued through the 2017 Formula 1 season, even if reliability issues meant we were made to wait for his best form to arrive.

Verstappen stole the show in a wet-dry Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th to seventh in the opening lap before ultimately finishing third for Red Bull, yet he would not grace the podium again until the Malaysian Grand Prix at the start of October.

A combination of power unit problems and on-track clashes saw Verstappen retire from seven of the 12 races in the intermittent period, with incidents in Spain and Austria being avoidable.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all was his stoppage due to a power unit failure in front of a grandstand swathed in orange at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race tens of thousands of Dutch fans had attended to cheer Verstappen on.

But when Verstappen got things right, it was – as he frequently quoted – simply, simply lovely. There was plenty left in the tank, as proven by his sheer domination of the races in Malaysia and Mexico as he took the second and third wins of his career.

Perhaps even more impressive was Verstappen’s victory over Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the qualifying head-to-head battle this year, an area the Australian has traditionally been strong in. Verstappen outqualifed his teammate 13-7 – it wasn’t even close…

All in all, Verstappen once again proved that on his day, he is one of the finest talents to grace F1 in recent years. With the right car underneath him next year, a title fight is certainly possible and will be the target – but there is always room for improvement.

And that is the scary part: Verstappen is only going to get better and better.

Season High: Dominating in Malaysia after an early pass on Lewis Hamilton.

Season Low: Crashing out on Lap 1 in Austria.