de Silvestro leads Barber Saturday morning practice

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Simona de Silvestro paced the final practice session before qualifying for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on Saturday morning.

The KV Racing Technology driver led the 14 drivers that dipped into the 1:07 range in the early session. Simon Pagenaud, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dario Franchitti completed the top five.

“I’m sure it (leading practice) does a lot (for my confidence),” she said. “I think the car is pretty good this morning, we have to see how the track is going to change for a little bit later, but the car has been pretty quick and the whole KV crew has been working really hard during the test here and when we got back.”

AJ Allmendinger in seventh led the three Team Penske cars, fresh off the news he’ll also be racing at Long Beach in two weeks (more to come on that later this afternoon). Will Power was only 10th with Helio Castroneves, fastest on Friday, in 12th. The top 24 cars were within 0.9088 of a second of de Silvestro.

Qualifying begins at 11:25 a.m. EST with TV coverage on at 5 p.m. EST on the NBC Sports Network.

Qualifying groups for the three rounds of knockout qualifying are below, via INDYCAR:

Group 1                Group 2
#98 Alex Tagliani    #3 Helio Castroneves
#77 Simon Pagenaud     #55 Tristan Vautier (R)
#9 Scott Dixon         #12 Will Power
#2 AJ Allmendinger     #5 E.J. Viso
#14 Takuma Sato        #16 James Jakes
#1 Ryan Hunter-Reay    #19 Justin Wilson
#10 Dario Franchitti   #22 Oriol Servia
#11 Tony Kanaan        #27 James Hinchcliffe
#83 Charlie Kimball    #78 Simona de Silvestro
#7 Sebastien Bourdais  #25 Marco Andretti
#15 Graham Rahal       #67 Josef Newgarden
#6 Sebastian Saavedra  #4 JR Hildebrand
#18 Ana Beatriz        #20 Ed Carpenter

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”