Will Chinese GP be ‘less aggressive’ on tire use?

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For the first time this season, Pirelli will be rolling out a tire combination of the P Zero White medium and P Zero Yellow soft tires for the Chinese Grand Prix.

“China has often produced some of the best races of the year, where strategy has been at the forefront of the action,” said Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery. “With all our compounds having got softer this year, the degradation is deliberately more extreme leading to increased performance, but history has shown that it never takes too long for the teams and drivers to get on top of the tires.

“Shanghai is less aggressive on the tires than the last round in Malaysia, but we would expect to see the majority of competitors go for three stops — although some may try two.”

Indeed, Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg utilized a two-stop strategy last year at Shanghai, in which he started on the soft tires and then ran his middle and closing stints on the mediums. The plan paid off with Rosberg bagging the first victory for a Mercedes Formula One team since the great Juan Manuel Fangio’s triumph at the 1955 Italian Grand Prix (Mercedes would withdraw from the sport after Fangio’s win and not return until the 2010 season).

Above, Pirelli racing manager Mario Isola shows us what to expect from the medium/soft combination at Shanghai. Don’t miss the UBS Chinese Grand Prix live this Sunday at 2:30 a.m. ET on the NBC Sports Network.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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