Massa tops second practice in China

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Felipe Massa has clearly signaled his return to form by finishing quickest in Free Practice 2 for the Chinese Grand Prix on Friday.

The Brazilian driver set a quickest time of 1:35.340 to finish the session ahead of Kimi Raikkonen for Lotus, whilst Fernando Alonso underlined Ferrari’s pace by finishing third.

Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber, both of whom starred in Free Practice 1 earlier on, managed to finish fourth and fifth, but the Red Bull was over three-quarters of a second behind the leading Ferrari, which could be cause for concern. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton followed, over one second behind Massa, whilst Sebastian Vettel could only finish P10.

FP2 saw teams focus on their long runs in the second half of the session, meaning that Massa’s time set after 41 minutes was not bettered. During the long runs, the Brazilian driver was again impressive, with his engineer Rob Smedley telling him “your pace is not good, it’s incredible.” Similarly, Rosberg and Hamilton showed good long run pace as did the Force India pairing of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta.

Tire wear was high throughout the session, and many teams found the soft tire troublesome. Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button both locked up on more than one occasion, but things were even worse for Max Chilton who was forced to pull over towards the end of the session due to a car problem. Hamilton said that he “had never seen anything like it” [the tire wear], but Ferrari seemed to manage its Pirelli rubber well.

With varying results in both practice sessions, it is difficult to see a pecking order emerging. This does however mean we are in for a thrilling qualifying tomorrow, although FP3 could reveal some more details a few hours before hand.

You can find the complete classification from Free Practice 2 here.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne