Red Bull drivers ready for close weekend

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Red Bull Racing drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber are both anticipating a very close weekend in Bahrain following the two practice sessions on Friday.

Vettel finished 4th in FP1 and 3rd in FP2, whilst Webber ended up P7 and P2 respectively in the sessions. With Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes all in close company, both drivers are anticipating a close fight for the win this weekend.

The entire Chinese Grand Prix weekend was a nightmare for Webber, and he admitted that things still weren’t going exactly to plan in Bahrain.

“I would have liked to have got some more running in P2, but I still think we learned what we expected today,” Webber explained in a team statement. “We still have areas to improve on the car.

“Lotus and Ferrari look strong and Mercedes is there too.”

World champion Vettel concurred with Webber, labelling Ferrari and Lotus as being Red Bull’s closest challengers. Ferrari was particularly strong in Free Practice 1, finishing 1st and 2nd.

“It’s pretty close. If you look at the opposition then Ferrari and Lotus were strong today and I think it will be close in qualifying. It’s important to work with the tires around the track.”

However, it wasn’t all plain sailing for the German driver.

“I wasn’t so happy with my short runs today – but that’s why we have the Friday practice sessions I guess; I was happier with the longer runs. The tires still seem to be the dominating factor.

“The car seems quick, so we have to make sure we use that and then we should be on the right page.”

Red Bull appear to be in a good position for this weekend, and a good team result is crucial off the back of their underwhelming performance in China. Vettel will be keen on repeating his win at last year’s Bahrain GP, whilst Webber is in serious need of some luck in order to return to winning ways.

MORE: Watch qualifying and the Bahrain Grand Prix online or on your phone or tablet

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.