Jean-Eric Vergne taking positives into European season

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Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne is pleased with his start to the season, and he is keen on taking this good form into the Spanish Grand Prix next weekend.

The Frenchman spoke of the need for a “big push” in his blog on the Toro Rosso website.

“It’s not long now until we’re back in F1 action in Spain, where I’ll be hoping for a big push in this European phase of the season,” he said.

“Looking back over the first four races I would say that while it hasn’t been fantastic there are positive signs. We have a strong team of good people and they are working well together.

“The car is essentially competitive too, which was shown with my result in Malaysia and Dan’s points in China.”

Vergne finished in P10 in Malaysia, whilst teammate Daniel Ricciardo recorded his best ever result in F1 after finishing 7th at the Chinese Grand Prix. However, the team then endured a disastrous weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix, with Ricciardo not scoring and Vergne retiring from the race, although the Frenchman considers this to have been an anomaly.

“We had a pretty poor outing in Bahrain but I think this was an aberration. Daniel’s car was the slowest on track in the race and that’s just not right, as he is definitely not slow. Clearly there was a problem elsewhere.

“You have to think about it like this: a car does not go from finishing seventh in a race to being last in the space of one week. The team is investigating it and I’m sure in Barcelona we won’t have problems like that.”

Toro Rosso has certainly made an encouraging start to the season, but quite whether this good form will continue in Europe remains to be seen. The added incentive for Vergne and Ricciardo is that they are both considered to be in the running for Mark Webber’s seat at Red Bull in 2014. Should they impress over the course of the season, they could find themselves partnering multiple world champion Sebastian Vettel next year.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.

Results are below. The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama rolls off at 3:00 p.m. ET.