Bianchi: Upgrades working well in Barcelona

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Marussia driver Jules Bianchi is pleased with the progress that the team has made over the three week break, with the Frenchman keen on re-establishing his dominance over Caterham at this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Bianchi has been the stand-out driver at the back of the grid so far this season, but in Bahrain he finished well behind Charles Pic which caused many to question Marussia’s chances for the rest of the year. However, the young Frenchman is pleased with the upgrades that have been brought to Barcelona.

“The car feels quite different to when I last drove here and the improvements we have made are clear to see, which is good,” Bianchi explained in a team statement. “The developments we have brought here seem to be working well so far.”

Like many, Bianchi was unwilling to exaggerate the impact of the upgrades, only implying that there was still room for improvement.

“Extracting the most from the new components will take a little more time but once again we seem to have followed a good path and I hope we can be where we want to be this weekend.”

FP1 saw Bianchi’s teammate, Max Chilton, sit out in order to give reserve driver Rodolfo Gonzalez some track time, and the Venezuelan driver finished in P21 with the slowest official time. Chilton returned for FP2, finishing P21, and Bianchi finished 18th and 20th in the respective sessions, which will give him some encouragement heading into qualifying tomorrow.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.