Katherine Legge survives Bump Day bubble at Indy

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With about 20 minutes remaining in Bump Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Katherine Legge was strapped into her No. 81 Schmidt Peterson Pelfrey Motorsports Honda, ready to defend her spot on the 33rd starting position for the 97th Indianapolis 500 if necessary.

Turns out she didn’t have to bother. Legge’s four-lap average of 223.176 miles per hour was enough for her to stay in the field as Michel Jourdain, Jr., the only driver that could take her out of it, did not make a bump attempt in the waning moments.

The Mexican racer and his No. 17 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team had been searching for solid speed throughout the week, but could never find it. His fastest lap on Sunday was at 219.843 mph — nowhere close to what he’d need to knock Legge off the grid.

As a result, there was no bumping on Bump Day at the Brickyard for the second consecutive year.

“All of the guys tried so hard,” Jourdain said to NBC Sports Network’s Marty Snider. “All week, we struggled a lot. Some days, it felt like it may be feeling a little better but it was never there.

“This morning, we tried  James’ [Jakes] set-up and it was impossible to drive and then we pulled Graham’s [Rahal] setup — the car was exactly the same — and he couldn’t drive it. He said it was impossible to drive. We changed whatever we had time to [change], we went out, and the car was exactly the same…It’s just so sad. My sponsors trust me and it’s not like I can go next week and do another race.”

As for Legge, who was announced as the driver of the No. 81 Honda on Saturday, she had mixed emotions — feeling badly for Jourdain’s plight but happy to be back in the “500.”

“It’s not nice for him to not have the opportunity,” she said to NBCSN’s Will Buxton. “However, I am happy that I am in the field, I’m not gonna lie about that. It’s been a really, really long few days but I’m gonna sleep tonight for the first time really good.”

Also joining her on the last row of the grid will be A.J. Foyt Racing rookie Conor Daly in 31st position (223.582 mph) and 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier (223.443) in 32nd position.

“It’s really about the team,” Lazier said to NBCSN’s Robin Miller. “They did a great job. With the small amount of time, a lot of hard work and a lot of heart, they gave us a great race car. We were sweating today. The track temperature was going up and everybody was struggling. But it was a good car. It’s been in the 225 range so we knew it had speed but, boy, I was definitely sweatin’ it the last two hours.”

97TH INDIANAPOLIS 500
STARTING LINEUP

Row 1
20-Ed Carpenter
26-Carlos Munoz
25-Marco Andretti

Row 2
5-E.J. Viso
2-A.J. Allmendinger
12-Will Power

Row 3
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay
3-Helio Castroneves
27-James Hinchcliffe

Row 4
4-J.R. Hildebrand
98-Alex Tagliani
11-Tony Kanaan

Row 5
22-Oriol Servia
19-Justin Wilson
7-Sebastien Bourdais

Row 6
9-Scott Dixon
10-Dario Franchitti
14-Takuma Sato

Row 7
83-Charlie Kimball
16-James Jakes
77-Simon Pagenaud

Row 8
60-Townsend Bell
8-Ryan Briscoe
78-Simona de Silvestro

Row 9
21-Josef Newgarden
15-Graham Rahal
6-Sebastian Saavedra

Row 10
55-Tristan Vautier
18-Ana Beatriz
63-Pippa Mann

Row 11
41-Conor Daly
91-Buddy Lazier
81-Katherine Legge

Vettel: Front-row grid slot for Australia proof of Ferrari’s progress

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Sebastian Vettel believes that his charge to second place on the grid for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix acts as proof of the progress Ferrari’s Formula 1 operation has made over the winter.

Vettel arrived in Australia as one of the favorites to take pole following an impressive showing in pre-season testing, prompting three-time champion Lewis Hamilton to name Ferrari as the leading team.

Hamilton rallied in qualifying to take pole position for Mercedes, beating Vettel by two-tenths of a second, but the Ferrari driver managed to fend off Valtteri Bottas in the second Silver Arrow and clinch a front-row berth.

The result marked Ferrari’s best qualifying result since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Vettel’s and Ferrari’s last pole and victory in F1 – and the German was encouraged by the result.

“I think we have a good car. I think we are working well as a team,” Vettel said.

“Things are improving. Obviously it’s nice to see that things are working, the car is working. I had a mixed day yesterday, but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed that again today.”

Vettel conceded that he felt his final lap in qualifying could have been faster, but doubts it would have been enough to catch pole-sitter Hamilton.

“In the end I was not entirely happy with my lap. I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much,” Vettel said.

“But I think Lewis did a very good lap. I would have loved to, but I don’t think pole was up for grabs. Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday when we had practice.

“It’s been a big winter for us, lots of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last 12 months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger.

“Obviously everyone is pushing very hard and it’s not so easy to come here with a long journey to get to Australia, but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow.

“I think it’s the first good opportunity.”

Hamilton buoyed by sixth Australia F1 pole, ready for tight race

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Three-time Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton was buoyed by his charge to pole position in Australian Grand Prix qualifying on Saturday, but is braced for a tight race at the front of the pack.

Hamilton saw off a challenge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and new Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to capture his sixth pole at Albert Park, and the 62nd of his F1 career.

Hamilton had doubts over Mercedes’ advantage over Ferrari heading into the new year, making his charge to pole all the more meaningful as he paid tribute to the team members after qualifying.

“It’s been a fantastic weekend so far. It’s quite amazing to come here for I think the 11th time, and it feels like it was only yesterday that I came here and had my first race here in 2007,” Hamilton said.

“I’m just incredibly proud of my team. This rule change has been huge and such a massive challenge for everyone. The guys have just worked so hard to make this car what it is today.”

Despite taking pole by almost three-tenths of a second in Q3, Hamilton is braced for a close fight on Sunday with Vettel and Bottas, the latter starting his first race for Mercedes from third on the grid.

“Valtteri did a fantastic job given it’s his first qualifying session with the team. He did a great job and it’s great for Mercedes,” Hamilton said.

“Looking forward to the race, it’s close between us all. As you can see, there’s going to be a tight race this year I think.

“I think tomorrow is about putting all the work that’s gone in over the winter, all the work that’s gone through testing and this whole weekend and really put it to work tomorrow.

“I’ll make sure I get a good night’s sleep and come back tomorrow stronger than ever.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET on Sunday.

Lewis Hamilton sees off Vettel challenge to take Australian GP pole

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Lewis Hamilton saw off challenges from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas to pick up the first Formula 1 pole position of the year in Australian Grand Prix qualifying.

Hamilton topped the timesheets on Friday to give Mercedes hope of continuing its impressive qualifying form from 2016, when it took 20 poles from 21 races.

However, Ferrari looked poised to strike and take its first pole position since Singapore 2015 as Vettel led final practice, setting up a close battle in qualifying.

Hamilton took provisional pole with his first Q3 run, going three-tenths faster than Vettel, and was able to find a further three-tenths on his second run to make pole all but his.

Vettel refused to back down, producing a rapid final sector to gain plenty of time on Hamilton, but it was not enough to deny the Briton his 62nd F1 pole.

On his Mercedes debut, Bottas put in an impressive display to take third on the grid, finishing three-tenths off Hamilton’s time. Fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen ended the session fourth in the second Ferrari.

Max Verstappen led Red Bull’s charge in fifth, while Haas driver Romain Grosjean put in a stellar display to take sixth on the grid. Felipe Massa will start his comeback race from seventh ahead of the Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat.

Local favorite Daniel Ricciardo’s difficult home race weekend continued as he crashed out at Turn 14, wrecking the rear of his Red Bull RB13. While Ricciardo was physically unharmed, the Australian’s ego was left bruised as he was resigned to starting the race from 10th on the grid.

Sporting is bright pink livery, Force India failed to light up the gloomy conditions in Melbourne as it suffered a double-elimination in Q2. Sergio Perez qualified 11th, while rookie teammate Esteban Ocon will make his first start in Australia from 14th on the grid. Nico Hulkenberg saw his 13-race streak of Q3 appearances ended as he could only qualify P12.

One of the biggest talking points from the early part of qualifying was Fernando Alonso’s titanic effort to put his McLaren-Honda 13th on the grid. Following a tough winter marred by reliability issues, Alonso dragged his car through to Q2 and did “all he could”, yet the issues faced by the team meant no Q3 berth was forthcoming.

Sauber enjoyed an impressive start to the year as Marcus Ericsson made it through to Q2, eventually qualifying 15th. Last-minute substitute Antonio Giovinazzi was poised to also get out of Q1 on debut, only for a mistake on his final lap to leave him 16th overall.

Haas driver Kevin Magnussen failed to get in a late lap, leaving him 17th on the grid for his first race with the American team, while a fuel flow issue meant Stoffel Vandoorne could only qualify 18th for McLaren.

Lance Stroll’s baptism of fire in F1 continued as he finished 2.9 seconds off the pace in P19 for Williams, while Renault’s Jolyon Palmer was made to pay for his lack of track time, rounding out the grid in P20.

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Lance Stroll set for Australia grid penalty after gearbox change

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Formula 1 rookie Lance Stroll has been forced into a gearbox change ahead of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix following a crash in final practice at Albert Park.

Stroll lost the back-end of his Williams FW40 car coming out of Turn 10, hitting the wall and causing damage to the right-hand side and rear of his chassis in the process.

The crash brought out a red flag that ultimately caused FP3 to end early, with Stroll returning to the pit lane on the back of a marshal’s moped.

After bringing the car back to the pit lane, Williams confirmed that it would have to change Stroll’s gearbox ahead of qualifying, which will trigger a five-place grid penalty for the Canadian.

Stroll’s crash comes after a mixed pre-season program that saw him suffer three shunts in the opening week in Barcelona, raising concerns about his readiness for F1.

Stroll bounced back in the second week of running, racking up plenty of mileage in Williams’ 2017 car to back up his extensive private test program in the team’s 2014-spec F1 car last year.

At just 18 years old, Stroll is set to become the second-youngest F1 driver on Sunday, trailing only Red Bull’s Max Verstappen whose first start came at the age of 17 in 2015.