Red Bull play down lack of practice pace

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Red Bull Racing may be defending a winning streak at Monaco that stretches back to 2010, but their pace in the Thursday practice sessions has failed to suggest that a fourth consecutive win may be on the cards. However, both Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber have both downplayed the results, taking the positives out of the sessions.

Two-time Monaco winner Webber finished 7th and 5th in FP1 and FP2 respectively and the Australian believes that the results were quite good considering Red Bull’s practice record around the streets of Monte Carlo.

“I think traditionally we’re never too electric here on Thursday’s, so today was actually one of the better ones we’ve had in the last few years,” Webber said in a team statement. “You’ve got to be very, very focused here; concentration is very, very high. It’s a challenging venue to pull everything together; we want to obviously get short run performance as well as gaining short and long run data, which I think we’ve got.”

Similarly, 2011 winner Vettel was pleased with the results, especially given his KERS failure in FP2.

“I think generally it was okay,” Vettel said. “Unfortunately we lost quite a lot of time in the afternoon while we were making some changes, but that can happen on Friday, or in this case Thursday.

“We had a KERS issue this afternoon, so I didn’t use the system during P2. The guys know what the problem was with that.”

He did however admit that the team needed to improve for qualifying on Saturday.

“We’d like to be a little bit more competitive, so we need to try and find some more lap time.

Both drivers will be keen on extending their Monaco records, and a good qualifying performance will be crucial due to the lack of overtaking opportunities. Red Bull will want to maintain their advantages in both title races this weekend, and a win in Monaco would certainly answer any critics questioning the team’s pace.

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