Heat races to determine grid for IndyCar at Iowa

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For the second year in a row, the Iowa Corn Indy 250 field will be determined by a series of heat races.

Wanting to make some changes to their usual oval qualifying format – and perhaps nodding to the state of Iowa’s strong heritage of short-track racing – INDYCAR instituted the heat format last season at Iowa Speedway with three, 30-lap races setting the grid for the race. For 2013, those three heat races have been expanded to 50 laps each, and lineups for those preliminary events will be set by single-lap qualifying (last year, the groups were separated by combined practice times).

Race One will consist of the even-numbered positions starting with eighth position from single-lap quals, and the results will set the even-numbered positions in the starting field, beginning from 12th position. The top two finishers in Race One will move into Race Three, where they’ll start eighth and tenth respectively.

Race Two will feature the odd-numbered positions starting with seventh position from single-lap quals, and the results will set the odd-numbered positions on the grid, beginning from 11th position. The top two finishers in Race Two will also move into Race Three, where they’ll start seventh and ninth.

Finally, Race Three will be made up of the six fastest drivers from single-lap quals and the four transfer drivers from Races One and Two. This heat will determine the first five rows of the grid.

Valuable championship points will also be available for 12 starters, with nine points going to the pole winner. The point value will then descend by one point each position to one point for 11th and 12th.

Other IZOD IndyCar Series events outside of the Indianapolis 500 (which has its own points system) reward one point to the pole winner.

“The strategy is certainly different this time around with the heat races paying points, so we need to focus on not only being fast at the end of the race, but coming right out of the box strong,” said Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won at Iowa last season as part of his three-race win streak that propelled him toward an eventual series title.

The three heat races will be streamed Saturday evening starting at 6:45 p.m. ET on IndyCar.com.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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