di Resta keen on taking the fight to McLaren

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Paul di Resta is confident that Force India can take the fight to McLaren in the second half of the season as the two teams scrap over fifth place in the championship heading to Belgium this weekend.

Force India have enjoyed their best-ever start to a Formula One season, consistently scoring in the first ten races to lead McLaren by two points. However, they did enjoy a bigger lead heading to the German Grand Prix at the beginning of July, but the changes made to the Pirelli tires appear to have stunted their progress. For di Resta, this could explain the change in fortunes.

“It’s the only thing that’s changed and the only thing we can point the finger at,” the Scottish driver explained. “The tire has changed, yes, and obviously key to Hungary was making sure they worked and we didn’t optimize that, but we optimized it before that, and that is why I believe there is no reason why the car can’t get it working again.

To make matters worse, di Resta believes that the changes have suited McLaren. The British team has performed below expectations this year having only finished a season-best of P5 which – for a team that came a comfortable third in last year’s championship – is highly disappointing. di Resta acknowledged their prowess, but he is sure that Force India can continue to fight for fifth in the constructors’ without easily succumbing to their rivals.

“You have to have the respect for McLaren and what they are, their car has transformed since changing to the other construction of the tire, but equally when our car is working well we can be in front of them I think, and that purely depends on how we get our grips to where we are and if we can solve the issues that have been hampering us over the last couple of grands prix, but having said that it can very quickly switch the other way.

“We’ll be working hard to try and do it we won’t give the position easy but they are a team that won this race last year as well. We’re gonna have to be working at the top of our game to stay where we are and that is still the goal coming into the second half of the year, to stay in front of them.”

Spa-Francorchamps is a track that has traditionally suited Force India with Giancarlo Fisichella claiming the team’s only pole position at the 2009 Belgian Grand Prix before going on to finish second, which remains the team’s best-ever result.

IndyCar: Turn 5 gives drivers fits in Friday’s second practice at Barber Motorsports Park

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You’ve heard of the Fast Six in IndyCar, right?

Well, Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama was the Frustrating Five – Turn 5, that is.

It almost might be easier to list those drivers that were not bitten by the cantankerous turn on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park layout in Birmingham, Alabama.

Close to 10 drivers in the 23-driver field suffered issues in the turn, ranging from running off the grass and back on, to getting stuck and having to be towed out, to suffering damage.

But by the time the one-hour session was over, Josef Newgarden took a big step towards defending his win from last year’s race there, being fastest in Friday’s second of two practice sessions.

Newgarden covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in a speed of 122.786 mph at a best lap time of 1:07.4345 minutes.

Spencer Pigot was second (125.599 mph/1:07.5372), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (122.129 mph/1:07.7971), Will Power (122.107 mph/1:07.8092) and last week’s winner at Long Beach, Alexander Rossi (122.065 mph/1:07.8326).

Sixth through 10th-fastest were Scott Dixon (122.044 mph/1:07.8445), Ryan Hunter-Reay (121.975 mph/1:07.8829), Takuma Sato (121.652 mph/1:08.0628), Marco Andretti (121.579 mph/1:08.1040) and Graham Rahal (121.572 mph/1:08.1076).

Now, speaking of all the incidents, here’s a list.

INCIDENTS:

* Right after rookie Matheus Leist spun early in the session in Turn 5, fellow rookie Zach Veach spun with about 45 minutes left in the session in Turn 5. Graham Rahal had to take evasive action to miss Veach.

But that wasn’t all, as Sebastien Bourdais followed in almost the same spot with a spin of his own roughly a minute later, and then Gabby Chaves also had his problems in the same turn, going into the grass but avoiding the gravel.

* Simon Pagenaud joined his Penske Racing teammate Josef Newgarden in the Turn 5 gravel. Newgarden spun into the gravel in the first practice session.

* Rookie Rene Binder, who has struggled in his inaugural season, continued to have issues, running into the wall and causing damage to the front end, needing a tow truck to get him righted.

It appeared Binder snapped part of the front suspension in the incident.

* Turn 5 saw James Hinchcliffe and Tony Kanaan run off-track late in the session, but they were able to continue.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The third and final practice of the weekend will take place Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET, to be televised live on CNBC (with an encore performance at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN). The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, the weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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