Kovalainen pleased with practice performance

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Heikki Kovalainen is pleased with his performance for Caterham in free practice one today as the Finnish driver returned to the wheel of a Formula One car for the first time since the Spanish Grand Prix.

Kovalainen is a former grand prix winner, but he was dropped by Caterham at the end of last season after the team elected for a completely fresh line-up for 2013 in the form of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde. However, he has remained with Caterham in their reserve driver role, testing the car and helping with development – something he was pleased to have done today at Spa.

“The weather was a little bit challenging, but we still managed to do some reasonably good work, so I’m pretty happy,” Kovalainen said. “No issues. We were able to get quite a lot of information and I had a good feel for the car.”

The Finn also noted a big step forward in the pace of the CT-03 car compared to his last practice session in May.

“There are definitely areas that have improved a lot, a couple of areas that still could be improved. The ride of the car is better, so the car is running smoother and it’s an area that we’ve been working on, so generally the grip level of the car has improved so we have added more performance to the car.”

As for a race seat in the near future, Kovalainen is unsure whether or not he will be on the grid in 2014. However, he is not worried about this as he focuses on his role with Caterham.

“It’s very difficult to say right now. I have not spoken to anyone, I have not spoken to any other teams, I have not spoken to Caterham about the race seat yet. I’m just focused on my role right now.

“Of course, I want to race, there’s no hiding about that fact, but I’m not letting it bother me too much. Sometimes things go to plan, sometimes they don’t. This year, this is what was available for me so I’m just trying to make the most of this. I feel that I’m ready to race if needed and I think today shows if I had to jump into the car, it’s no problem.”

Kovalainen will also represent Caterham during free practice one at the Italian Grand Prix next month, replacing Giedo van der Garde for the ninety minute session.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.