Vettel leads Red Bull 1-2 in second practice for Italian GP

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Sebastian Vettel has finished quickest in the second practice session for this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza, finishing over six-tenths clear of the rest of the field as Red Bull laid down an ominous pace ahead of qualifying tomorrow.

Much as they did in FP1, the majority of the field came out early on the hard tire for FP2 in order to gauge their one-lap pace on the prime compound. Sebastian Vettel was quick to put his Pirellis to good work, topping the timesheets once every driver had posted a competitive time. However, teammate Mark Webber was less fortunate, sitting on the sidelines for the first twenty minutes of the session following a KERS problem. Eventually, the Australian driver managed to get out and moved into second place just behind Vettel ahead of the first medium tire runs.

On the softer (and faster) compound, Vettel continued to dominate early on as he became the first driver to break the 1:25 barrier, with a very competitive time of 1:24.453. Once again, teammate Webber was his closest challenger, albeit six-tenths down on the defending world champion. Judging by their practice pace, it appears that Red Bull’s struggles on high-speed circuits such as Monza may no longer exist, making both Vettel and Webber contenders for victory on Sunday.

Lotus also showed strong pace on the softer compound, with Raikkonen and Grosjean setting identical times of 1:25.116 to sit P3 and P4 respectively whilst home favorite Fernando Alonso could only manage fifth on the low-fuel runs. Having been replaced for FP1, Giedo van der Garde, Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi all returned to action, but none of the trio could outpace their teammates during the session.

With around forty-five minutes remaining, the majority of the field switched to high-fuel runs in order to evaluate their pace for the race on Sunday. Red Bull continued to impress on the long runs, with Vettel lapping around one second per lap quicker than championship rival Fernando Alonso, although their respective fuel loads could have exaggerated this gap. Alonso’s teammate, Felipe Massa, suffered from a gearbox problem with just under fifteen minutes remaining, ending his session early.

Come the checkered flag, Red Bull’s dominance went unchallenged, suggesting that Vettel could be in line to extend his championship lead on Sunday and potentially score a third win at Monza ahead of the Asian leg of the calendar.

F1 drivers split on new ‘shield’ protection

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One drivers are split over plans to test a new “shield” device to protect against flying debris.

The FIA will trial the transparent screen in the coming months for a potential introduction in 2018, as it pushes for greater head protection for drivers. Recent years have seen major head injuries in several motorsport series.

“I wouldn’t mind trying out the shield, seeing how is the visibility,” Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas said on Thursday. “In terms of safety it would be a good step compared to what we have now.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was another supporter, saying “we’ve still got to see a bit more, but first impressions seem OK.”

The FIA previously seemed to favor a metal frame known as the “halo,” which was designed to stop a flying wheel hitting a driver’s head but was criticized by some drivers on aesthetic grounds.

Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat said on Thursday he was “quite against” the shield and the halo. “The way Formula One should look should remain the same,” he added. “We have enough protection.”

Romain Grosjean of Haas voiced concern the “next step” would be completely closed cockpits.

Recent years have seen several high-profile head injuries, including the deaths of Formula Two driver Henry Surtees in 2009 when he was hit by a loose wheel and IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who was struck by debris, in 2015.

In Formula One, Brazilian driver Felipe Massa missed the second half of the 2009 season when a loose spring from another car hit his helmet, leaving him needing surgery.

Haas changes F1 brake supplier ahead of Russian Grand Prix

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Haas has switched from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in a bid to remedy its long-running braking issues in Formula 1.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation onto the F1 grid in 2016, with Romain Grosjean scoring all 29 of its points through its debut season.

Grosjean and then-teammate Esteban Gutierrez had their efforts spurned on a number of occasions by brake issues which continued to arise through pre-season testing in 2017 and the early races.

Haas pushed to remedy the issue by testing new Carbon Industrie brakes in the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test, with Grosjean and new teammate Kevin Magnussen conducting running.

The team duly decided to fit the new Carbon Industrie brakes for this weekend’s race in Russia, with both VF-17 cars to run with them from Friday onwards.

“To be fair to Brembo, the last update in brakes we had that arrived in China were much better. It took a long time to get them,” Grosjean explained.

“So then I was not screaming to change to Carbone Industrie but it was in the pipeline, so we tried them, and both drivers were pretty pleased with them. We felt like we had more control under braking.

“I’m very sensitive to my left pedal, so I really need to get good brakes to get good confidence and push the car to its maximum limit. So we are going to run them here.

“There is still a little bit of work we need to be doing around the mapping and finding the solution around those brakes but I think yeah, definitely it’s going to help me a little bit to find the last few hundredths.”

NHRA: Chad Head to substitute for Alexis DeJoria in Charlotte

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Alexis DeJoria will miss this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, with her Kalitta Motorsports team confirming DeJoria will need to tend to a family matter.

Chad Head, Kalitta Motorsports Director of Safety, will step into the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry this weekend. No timetable was given for DeJoria’s return; after Charlotte this weekend, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues for its third consecutive race weekend next week in Atlanta.

This isn’t the first race DeJoria has had to miss recently, as she also was diagnosed with a concussion and missed the 2016 NHRA season finale in Pomona.

F1 Paddock Pass: Russian Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Following his victory in Bahrain two weeks ago, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel arrived in Russia on Thursday targeting a third win of the year to extend his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship.

Not since 2004 has a Ferrari driver made such a good start to a season, putting Vettel in contention for a fifth world title this year – although with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton hot on his tail, it will have to be a hard-earned success.

The fourth round of the year sees F1 head to the Olympic city of Sochi, which hosted the winter games back in 2014. The Sochi Autodrom played host to its first grand prix the same year, and is now a key part of Russia’s post-Olympic legacy.

Bringing you all of the latest news and interviews ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Will Buxton brings you Paddock Pass.