Vettel fastest in final practice for Korean GP

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Sebastian Vettel has responded to the threat of Mercedes in practice for this weekend’s Korean Grand Prix by finishing the final practice session at the top of the timesheets.

The German driver posted a best time of 1:37.881 to finish just ahead of teammate Mark Webber and the Silver Arrows of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, with the quartet of drivers appearing to be the only ones with a realistic chance of winning the race this weekend.

During the fuelled runs on the medium compound tire, Red Bull were once again dominant as Webber led from Vettel ahead of the final runs on the softer rubber. Eventually though, the three-time world champion managed to create a 0.137 second gap that makes him an early favorite for qualifying later today.

Having topped FP1 and FP2, Lewis Hamilton will undoubtedly be disappointed to have fallen so far back from Vettel, although the British driver did suffer from traffic on more than one occasion during the ninety minute session. Ultimately, Mercedes could not match Red Bull’s pace in the final sector, handing the defending champions the advantage.

Ferrari and Lotus once again scrapped for the positions following Mercedes and Red Bull, with Fernando Alonso putting in an impressive time on the prime tire ahead of the qualifying simulation runs. Once again, the Spaniard will be keen on planning ahead for the race on Sunday with pole position appearing to be well out of reach.

Having shared the spoils during practice so far this weekend, it is difficult to see whether the advantage lies with Red Bull or Mercedes. However, with Webber set to drop ten places on the grid, the German marque could benefit from having two drivers with which to combat Vettel at the head of the field.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

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MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. A dream start occurred for Sebastien Bourdais and the Dale Coyne Racing team upon their reunion, followed by a nightmare in Indianapolis with a huge crash in qualifying, and ended with a rapid recovery to build confidence for 2018.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: 14th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 24 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 11.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 21st Place (8 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 74 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 11.0 Avg. Finish

The 2017 campaign for Sebastien Bourdais upon his return to Dale Coyne Racing will forever be known as both a year of “what could have been” and a year of “what a comeback it was.”

The abnormal season for Bourdais stretched eight races with a three-month break in the middle owing to his own mistake qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fracture to his right hip. His car was a rocket ship; but after two laps at 231 mph, Bourdais appeared to over-correct and destroyed the wall at Turn 2 in Indy in a massive 127G impact. It was a horrific looking accident, but one that also saw Bourdais rather lucky to have not been injured worse.

It set forth in motion an incredible recovery that saw Bourdais back testing the Monday after Mid-Ohio, just over two months since the accident, then in race action just over three months later at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval, and because Bourdais is a regulation badass, he finished in the top-10 straight out of the box. He worked as hard as he did to return earlier than anticipated to avoid an offseason of questions asking if he’d come back and if he’d be strong enough to do so.

The recovery was a welcome story to end the year after the agony at Indy that stopped a potential title run or certainly top-five in points finish in its tracks. A classic Coyne strategy special vaulted Bourdais from last to first and a popular win in his U.S. hometown of St. Petersburg to kick off the year. A second place at Long Beach backed it up and eighth at Barber kept him atop the standings.

But Indy was shaping up to be an important bounce back weekend after Bourdais got taken out in Phoenix, then incurred an engine failure in the IMS road course race. And then, of course, his loud and violent accident qualifying for the ‘500 changed the course of the season.

After three “almost there” but largely unfulfilling years at KV Racing Technology, Bourdais embraced the family atmosphere back at Coyne along with longtime engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson, determined to continue punching above the team’s weight. He crafted a remarkable story all season and will be keen to fulfill it over the course of a proper full campaign in 2018.