Houston Race 2 Update: Power leads Dixon; Castroneves back in race after repairs

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Team Penske’s Will Power (pictured) and Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon are scrapping for the lead as the second race of the Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston has crossed the halfway point.

For the second straight day, the initial attempt at a standing start went awry as both Takuma Sato and Dario Franchitti were unable to get going. The second attempt went smoother, with Castroneves able to get past Dixon for the lead as they headed into the Turn 1-2 chicane.

But, the day’s opening caution quickly came out after a three-car incident in Turn 8 involving Tristan Vautier and Graham Rahal. Rahal was looking to set up Vautier for a pass on the inside, but Simona de Silvestro was also making a move on Rahal at the same time.

The result: Both Rahal and Vautier went into the tires; however, they were able to continue on and De Silvestro was hit with a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.

The drama continued on Lap 12, when Helio Castroneves suddenly lost power heading for Turn 6 – enabling Scott Dixon to take the lead of the race. Castroneves stopped on track, and when he was returned to pit road, his Team Penske crew diagnosed a cracked gearbox housing on the Brazilian’s machine.

While the Penske camp worked feverishly to fix the problem, Dixon settled in as the leader during the next green flag stint. An incident involving Luca Filippi brought out the yellow around Lap 30, and in the subsequent stops, Dixon was able to narrowly beat Power out of pit road to retain command of the race.

The green came back out at Lap 32, but Ryan Hunter-Reay was unable to get up to speed thanks to an apparent gearbox issue of his own. Shortly afterwards, the yellow returned on Lap 34 for Tony Kanaan’s crash around Turn 7.

That bunched up the field again for a restart at Lap 40, which eventually saw Power get around Dixon for the lead in the middle of Turn 3. In the same lap, Sebastien Bourdais also managed to pass two cars on the inside in Turn 6 and moved into the Top 5.

After 45 of 90 laps, Power led by six-tenths of a second over Dixon, followed by Sebastian Saavedra, who has risen to third thanks to the multiple cautions in the first half of the race. James Hinchcliffe is up to fourth, and Bourdais is still in fifth.

On Lap 47, Castroneves officially made his way back into the race – once again forced to salvage as many championship points as he can.

Alonso would be ‘very happy’ to finish F1 career with McLaren

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Fernando Alonso says he would be “very happy” to see out his Formula 1 career with McLaren after signing a new multi-year contract with the British team, announced on Thursday.

Alonso, 36, ended speculation about his future by agreeing a new deal with McLaren, hopeful of returning to the front of the field next year when the team swaps Honda power for Renault engines.

Alonso admitted to considering options outside of F1 before agreeing to stay at McLaren, and was thought to only be chasing a one-year extension in order to be in a position to snap up a more attractive seat in the volatile 2019 market.

However, Alonso confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the deal with McLaren stretched beyond the end of next year, adding he would be content to see out his time in the sport with the team.

“I never talk about contracts, but one thing I can say is it is a long-term partnership,” Alonso said.

“I am very happy to finish my career at McLaren. So I don’t think it is going to be only one year.”

Alonso also revealed he had options with teams high up the field in F1 for 2018 just a couple of months ago, but was always leaning to staying at McLaren despite not scoring a podium with the team in almost three years.

“There were some other options in F1. In the summer there were still some options at the top teams, but my desire was to stay with McLaren,” Alonso said.

“But at that time they were in conversation with different engine suppliers, so I had to give them time to sort out their situation.

“Then McLaren opted for a Renault engine which delayed my decision, because I had to understand what Renault’s plans were for next years.

“But when I had everything on the table, everything was pretty clear.”