Vettel’s current win streak compares admirably to Schumacher’s 2004 run

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Formula One 2013 is a different era from 2004. We’re in the last year of V8s compared to shrieking V10 engines, a car design that has evolved over five years since a radical redesign in 2009, with fewer manufacturers involved, fewer races in Europe and more in other continents, on Pirelli rubber instead of Bridgestone and Michelin, and only five drivers still on the grid this year who raced in that season.

You can say then that Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button have had a front row seat to two of F1’s most dominant win streaks: Michael Schumacher’s in 2004, and Sebastian Vettel’s this year.

With Vettel on the precipice of his seventh consecutive victory next Sunday in Abu Dhabi, here’s a look back at Schumacher’s run of seven in ’04, and a look at Vettel’s six in a row thus far in 2013:

SCHUMACHER 2004

  • NURBURGRING: Schumacher had crashed out of the previous race in Monaco so this win from pole returned him to the top of the podium. He took the lead for good on Lap 16 of 60 at the new Nurburgring, emerging ahead after early pit stops. He won by 17-plus seconds over Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello.
  • CANADA: Early race leader was brother Ralf for Williams, but he was one of four eventually disqualified for a brake duct infractions. Michael won on the road with Barrichello promoted to second after Ralf’s DQ.
  • USA, INDIANAPOLIS: The race was more memorable for Ralf’s high-speed accident on the oval portion of the track and the rare occasion of a Minardi scoring points (Zsolt Baumgartner in eighth), but up front Michael led the third straight Ferrari 1-2 over Barrichello. Takuma Sato in third scored his only career F1 podium.
  • FRANCE: Perhaps Schumacher’s most memorable victory in this stretch of seven. Ross Brawn and the Ferrari team executed a four-stop strategy and still beat polesitter Fernando Alonso. Alonso’s then-Renault teammate Jarno Trulli found himself in hot water after the race when he lost third to Barrichello on the final lap.
  • BRITAIN: Schumacher qualified only fourth but made it to the lead by Lap 11 over polesitter Kimi Raikkonen, who secured McLaren’s first podium of the year.
  • GERMANY: A rare win on home soil for Schumacher broke his previous personal high-water mark of five consecutive wins, with Jenson Button recovering to second after a 10-spot grid penalty and Alonso third.
  • HUNGARY: A seventh win in style as Schumacher secured his last “Grand Slam” of his career, where he won from pole, led every lap and set the fastest lap. Barrichello and Alonso completed the podium.

VETTEL 2013

  • BELGIUM: Started only second after the mixed qualifying session when the last man to set his flier would take pole, but no matter for Seb. Vettel was into the lead from second by the end of Kennel Straight, and had enough to set sail with an unassailable gap achieved before DRS could be enabled. It was the first race after this year’s summer break, and the beginning of this current win streak.
  • ITALY: Pole ahead of the tifosi in Monza and another great jump, with Felipe Massa’s then-slower Ferrari emerging second behind him, was all Vettel needed for the second win in a row.
  • SINGAPORE: The most dominant of these wins thus far, with a victory by more than 30 seconds in a “Grand Slam” performance. Alonso and Raikkonen behind him made it a trio of World Champions on the podium, which is as close as they were to Vettel all race.
  • KOREA: Vettel accomplishes the previously unmatched feat of back-to-back “Grand Slams,” although this one featured only a 4-second margin of victory over Lotus teammates Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.
  • JAPAN: Arguably his most impressive performance with the odds stacked against him, Vettel rebounded from a slow start and Grosjean’s heroics in a slower car ahead of him to pass the Frenchman late in the race after their strategies synced up. Vettel’s talent was made all the more evident when Webber failed to complete the move on Grosjean anywhere near as quickly for second.
  • INDIA: And yesterday, it wasn’t the typical Vettel “run-and-hide” from pole even though it was his seventh of the season. He pitted after just 2 laps to drop Pirelli’s soft tires but even still, ran fast enough on the mediums to not lose too much ground, and cycled back to the lead once everyone else stopped. 

Hunter-Reay released from hospital; not yet cleared to drive at Pocono

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has been released from a nearby hospital at Pocono Raceway after his accident in qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) but has not yet been cleared to drive. He’ll be re-evaluated by INDYCAR Sunday morning.

The full release from INDYCAR and Andretti Autosport is below:

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was evaluated at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday for injuries to his left hip and knee sustained in a crash in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Hunter-Reay was treated and released but has not been cleared to drive, pending a re-evaluation Sunday morning.

“During qualifying today, out of nowhere, the car stepped out on me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was a bit of a wiggle, which I caught. The second time it happened, it came with no warning – which is a bit confusing. I hit my hip pretty bad as well as my knee, so the doctors thought it would be best to go in for further evaluation. After a CT scan and MRI, I am able to go and get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure I’ll wake up sore, but will hopefully be able to get back in the DHL machine tomorrow.

“I know the entire Andretti Autosport team worked hard to get the car put back together and with 500 miles, there is still a chance to win from the back of the field. I can’t thank the Holmatro Safety Team enough for their quick response along with the medical staff at INDYCAR, Pocono and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. Also, thank you to the fans for reaching out with their support.”

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Pocono (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues this weekend with the series trip to the “Tricky Triangle” for the ABC Supply 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass also continues for another episode from the three-turn oval, Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pa.

NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter and Indy Lights analyst Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show, which you can see above.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led first practice; however was involved in a heavy accident in qualifying later Saturday afternoon and transported to a nearby hospital.

His status is unclear for Sunday.

Newgarden leads the championship but had a tough qualifying run – he was only 14th Saturday afternoon – while Power was second among Chevrolets and starts fifth. He is the defending Pocono race winner.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Chaves, Harding continue to shine at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – In two previous starts in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been shining stars, finishing ninth at the Indianapolis 500 and fifth at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, avoiding several crashes and incidents in both races to do so, and advancing from 25th and 20th on the grid, respectively.

Returning to the series for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Sunday 2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the combination continues its remarkably strong form, qualifying eighth for Sunday’s race, third fastest of the Chevrolet runners.

And with the goal of turning the team into a full-time effort next year, Chaves and the team appear to be picking up right where they left off.

“We’re just here to improve our team, get it ready for next year,” Chaves told NBC Sports. “We’d like to go home with a great result of course, that’s always the aim. But I think the work we did throughout the practice improved the car enough to wear I was pretty comfortable at the end.”

Of course, even though the team is still very new to the world of racing (their first race was this year’s Indianapolis 500), it doesn’t stop Chaves from having lofty expectations.

“You always want to shoot for the win,” he asserted when asked about expectations for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500. “Obviously it’s never easy – with the limited time we have on track, it just makes it even harder on top of it. We’re always trying to keep our expectations high and do the best job we can to accomplish them.”

Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been very impressive out of the box. Photo: IndyCar

And perhaps Chaves is right to have big expectations given the team’s first two races. Ninth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas are genuinely impressive results for the brand new team. And on the surface, they are a surprise, given the organization itself hadn’t run any races at any level prior to this year. But, Chaves explained that the people involved in the team are more than familiar with the sport and know how to build a successful operation.

“It’s just a matter of having the right people involved,” Chaves said of their early success. “Our team owner, Mike Harding, is very dedicated to making sure that we have the means to go out and hire the best people we can. It’s hard to do when the full-time teams have already got most of those guys, but there’s a few guys left out there who are very quality guys. Then that comes down to our team manager, Larry Curry, who has been able to track down these guys and give them a good offer to come on board with us. We’re just going to get better from here.”

Specifically, team manager Curry has been instrumental in recruiting talent and helping the team get ahead of the game, as Chaves explained.

“When it came down to our Indy deal, we started getting our car ready, and a little bit through his connections, we were able to get our mockup engine a little sooner, our body fit sooner – enough that we had the time to go out and test and do a shakedown run at Texas before Indy. It’s that type of experience and knowledge that Larry brings to the team that helps us out.”

NBCSN’s Robin Miller reported earlier this weekend in a piece for RACER.com that the team is ready for a full season in 2018, with Harding also telling the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query that “100 percent number” Miller cited is closer to 95 percent.

Chaves stopped short of going that far, but feels confident that a full-season effort will come together.

“Obviously, our plans are still to go out and run the full season. I’d say every day we get closer and closer to that. I’d say it’s looking really good. I know (Robin Miller’s report) mentions 100% – I think we’re close to that. But, it’s not done until it’s done. So I’ll just keep focused on my job here this weekend.”

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Power tops final practice at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – Team Penske’s Will Power topped final practice for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway. Power’s best lap of 216.294 mph was turned late in the session and pipped teammate Simon Pagenaud for the top spot, making it a Team Penske 1-2 in final practice. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, the best of the Honda teams, while Helio Castroneves rebounded from his earlier qualifying crash to end the session in fifth, putting three Penske cars in the top five.

Of note: pole sitter Takuma Sato was 11th quickest and Ed Carpenter was 16th, Carpenter having missed qualifying as Ed Carpenter Racing made repairs to his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and missed the lineup time for pre-qualifying inspection by only a few minutes.

Also: Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda, usually piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay, did not venture onto the track for final practice, with Hunter-Reay currently being evaluated at a local hospital following a qualifying crash.

Times are below. Tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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