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How has Vettel been so good? NBC F1 team attempts to answer

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It’s been the story of the year, on track, in Formula One: how has Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull been so dominant?

A viewpoint form NBC’s Formula One analyst David Hobbs, himself a former driver:

“Sebastian Vettel is an outstanding young kid, from the time he was winning go-kart championships,” Hobbs said during today’s teleconference leading up to this weekend’s United States Grand Prix in Austin (Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra).

“He was fortunate enough to be picked up by Red Bull. Then he was the youngest polesitter and youngest winner. Then he joined Red Bull and Adrian Newey.

“I’m not convinced Newey has brought Vettel up. I think Newey has used his genius and coupled it with Sebastian’s genius – somewhat like Colin Chapman, Jimmy Clark did 60 years ago. He used it to suit Sebastian’s driving style. Now he’s winning the championship by 200 points nearly.”

From Steve Matchett, fellow analyst and a former mechanic for the Benetton F1 team (now Lotus) when Michael Schumacher won the first of his two World Championships:

“The sport always throws up an incredible talent, be it a (Alain) Prost, (Juan Manuel) Fangio, Michael Schumacher again, and we now have another one,” Matchett said. “I worked with Schumacher, (Ross) Brawn at Benetton. That was 10-plus years ago. Now he’s come along in a heartbeat; now the sport’s ready for another incredible talent.

“He’s taken a lot of good advice from Michael. How to become a part of the team; become an intrinsic part. Schumacher did it with Benetton and Ferrari, and Vettel is doing exactly the same with Red Bull. The car is tailored toward his style – why wouldn’t they?”

Will Buxton, NBC’s F1 insider and pit reporter, sees Vettel on the ground at every event. He’s a humble individual out of the car, and unflinchingly focused in it.

“What makes him such a superstar? He’s humble, funny, engaging who’s enjoying every facet of life outside the car. And he’s a ruthless operator in the car,” Buxton said. “He’s likeable outside it. But he’s unflinching in his determination to obliterate the competition. He’s physically on top, mentally unchallenged, and from a driving perspective, a joy to behold week in and week out.”

Perhaps Hobbs and Matchett’s booth mate can sum it up best.

“It’s a question only Red Bull and Sebastian can answer,” NBC Sports Group lead F1 announcer Leigh Diffey surmised. “Steve used the Tiger Woods analogy. How does Sebastian put two seconds on the field after every lap? How does he win by 31 seconds? Is he that much better? The car? The team? That’s the allure and attraction, and people are in amazement.”

Vettel seeks his eighth straight win – which would be the most in a row in a single season (the all-time mark of nine, set by Alberto Ascari, was done over two seasons from 1952 to 1953) – this Sunday in Austin. It would mark his first win at the track and end Lewis Hamilton’s run of back-to-back USGP victories.

You can see him go for it starting at 1 p.m. ET on NBC on Sunday, with an hour pre-race, and lights out at 2 p.m. ET.

NextEV wraps up private testing ahead of third Formula E season

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The NextEV Formula E Team has completed its private testing program ahead of the collective sessions at Donington Park next month in the run-up to season three of the all-electric series.

NextEV endured a difficult second season that saw it lack the pace to allow Nelson Piquet Jr. to defend the inaugural Formula E title he won with the team in season one.

Despite making significant progress across the course of the season under the guidance of CEO Martin Leach, NextEV was unable to avoid finishing at the foot of the teams’ championship.

Plans for season three have been moving swiftly for many months, with Leach telling NBC Sports earlier this month that things were going the right way during testing.

“Everything is on plan,” Leach said.

“When you’re going through a whole new development as we are, you’re constantly trying to identify issues and resolve issues.

“Everything is on-track so far.”

On Friday, NextEV issued a statement announcing it had completed its private testing program ahead of the new season, with 11 days’ worth of running under its belt at Calafat in Spain.

“We have been working incredibly hard for some time now on our new car for the 2016/17 season and have our sights firmly set on arriving in Hong Kong very well prepared and with a well-tested car,” Leach said.

“There are some interesting developments for next season, one of which is the increased regeneration levels, and so these technical upgrades have been a part of the work.

“We have been encouraged by our reliability and our programme progress is exactly in line with our planning.

“We look forward to getting on track at Donington for some comparison work against the other teams and to further cementing our strong pre-season testing work and performance.”

NextEV is yet to confirm its line-up for season three, but Leach told NBC Sports that the team has agreements in principle with season two drivers Piquet and Oliver Turvey, both of whom have expressed a desire to remain with the team.

“We have an agreement in principle. The physical contracts are not signed yet, but I don’t anticipate that being a problem,” Leach said.

“So we’re just going through some of the minutiae at the moment. My plan is to stay with Nelson and Oliver if I can.”

The third Formula E season kicks off in Hong Kong on October 9, with collective testing starting at Donington Park at the end of August.

Sirotkin beats Gasly to GP2 pole in Germany

2016 GP2 Series Round 7
Hockenheimring, Hockenheim, Germany
Friday 29 July 2016.
Sergey Sirotkin (RUS, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
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Sergey Sirotkin continued his mid-season revival by scoring pole position for Saturday’s GP2 Series feature race at Hockenheim.

Sirotkin picked up his first win of the season in Hungary last Sunday, rising to eighth place in the drivers’ championship in the process after a luckless start to the year.

Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly enjoyed the upper-hand for much of the qualifying session, setting two laps good enough for pole before returning to the pit lane and getting out of his car, believing he had done all he could.

As a result, the Frenchman was left unable to respond when Sirotkin put in a lap of 1:22.193, going one-hundredth of a second faster to snatch away pole for ART Grand Prix.

“It is the first time I’ve been to the track, so I didn’t have much expectation before we came here, and free practice didn’t go super good so you’re thinking more about getting a top three than getting a pole,” Sirotkin said.

“The first set of tires was pretty good but we were missing a bit of time to Pierre at that moment, but with every lap on the track I felt better and better, so we were quite confident for the second run.

“Unfortunately there was a bit of a mess on the warm up to the first push, so I just stopped pushing, did a cool lap, and the last lap I knew most of the people would not be as quick and I just pushed like crazy.

“I think I just squeezed everything I could from the situation. Probably we were not simply the quickest car, but we made it by putting it all together perfectly, every inch.”

Raffaele Marciello qualified third for Russian Time ahead of Prema’s Antonio Giovinazzi, while Oliver Rowland bounced back from a disastrous weekend in Hungary to qualify fifth.

Alex Lynn will start sixth for DAMS on Saturday ahead of Norman Nato and Nicholas Latifi. Jordan King and Marvin Kirchhofer rounded out the top 10 for Racing Engineering and Carlin respectively.

Saturday’s GP2 feature race is live on the NBC Sports app and online at f1stream.nbcsports.com from 9:40am ET on Saturday.

FIA to use three-strike rule for Turn 1 track limits at Hockenheim

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 29:  Sergio Perez of Mexico drives the 1 Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 29, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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FIA race director Charlie Whiting has informed all Formula 1 teams that a three-strike rule will be used when policing track limits at Turn 1 during this weekend’s German Grand Prix.

The FIA installed a timing loop at two corners for last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix to police track limits more effectively, giving drivers three warnings before being penalized for running wide and gaining an advantage.

A similar loop was put at Turn 1 during the build day at Hockenheim ahead of the German Grand Prix, but a request was made for greater leniency when it comes to track limits during the F1 Strategy Group meeting in Geneva on Thursday.

However, after track limits were deemed to have been exceeded 93 times during FP1 alone at Hockenheim – 14 of which Max Verstappen was responsible for – a note has been sent to teams saying that the three-strike rule will be re-introduced.

“During P1 many drivers appeared to make little or no effort to stay on the track on the exit of turn 1, in fact, one driver left the track 14 times,” Whiting’s note read.

“Therefore, for P2 and P3 any driver who is judged to have left the track three times at turn 1 will be reported to the stewards for not having made every reasonable effort to use the track.

“However, if we are satisfied that a driver left the track at this point for reasons beyond his control such a crossing will not be counted towards his total in the session.”

The clampdown on track limits means that times may be deleted during qualifying on Saturday afternoon, as was seen at Silverstone when Lewis Hamilton ran wide on his first lap that was quick enough for pole.

F1 qualifying to be red flagged if double waved yellows are shown

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO - MAY 28: A marshal waves the red flag during qualifying for the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 28, 2016 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Formula 1 race director Charlie Whiting has confirmed that qualifying sessions will now be red flagged in the event of double waved yellow flags being shown following the saga surrounding Nico Rosberg’s pole lap in Hungary.

Double waved yellows were shown at the end of Q3 in Hungary last weekend after Fernando Alonso spun, forcing a number of drivers to abandon their final qualifying laps.

Rosberg was one of the last to come through the yellow flag zone, lifting slightly through Turn 8 before posting a quicker time to take pole position.

The stewards investigated Rosberg’s lap, and although they were satisfied that he slowed sufficiently, the fall-out from the case has continued ahead of this weekend’s German Grand Prix.

On Thursday, Lewis Hamilton told NBCSN that the case set a precedent for all other drivers when it comes to reacting to double waved yellow flags, fearing that it could cause a safety issue in the future.

However, there will be no repeat of Rosberg’s actions in Hungary, with Whiting confirming on Friday in a press briefing that the red flag will now be shown to prevent drivers from improving their lap times.

“Ever since we had the Virtual Safety Car in 2015 and then this year we use it in free practice,” Whiting said.

“We can use it in qualifying really but we tend now to stop if there is going to be a yellow flag for any length of time.

“The reason we didn’t show a red flag in Hungary was simply that session had ended, but some cars were behind Alonso’s car and some in front.

“So I think the procedure would be to red flag any time there is a double waved yellow flag. Then there will be no discussion.

“That’s what I intend to do in the future, just to remove any discussion about whether a driver slowed down or not.”