Kovalainen immediately flourishes with Lotus

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Heikki Kovalainen may have only been confirmed as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement at Lotus for the final two rounds of the season yesterday, but the Finnish driver has immediately fitted in at the team by excelling during practice today in Austin.

Kovalainen, who raced in F1 between 2007 and 2012, has only had a handful of practice run-outs for Caterham this year, and many were unsure whether or not he would be able to fit in at the team. However, Lotus’ decision to hire him instead of promoting reserve driver Davide Valsecchi (citing Kovalainen’s experience as the determinant factor) was vindicated by the Finn’s performance on Friday, finishing fifth in FP2.

“It’s been a pretty smooth landing, joining Lotus F1 Team,” Kovalainen said. “We’ve had no major issues on track today and we just need to keep chipping away to see how good we can get the car for tomorrow and Sunday. We lost a bit of track time in the morning, but the car balance was reasonably good straight away.”

Kovalainen finished ahead of teammate Romain Grosjean in FP2 despite both drivers being fuelled equally.

“I was able to settle in and work immediately on the setup and tire work. All the procedures and routines are quite similar up and down the pit lane, plus I’m familiar with all the systems from driving with a Renault engine already this year and previously, so it was a pretty straight-forward day.”

Like many drivers, Kovalainen is vying for a seat on next year’s grid, and if he can continue this form throughout the rest of the weekend, the Finn will be doing himself a world of good. Further to that, he is looking to end his record streak of sixty-one consecutive finishes outside of the points, dating back to the 2009 Singapore Grand Prix.

Power, Newgarden, Dixon fastest in first of 2 IndyCar practices today at Barber Motorsports Park

Photo: IndyCar
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Will Power was fastest in Friday’s first of two IndyCar practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park.

Power covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in 1:07.5987 minutes at 122.488 mph in the 45-minute practice session.

Even though he spun off the course during his session, Phoenix winner Josef Newgarden still managed to be second-fastest (121.919 mph at 1:07.9141 minutes), followed by Scott Dixon (121.296 mph/1:082627), Max Chilton (121.251 mph/1:08.2882) and Ed Jones (121.215 mph/1:09.5692).

 

Sixth through 10th were Simon Pagenaud (121.208 mph/1:08.3122), Jordan King (121.113 mph/1:083661), Graham Rahal (121.059 mph/1:08.3964), St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais (121.029 mph/1:08.4131) and rookie Zach Veach (121.014 mph/1:08.4216).

Here’s the full speed chart:

Incidents:

* Early in the session, Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi ran off the track and into the grass, striking a small sign, but was able to get back on-track. However, Rossi was only able to complete 10 laps, relegating him to 20th-fastest in the 23-car field.

* Moments later, it appeared the rear brakes locked up on Newgarden heading into Turn 5, spinning him into the gravel trap. He was able to get going and returned to the pits for service and was back on-track with less than four minutes remaining in the session.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The second practice session of the day will begin at 3:50 p.m. ET. A third practice will take part Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET. The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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