Relationship between Maldonado and Williams hits new low

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The relationship between Pastor Maldonado and Williams may have deteriorated drastically over the past few months, but it reached a new low after qualifying for the United States Grand Prix (race live on NBC from 1pm ET) when the Venezuelan driver accused his team of sabotaging his car.

After testing a new configuration of exhaust in Abu Dhabi, the team showed signs of an improved pace during practice on Friday and Saturday morning, but Maldonado failed to live up to this hype during qualifying. Despite being held up by Esteban Gutierrez, he still failed to post a quick enough time to secure a place in Q2. Curiously though, teammate Valtteri Bottas finished Q1 as the quickest driver on track ahead of the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, and a full 1.5 seconds faster than Maldonado.

When asked about the time difference between himself and his teammate in Q1, Maldonado inferred to journalists in Austin that all may not be as it seems.

“I think in my car somebody is playing with the pressure and the temperatures,” he said. “You need to ask the team, the guys that are working on the car, it is quite clear.”

However, chief engineer Xevi Pujolar believes that the problems were due to the temperature of Maldonado’s tires.

“We didn’t quite get the tire performance with Pastor, but despite starting eigteenth he always makes a good start and fights through on the opening laps, so we still expect him to move forward in the race,” Pujolar said.

This is the latest in a number of recent outbursts by Maldonado against the team, and he is poised to leave at the end of the year to make way for Felipe Massa. However, he said that he was happy to be leaving as he looks to join Lotus as Kimi Raikkonen’s replacement.

The Venezuelan driver is unlikely to have won any friends within the team though by making these allegations, nor will he be impressing the teams considering him for a drive in 2014.

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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