More mechanical gremlins for Red Bull, Vettel in Bahrain

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Write off Red Bull at your own peril, given they’re likely to be on form once the Formula One community actually gets to the season opener at Melbourne, Australia next month.

But after the issues encountered in Jerez last month, and two weeks’ work at the factory, more mechanical gremlins popped up in today’s first running in Bahrain. Sebastian Vettel completed only 14 laps before stopping on track.

“We sorted out the issues from Jerez and we were able to do some laps today,” said the four-time defending World Champion, via the team’s official website. “However, very often you fix one problem and another pops up, which is what happened. That’s testing.”

Per veteran F1 journalist Adam Cooper, the issue today was brake-related, and led to a small fire in the rear of the car. It was one of several brakes issues reported.

Race engineering coordinator Andy Damerum said this was different than what occurred at Jerez.

“We are obviously playing catch-up and for us this was very much like a first test, so we were sending the car out to do one lap, then two and trying to build from there,” he said. “In that regard the laps completed were good. However, we were sidelined by a mechanical gremlin but one unrelated to the issues in Jerez.”

The next three days in Bahrain are crucial for Red Bull, as the team needs to get its issues ironed out before the end of the week. Full running at the second Bahrain test, without incident, will be the target at that point.

Vettel is in the car tomorrow as well, with Daniel Ricciardo taking over on Friday.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.