Pirelli expecting 2-3 stops per car in Melbourne

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After taking criticism for its tire degradation woes last season, Pirelli is hopeful that their new 2014 tires will be up to the many challenges that will come with the new regulation changes.

Formula One’s tire maker has chosen their medium (white) and soft (yellow) compounds for this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix, and Pirelli motorsports director Paul Hembery (pictured) has now said he does not expect to see more than two to three stops per car during the event in Melbourne.

“Pre-season testing has shown just what a big challenge these new rules are for everybody, but we have worked very hard throughout last year and the winter to come up with an entirely fresh range of tires specifically designed for these latest-generation cars – featuring new compounds and constructions that actually cut down on degradation while maintaining the same level of performance,” he said in a release.

“As a result, we’re still expecting between two to three pit stops per car in Melbourne, although we’ll be able to make some more exact predictions after we see the cars run in free practice. The first race of the season is always unpredictable but this will be the case more than ever in 2014.”

Last year, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen utilized a two-stop strategy to win Down Under for Lotus.

With new regulations allowing teams to work with Pirelli on an official basis this season, the tire maker has released an in-season test schedule. Each F1 squad will use one day from each test to help Pirelli continue development on the 2014 compounds.

The Aussie GP weekend officially begins with Thursday night’s opening practice at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN with the Countdown to F1 season preview show.

A full weekend schedule can be found here.

UPDATE 2: INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama once again under red-flag race stoppage

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UPDATE No. 2: The INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was closing in on restarting on Lap 23 or 24 before officials threw the second red flag race stoppage because of lingering puddles on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park, particularly on the front stretch. We’ll keep you updated as situations warrant.

UPDATE No. 1: The INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is under a red-flag race stoppage after 19 laps due to rain and puddling on the racing surface at Barber Motorsports Park.

Cleaners and dryers are on the track to try and get some of the water off the racing surface. The low spots on the track, as well as the front stretch, have been particularly troublesome and led to several spinouts and at least two wrecks (Charlie Kimball and outside front pole sitter Will Power).

Power’s day is done after suffering irreparable damage to the left side of his car after hydroplaning on the front straight and running into the inside retaining wall.

ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS:

Although rain has been falling for nearly an hour and the Barber Motorsports Park 2.3-mile permanent road course is drenched, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is underway on NBCSN.

The start of the race was moved up from 3:38 p.m. ET to take the green flag at 3:08 p.m. ET.

Josef Newgarden is the defending winner of this race and also will start from the pole for today’s race.

While the race is scheduled for 90 laps, there’s a possibility that if the weather worsens or if lightning appears, it could potentially be shortened to just two hours.

As can be expected, all cars are on rain tires to maximize grip.

Catch the race live on NBCSN.