Kvyat: Top ten on debut a pleasant surprise

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Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat has admitted that he did not expect to qualify inside the top ten on his Formula 1 debut, but he is elated to have done exactly that in Australia today.

19-year-old Kvyat took advantage of the wet conditions to qualify in eighth place for the Australian Grand Prix, having only previously ran during pre-season testing and two Friday practice sessions in 2013 for Toro Rosso before this weekend. Although this result appears to prove just why Red Bull saw it fit to fast-track Kvyat to Formula 1, the Russian driver said that it was far from expected.

“This was a very good session for us and I really didn’t expect to be qualifying 8th at my first grand prix two months ago!” he explained after qualifying on Saturday. “This is definitely a big step forward and I’m very happy for the team, who did a fantastic job also from the strategy side.

“The conditions were very tricky, but the car felt good and in the end we were able to put everything together. Now our focus is on tomorrow, which should be interesting also because of the weather forecast.”

Kvyat was not the only rookie to impress on debut on Saturday as McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen performed admirably to qualify in fourth place in his first F1 qualifying session. Furthermore, Kvyat’s teammate, Jean-Eric Vergne, also excelled in the wet conditions to qualify a career-best P6.

“It’s a very good feeling, a great start to the season,” Vergne said. “After so much hard work during winter testing, to get two cars into Q3 is a great result and I’m very happy. I think we have a good car for the season, I believe in the team and in myself so I can’t really say that I’m surprised. The guys did a very good job and I want to thank everybody for getting two cars in the top ten.”

Al Unser Jr. to race Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in 29 years

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Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. is coming out of retirement to race again.

Unser Jr., who turns 56 on April 19, will compete in the 96th Broadmoor Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on June 24. It will be the first time Unser has raced at Pikes Peak in 29 years, since the 1989 event.

Unser won the Hill Climb and was named “King of the Mountain” in the 1983 event.

Unser said in 2007 that he was retiring from racing and had no plans to race in the future. However, he has taken part since then in some selected vintage racing events.

Speaking of vintage cars, Unser is slated to drive a 1936 Chevrolet Sedan in this year’s Hill Climb, according to race organizers.

He’ll compete with a number of luminaries including eight-time Hill Climb winner Paul Dallenbach; Layne Schranz, who will be competing in his 25th “Race to the Clouds”; 23-time champion Clint Vahsholtz; 25-time Hill Climb competitor David Schmidt II and three-time Climb winner Spencer Steele.

Unser recently returned to IndyCar racing as a consultant with Harding Racing, which is beginning its first full season in the series with Gabby Chaves behind the wheel.