Indy 500 champ Kanaan sixth in first race with Ganassi camp

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A promising Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg appeared to be on tap for Target Chip Ganassi Racing newcomer Tony Kanaan after he qualified on the outside front row.

Instead, things got very difficult almost from the beginning for the Indianapolis 500 champion, when he suffered a potentially disastrous mishap in the cockpit of his No. 10 Target Chevrolet.

“Right at the fourth lap of the race, we went into a [fuel] mixture to lean the engine out and save some fuel – but the knob fell off,” Kanaan explained to ESPN. “I raced the entire race with a lot less power, so it was quite hard to keep up.”

Nonetheless, Kanaan was able to soldier on and pick up a sixth-place finish in his first race for the defending Verizon IndyCar Series champions. He also noted the big picture, with driver’s champ and new teammate Scott Dixon finishing in fourth.

“It was one of those things. It happens. But a Top-6 is not a bad start,” he said. “Both Target cars [finished] in the Top-6, and that’s great for the championship. It’s going to be a tight one, so we need to take any points that we can get.”

The lack of power appeared to show early on after Kanaan lost second on the opening lap to Ryan Hunter-Reay (who would eventually finish there behind winner Will Power). He ceded third to Power on Lap 12, then lost fourth to Helio Castroneves on Lap 18 before making his first stop on Lap 27.

When that green flag cycle ended, Kanaan would shake out in sixth position. He would stay there for much of his second stint but then fall back to seventh after another wave of green stops.

However, his pit crew would do him a solid by getting him the lost spot back on pit road during the race’s first caution (Lap 76-81). Kanaan stayed sixth for the remainder of the race, setting his fastest lap of the day on Lap 95 despite his fuel troubles.

“For all the problems that we had during the day, it was a great result,” Kanaan said. “When you have a bad day and you have problems and you finish sixth, it’s pretty good.”

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.