American Conor Daly joins GP2 field for Bahrain season opener

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After a winter of frustration and working to gather a full-time ride on either side of the pond, sponsorship pending, American Conor Daly has done enough from his two preseason tests with the Venezuela GP Lazarus to earn the team’s slot to race in this weekend’s GP2 Series season opener in Bahrain. He’ll race alongside teammate Nathaniel Berthon.

Daly posted a picture to his Instagram page last night that seemed to confirm he would be en route to Bahrain.

Then this morning, he along with Axcil Jefferies, a two-time Indy Lights starter and Jon Lancaster, who was quick at the series’ most recent Bahrain test, were confirmed as the final three drivers in the field via the official GP2 Series Twitter account.

Daly made a single weekend GP2 start in 2013, at Malaysia. He joins fellow American Alexander Rossi on the grid; Rossi drives for Caterham. The two were quick on the first day of testing in Bahrain.

Here’s a breakdown of the full field for the 2014 season opener:

  • RT Russian Time: 1-Mitch Evans (NZ), 2-Artem Markelov (RUS)
  • Carlin: 3-Felipe Nasr (BRZ), 4-Julian Leal (COL)
  • Racing Engineering: 5-Raffaele Marciello (ITA), 6-Stefano Coletti (MON)
  • DAMS: 7-Jolyon Palmer (GB), 8-Stephane Richelmi (MON)
  • ART Grand Prix: 9-Takuya Izawa (JPN), 10-Stoffel Vandoorne (BEL)
  • Hilmer Motorsport: 11-Daniel Abt (GER), 12-Facu Regalia (ARG)
  • Rapax: 14-Adrian Quaife-Hobbs (GB), 15-Simon Trummer (SUI)
  • Arden International: 16-Rene Binder (AUT), 17-Andre Negrao (BRZ)
  • EQ8 Caterham Racing: 18-Rio Haryanto (MON), 19-Alexander Rossi (USA)
  • MP Motorsport: 20-Daniel De Jong (NED), 21-Jon Lancaster (GB)
  • Trident: 22-Axcil Jefferies (ZIM), 23-Johnny Cecotto Jr. (VEN)
  • Venezuela GP Lazarus: 24-Nathaniel Berthon (FRA), 25-Conor Daly (USA)
  • Campos Racing: 26-Arthur Pic (FRA), 27-Kimiya Sato (JPN)

The GP2 Series’ Bahrain round will air on NBCSN on Friday, April 11, at 1:30 a.m. ET.

Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”