2014 Bahrain Grand Prix Preview

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The Formula 1 circus arrives in Bahrain this weekend for a very special race. With 2014 marking the tenth anniversary of the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix, it is being promoted as a “celebration” for the island kingdom. Part of this ‘celebration’ sees the Bahrain International Circuit play host to just the second night race on the calendar, following in the footsteps of the Singapore Grand Prix.

It might be something of a final roll of the dice for Formula 1 in Bahrain. Although money is not a problem, the race has hardly been one that is looked forward to. Very few fans are stirred by the circuit or the racing it produces, but a night race may resolve this. Hundreds of floodlights have been erected around the circuit to illuminate the cars throughout the weekend, as we saw at the final round of the World Endurance Championship back in December.

Following his dominant victory at the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend, Lewis Hamilton will be looking to go back-to-back and cut the gap to championship leader and teammate Nico Rosberg on Sunday. Both drivers enter this weekend’s race as favorites thanks to the immense pace of the W05 car, but with Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen all in the shake-up, it is by no means a foregone conclusion.

2014 Bahrain Grand Prix – Talking Points

Lewis versus Nico – Round 3

Round one of this inter-team battle went to Nico Rosberg as he won in Australia; round two was a convincing victory for Lewis Hamilton by a full 17 seconds in the exact same car. And so we come to round three in Bahrain. Both drivers are champing at the bit to be team leader and mount a serious title challenge, but with Red Bull rapidly catching up, now is the time for Mercedes to make the most of its advantage.

How much closer will Red Bull be?

Sebastian Vettel finishing in third place last weekend may not appear to be a momentous result given his glittering career, but following such a disastrous winter, it meant the world to Red Bull. Now, the team must use the momentum gained in Malaysia to push Mercedes even closer in Bahrain. For Daniel Ricciardo, it is merely about scoring some points. His luck makes you unsure whether to laugh or cry.

Ferrari needs to turn up

Fernando who? Kimi? Eh? It’s been that kind of start to the season for Ferrari. The erstwhile Alonso has picked up two solid fourth place finishes so far, but the pace of the F14 T has left much to be desired. Similarly, Raikkonen has – despite a slice of bad luck in Malaysia – been largely anonymous. However, write the team off at your peril. After two quiet races at the beginning of last season, Ferrari roared back into life to win the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix. It might take a bit more than aggressive tire wear this year, though.

Some dry weather answers

Wet qualifying for both the Australian and Malaysian Grands Prix has clouded our idea of the pecking order (over one lap, at least), but Bahrain should remedy this situation. Given that we have never seen a wet session at Sakhir, we should finally see just how great Mercedes’ advantage is. Further to that, we’ll also begin to appreciate the impact of the new tire rules that mean drivers start the race on their Q2 compound, not their Q3 selection as per 2013.

250 not out for Jenson Button

If it’s a celebration for Bahrain, then it’s also a celebration for Jenson Button. Having made his debut in the 2000 Australian Grand Prix, the British driver will now start his 250th race this weekend. In a career full of ups and downs, he has done it all: been a rookie, a backmarker, an unlikely winner, a world champion and a team leader. He won his 200th race at the Hungaroring in 2011, so could it be another big result to celebrate a big landmark for JB?

2014 Bahrain Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir (5.412km)
Laps: 57
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:30.252s (2004)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2013 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:32.330
2013 Fastest Lap: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) – 1:36.961
DRS Zones: Main straight (T15 to T1); T10 to T11

For the complete schedule and TV times, click here. Please note that qualifying is live on CNBC.

Leah Pritchett has quickest run in NHRA history at 3.640 seconds

Photo courtesy Don Schumacher Racing
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BRAINERD, Minn. (AP) Leah Pritchett had the quickest run in NHRA history with 3.640-second pass at 330.63 mph Friday night at Brainerd International Speedway in Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals qualifying.

She broke her own Top Fuel record of 3.658 set in Arizona in February.

“We’ve looked forward to this night session for a long time,” Pritchett said. “Knowing that Brainerd, this track, this surface, the conditions and what NHRA is able to do to it, lays down the ground work for us to pull out the most power possible. That’s what this team did. They have been working tirelessly at finding small amounts of power here, there and everywhere and to be able to put it on the track tonight was incredible.”

Robert Hight broke the Funny Car time record with a 3.793 at 338.00 in a Chevrolet Camaro SS, the first run in the 3.7s in Funny Car history. He set the speed record of 339.87 last month at Sonoma Raceway.

“I could tell it was running fast and I saw the 3.79 on the scoreboard,” Hight said. “It’s just something you dream about. There are so many things that have to happen and work together for it all to come together. It’s not that easy. This is a big milestone. To be part of a milestone as a driver, this was big for me.”

Tanner Gray topped the Pro Stock field, and Hector Arana Jr. was the fastest in Pro Stock Motorcycle. Gray had a 6.607 at 208.617 in a Chevrolet Camaro, and Arana had a 6.879 at 194.24 on a Buell.

Back racing after F1 test, Norris dominates Zandvoort F3 opener

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McLaren younster Lando Norris made an emphatic return to racing action after the summer break by dominating the opening race of the FIA European Formula 3 weekend at Zandvoort, taking his sixth win of the season.

Norris, 17, moved up to F3 for 2017 after winning two Formula Renault titles last year, as well as linking up with McLaren’s junior program.

The Briton impressed during his maiden Formula 1 test in Hungary at the end of last month, and carried the momentum through to Zandvoort by taking pole position for Carlin for the first race of the weekend.

Norris retained his lead at the start and only came under pressure following a safety car period, with Swedish youngster Joel Eriksson running close for the lead.

Norris was able to create a gap and pull away, completing a wire-to-wire win with almost nine seconds in hand over the pack for his sixth win of the season.

The result sees Norris move to within eight points of championship leader Maximillian Günther, the German finishing third on Saturday at Zandvoort.

Carpenter, Jones crash as Hunter-Reay leads Pocono practice

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LONG POND, Pa. – The Saturday morning practice for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway saw Honda jump to the fore, though a pair of incidents forced stoppages near the end.

Ryan Hunter-Reay topped the time charts with a quick lap of 219.268 mph, turned in the second half of the session. Hunter-Reay led Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, the best of the Chevrolet runners, the Frenchman turning a best lap of 219.211 mph.

Tony Kanaan was third for Chip Ganassi Racing, with Hunter-Reay’s teammate Marco Andretti in fourth after leading most of the session. Kanaan’s teammate Scott Dixon completed the top five, while sixth-place Takuma Sato and seventh-place Alexander Rossi made it four Andretti Autosport cars in the top ten.

The morning practice saw three stoppages. The first was only for a quick track inspection, but the next two were for crashes.

The first was for Ed Carpenter. Carpenter’s No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet broke loose exiting turn three 3 and smacked the outside wall with the left side. Carpenter climbed out unhurt, but the car sustained heavy damage. However, the team immediately began repairing the car ahead of qualifying this afternoon.

The other incident was for Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones. Jones’ No. 19 Honda spun in the middle of turn 2, but only sustained minor damage to the front nose, which brushed the outside wall during the spin.

Both Carpenter and Jones were checked, cleared, and released from the infield care center. Times are below. Qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 1:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

NHRA: Hight uncorks first 3.70 Funny Car run in history in Brainerd

Photo: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery
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Last night, Robert Hight and the John Force Racing team took an even bigger step in their recent run of form with a new record elapsed time in NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series history for the Funny Car class.

With a 3.793-second pass at Brainerd International Raceway in Minnesota, Hight became the first Funny Car driver in history to run a pass under 3.80 seconds in the class’ history.

The full team release is below.

Auto Club of Southern California driver Robert Hight is getting pretty good at making history.

Two races ago, the Chevrolet Camaro SS driver set the national speed record of 339.87 mph at Sonoma, Calif.

On Friday at Brainerd International Raceway, Hight again went to new heights. The John Force Racing driver became the first in Funny Car to run under the 3.8-second mark, making a pass of 3.793 seconds at 338.00 mph to earn the provisional No. 1 spot for the NHRA Nationals on Friday night.

“It’s something you dream about,” Hight said. “There are so many things that have to happen, and so many people that have to work together for it to happen. It’s just not that easy. We’ve been on runs before that you think that, if it’d finished, it would have run in the .70s.

“To be the first – that’s history. This is a big milestone. It’s going to be a long time before we get into the 3.60s. To be a part of a milestone – I’ve been on John’s teams when he’s cracked barriers, but never done it as a driver – so this is big for me and the whole team. We’re ecstatic.”

Hight and his Auto Club team, led by crew chief Jimmy Prock and co-crew chief Chris Cunningham, have been on fire recently. Hight won in Denver and Seattle, earned No. 1 qualifiers in three of the last four races, qualified in the top three in each of the last nine races and now has set the national record for elapsed time and speed.

Hight sat in the No. 2 spot after the first session Friday with a run of 3.844 seconds at 335.07 mph but figured the “Prock Rocket” could go even quicker – and it certainly did.

“I could tell it was running fast,” Hight said. “The clutch disc was boiling, and that’s the way Jimmy runs it. That’s how he wants to wear the clutch. It was hard to see, but I did see the 3.79 on the scoreboard, because we shut off at 1,000 feet, I had the chutes out, and I glanced up there but I didn’t know the speed.”

Hight led a solid 1-3-4 effort for JFR, as PEAK Coolant & Motor Oil driver John Force was No. 3 with a run of 3.852 seconds at 334.15 mph and Advance Auto Parts driver Courtney Force was No. 4 with a pass of 3.863 seconds at 335.98 mph.

Brittany Force was No. 2 in Top Fuel, making a brilliant run of 3.685 seconds at a track-record speed of 333.16 mph. That speed was matched the third-best in NHRA history.

JFR now owns six of the nine fastest speeds in Funny Car history, as well as three of the six quickest elapsed times in Funny Car history.

Additionally, JFR Funny Cars own 12 of the 21 track records for elapsed time.