The FIA Thursday press conference in Bahrain

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Jenson Button, set to celebrate his 250th Grand Prix this weekend, headlined Thursday’s FIA press conference at the Bahrain Grand Prix. The McLaren driver was joined by Lotus’ Romain Grosjean, Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne, Marussia’s Jules Bianchi and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson.

Button spelled out the basics of how the field is looking ahead to the first ever Bahrain night race, but it was Nico Hulkenberg who commented on another Mercedes-powered team’s performance.

Force India, which finished fourth at Bahrain in 2013 with Paul di Resta, is a sleeper contender to do well this weekend. But Hulkenberg said a repeat of either that or fifth place achieved at Malaysia last week would be a bit of a surprise.

“I think here this weekend here is a little trickier. In Malaysia, we had surprisingly good performance on Sunday maybe stronger than we expected,” said the young German. “We were quite clear on McLaren and Williams, which was a little bit of a surprise, but I think here things might be a bit more tricky and a bit more tight.”

Toro Rosso meanwhile has three points finishes out of four possible attempts – Vergne looks for the team to do much better in Bahrain this go-around than in testing, when mechanical gremlins frequently occurred.

“I think Toro Rosso has done a massively good job during the winter and even before that, produced a good car and I believe there is still a lot more to come from this team,” he said. “Many things have changed in a good way and you can definitely feel it inside the team and I’m really happy, they’ve showed some really good results.”

His countryman, Grosjean, looks to get Lotus on the board for the first time this season. He just missed the points with 11th in Malaysia.

“I know that we still have in our genes the winning spirit and we can still fight back,” he said. “Of course, when you start the season with everything in the right direction it’s easier to move forward but at the moment we’ve had some issues, we’ve solved most of them, hopefully no more coming, then we can go from there.”

Bianchi and Ericsson didn’t get a ton of testing time at either Bahrain test and the pair look to continue the Marussia and Caterham teams’ respective methodical growth into the weekend.

The full link to Thursday’s press conference is here, via the official Formula One website. Times for this weekend’s Bahrain GP are linked here.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.