Hamilton doubles up to lead Rosberg once again in FP2

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Just as he did in the first practice session on Friday, Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in FP2 in Bahrain to lead a Mercedes one-two as Nico Rosberg closely followed his teammate in second place.

The British driver posted a fastest lap of 1:34.325 to beat his teammate, and finish over one second clear of the quickest non-Mercedes driver, Fernando Alonso, in third place.

As darkness descended and the lights came on, Formula 1 entered new territory with the first night-time running for the sport at the Bahrain International Circuit. With conditions being far more representative of the race now than they had been during FP1, most of the teams quickly sent out their drivers to get in some lap times.

Predictably, Mercedes laid down the initial benchmark once again on the medium compound tire as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg carried their good form from FP1 into the second session. Hamilton edged out his teammate by 0.095 seconds after their first runs on the medium tire, proving just how evenly matched the two drivers are. Daniel Ricciardo posed the strongest challenge to Mercedes’ dominance on the medium tire, but he was over half a second down on Hamilton.

However, the team did not have it all its own way as Rosberg unintentionally blocked Sergio Perez at the final corner, and both drivers have been called before the stewards to explain the incident.

After half an hour of the session, most of the drivers opted to switch to the soft tire in pursuit of a quicker lap time. In the battle at the top, Rosberg reclaimed first place with a lap that was almost two seconds quicker than Hamilton’s best effort, albeit on the faster tire. Perez moved up into second place with his first effort before Hamilton finally emerged from the pits, and restored the Mercedes one-two by going three-tenths faster than his teammate. Fernando Alonso sat in third place after the soft tire qualifying runs, over one second down on Hamilton’s time.

One team that impressed on the soft tire was Marussia, who got Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton up into P9 and P10 at one point. Although they soon dropped down the order, it was a good showing from the backmarker team that still chases its first point in Formula 1. Chilton’s session came to an early end after a brake problem at the final corner left him stranded in the run-off area, and Adrian Sutil’s car also came to a halt just a few minutes later, ending the Sauber driver’s session. Marcus Ericsson was the third and final driver to come to a halt out on track with just six minutes remaining in the session.

Most of the teams soon turned attention to their race simulations, meaning that the Mercedes drivers remained unchallenged at the top of the timesheets. After spending most of the session in the pits, Williams finally sent its drivers out, but neither Valtteri Bottas nor Felipe Massa could bother the front-runners.

Come the checkered flag, it was Mercedes who once again enjoyed a one-two finish, and after laying down an impressive race pace during the long runs on Friday evening, it appears that it will take something out of the norm to stop either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg from claiming pole position in qualifying tomorrow.

F1/IndyCar clashes frequent for 2018 as schedules shape up

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The latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council may not have yielded much in the way of groundbreaking news, but the confirmation of Formula E and the World Endurance Championship’s 2018 schedules did help us get a grip on next year’s racing calendar.

Perhaps the most notable thing with next year’s schedules is the heavy reduction in clashes between the FIA’s three premier track championships – F1, Formula E and WEC – next year, making good on its plans for calendar harmonization moving forward.

WEC confirmed its ‘super season’ schedule earlier this month, stretching 13 months from May 2018 to June 2019, and added Silverstone last week, with the calendar gaining FIA approval in Paris.

Of the 2018 WEC rounds, there is just one clash with another FIA track championship: between the 6 Hours of Fuji and the F1 United States Grand Prix on the October 21 weekend.

While the more pressing worry for drivers is between WEC and Formula E after the July 16 debacle this year, no WEC and F1 clashes is good news for Fernando Alonso, who could well appear at Le Mans next year as part of his Triple Crown bid.

Formula E does have a number of F1 clashes, albeit not until the sixth event of its season, with the Rome race being held on the April 15 weekend where the Bahrain Grand Prix also sits (for now – China is due to swap dates).

Other Formula E and F1 clashes come on April 29 (Paris/Azerbaijan), June 10 (Zurich/Canada) and July 29 (Montreal/Hungary), although by shifting the New York City ePrix back one week to July 14-15, a gap has been found in the schedule.

For those operating across all three series (including yours truly), there is now a busy run between the start of the F1 season in Australia and the start of the summer break in Hungary with just three empty weekends.

As for IndyCar clashes? The condensed nature of the series’ schedule and the expansion of F1’s calendar to 21 races means they are inevitable. That said, as IndyCar is outside of the FIA’s realm of control, it was never really in the mix for its harmonization plans.

Yet again there is a clash between the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, sadly something we have become accustomed to in recent years, but over half the IndyCar calendar faces an F1 clash next year.

Here’s a full run-down of the F1/IndyCar double dip weekends:

April 7-8: Chinese GP, Phoenix Grand Prix
April 14-15: Bahrain GP, Grand Prix of Long Beach
May 12-13: Spanish GP, Indianapolis GP
May 26-27: Monaco GP, Indianapolis 500
June 9-10: Canadian GP, Texas 600
June 23-24: French GP, Road America GP
July 7-8: British GP, Iowa Corn 300
August 25-26: Belgian GP, Gateway 500
September 15-16: Singapore GP, Sonoma GP

Bahrain, China ‘on-track’ to swap F1 race dates for 2018

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Next year’s Formula 1 races in China and Bahrain are “on-track” to swap dates in order to maximize their local exposure, according to the sport’s commercial chief, Sean Bratches.

The provisional F1 schedule for 2018 lists the Chinese Grand Prix as the second round of the season, taking place on April 8, with the Bahrain Grand Prix taking place one week later on April 15.

However, plans are afoot to swap the races around due to the Qingming national holiday that is set to take place in China on the April 8 weekend, potentially having a negative impact on crowd numbers at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“We’re trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure we’re maximizing the opportunity for fans to attend the grands prix,” Bratches told Reuters.

“We’re talking to both of them to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on-track to happen, you’ll probably see that,” he said.

No updates were made to the F1 schedule for 2018 at the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris this week, meaning no switch between Bahrain and China will be ratified until the start of December at the earliest.

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”

Public clashes over future of Detroit Grand Prix

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DETROIT (AP) State officials are deciding whether to continue hosting the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle, a state park and island that opponents say is negatively impacted by the annual event.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is considering whether to allow the race to continue after its current five-year contract expires after the 2018 race.

The department held a public meeting Wednesday at the Belle Isle Nature Center to gather feedback. Dozens of residents attended.

Opponents voiced concerns about the race’s environmental impact. Several conservation groups have requested a third-party environmental impact study on how the race affects island habitat.

But supporters say the race shines a spotlight on Detroit and stimulates the economy.

The Grand Prix has occurred on Belle Isle periodically since 1992 and annually since 2012.