Roller coaster days for Dixon, Wilson, RHR Sunday at Long Beach

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As part of a Teen Cancer America press conference Sunday morning in Long Beach, Honda Verizon IndyCar Series drivers Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay were joined by ex-Honda man and defending series champion Scott Dixon as they were all set to support the Roger Daltrey’s organization.

Good times, a good cause, and happy quotes:

Wilson: “I think we have some pretty excited team owners. I know that for sure. Dale is quite excited to have Teen Cancer America on the car for this event. It means a lot to everyone. I think it’s a fantastic cause. We were all talking about it earlier and it’s definitely something we can work on and it’s an understanding. The more we understand, the more we can do.”

Dixon: “It’s an honor to meet someone like Roger (Daltrey) but I think it’s more of an honor to see a person like him become interested and lend his support for such a great cause. For me, I’ve been working with CANTeen in New Zealand for so many years and there’s a gap in the healthcare system. There are so many changes going on for teens with their hormones and trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives. Cancer is something that is pretty tough for anyone fighting it is something that we believe in. Cancer as a whole is horrible and there are so many causes that are fighting it.”

Hunter-Reay: “It’s great to have everyone here and pushing in the same direction in the fight against cancer.  It’s great to have Roger at a Verizon IndyCar Series event and to get Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on the front stage. He doesn’t have to be here. He’s here on his own accord pushing the fight against cancer and the promotion to help these people who face such an ugly fight. We’re all here doing the same thing.”’

And then the race happened. Dixon contacted Wilson going into Turn 8, and RHR’s passing attempt on Newgarden at Turn 4 made emotions run high. Here’s the polite version of the official post-race quotes, as distributed by INDYCAR:

Dixon: “It was a tough situation for the Target team to be in there leading at the end and not make it. We ended up being about a half of a lap short on fuel and didn’t get a break with a yellow flag. We could have stayed out and tried it but then we would have risked running out of fuel and wrecking the field. I feel bad for the accident with Justin Wilson. I didn’t expect him to be there on the outside so I will go talk to him. Not the day we wanted but we’ll regroup and be ready for Barber.”’

Wilson: “The team did a fantastic job all day, had great pit stops, we had the fuel to make it to the end, we were making great fuel mileage under the yellows and great fuel mileage on track, and had a fantastic restart. I had a couple of looks, tried to go down the inside in turn one and got blocked, which is fine, he moved first, I went to the outside and got squeezed on the outside. I was like ‘hang on a minute.’ Then coming out of five the same thing happened. He [Dixon] chose the inside so I took the outside and nearly got put in the wall then so I did the old switchback out of six climbing the hill to seven and then to eight Scott had the inside but he wanted the outside as well and I got sandwiched between him and the wall, bent both sides of the car and the end of our day. I just feel for the Boy Scouts of America guys. We worked so hard, had fantastic strategy. We gambled and could make the mileage and we should have been at least on the podium. I think we are there and we have got what it takes. We have some great people and the car runs flawlessly and we are out there trying to win races. It is just frustrating when something like this is taken away from you.”

Hunter-Reay: “We had a strong car and (Josef) Newgarden came out of pit lane and I knew he was on cold tires. He was really struggling to get up to speed through Turn 1, and then through Turn 3 he had some wheel spin so I went for it. I started to back out because he was closing the door – I could have waited a little later, maybe that’s my fault but at the same time I had at least a half a car up along sides of him so I went for it. If we had given each other a little bit of room we both maybe would have gotten through there. It’s down to me to make the pass I guess, I’m not sure… a lot of people say that was my fault. I made the decision at that split second, when he had some wheel spin, to go for it knowing that I was on hot tires. That’s the type of driver I am, I go for it. I feel bad for everybody involved. Obviously it was a bit of a bottle neck there, and it got others involved that didn’t deserve to be involved and that’s what I feel really bad about. But thank you to DHL and Honda; the 28 car was so strong today… just very, very disappointed. I’ll look at it again, but a racing driver, when he’s in the moment, and he sees a chance to go for it… I went for it because I want to win the race.”

Wilson was more candid to Autosport’s Mark Glendenning, dropping expletives to describe the move. Considering Wilson is one of the nicest drivers in the paddock, for him to go off the deep end as he did in this piece speaks volumes about the level of frustration he was feeling.

New Audi R18 e-tron quattro unveiled; two cars only for Le Mans

Photo: Audi
Photo: Audi
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Audi Sport has revealed its new Audi R18 e-tron quattro, the latest generation of diesel-powered TDI which now will run with a 6 mJ battery hybrid.

The new LMP1 car was unveiled at the annual Audi Sport Finale in Munich, among several other key announcements of note.

Audi will retain its same driver lineup, the lead trio of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler in one car with Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis back as well. After the successive retirements of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Dindo Capello the last three years, Audi now has the same lineup for consecutive years, for the first time in years.

However, and while the third car trio of Filipe Albuquerque, Marco Bonanomi and Rene Rast was on stage with the six others, Audi confirmed both it and sister brand Porsche will run two cars only at next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, rather than three as each did this year.

It was a jointly agreed upon decision; both operate under the VW Group parent company. It effectively rules out the same trio of Nick Tandy, Earl Bamber and Nico Hulkenberg repeating as a trio, although Porsche will announce the program for its own drivers next month.

“We stay with the TDI, 50 percent more hybrid power,” said Chris Reinke, Head of Audi LMP1. “Battery storage and high focus on aero as you can see. We are on our way to challenge for WEC and Le Mans wins.”

Here’s a few photos from the reveal, below:

Ferrari error leaves Vettel 16th on grid for Abu Dhabi GP

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany steers his car during the second practice second at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. The Emirates Formula One Grand Prix will take place on Sunday. (AP Photo/Kamran Jerbeili)
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Sebastian Vettel will start tomorrow’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from 16th place on the grid after a miscalculation on the Ferrari pit wall caused the German to back off during his final Q1 lap.

Vettel aborted his last lap in Q1 after being informed by Ferrari that his time looked good enough to take him into Q2, allowing him to save some life in his super-soft tires.

However, late improvements from Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean caught Ferrari by surprise, leaving Vettel in the dropzone after the checkered flag had fallen.

Having already slowed on his final lap, Vettel was unable to improve his time, making him a shock casualty in Q1 alongside usual suspects Fernando Alonso, Marcus Ericsson, Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi.

“Nothing wrong with the car, we thought that the lap I had on the soft tires was quick enough, but in the end it was not,” Vettel admitted after qualifying.

“There was also a car in front which shouldn’t have been there. So we misjudged the situation, a small mistake with big consequence, but the race is tomorrow and lots can happen.”

Ferrari’s blushes were saved by Kimi Raikkonen, who managed to qualify third behind the two Mercedes drivers, and Vettel is hopeful that he can join his teammate up the order on Sunday.

“It is good that Kimi is in the front, we have a quick car and it is possible to overtake here, even if only tomorrow we’ll be able to tell how much it is,” Vettel said.

“You can spend a lot of time speaking about what we did wrong, but in the end we know, so now we need to move forward.”

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7am ET on Sunday.

Alonso cools talk of taking sabbatical from F1

xxxx during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
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Fernando Alonso has cooled speculation suggesting he could take a sabbatical from Formula 1, remaining adamant that he will be on the grid with McLaren in 2016.

Alonso rejoined McLaren for 2015 after a hostile exit from Ferrari, but has struggled to find any kind of form thanks to numerous issues with the Honda power unit used by the team.

After just two top-ten finishes and just 11 points in 2015, speculation has been rife about an early split between Alonso and McLaren as the Spaniard’s frustrations grow.

Time and time again, Alonso has insisted that he will see out his three-year deal with McLaren, but team CEO Ron Dennis hinted on Saturday that a sabbatical could be taken.

“He will definitely finish his career at McLaren,” Dennis said. “I have an open mind to anything, and some of the ideas involved those sorts of considerations: sabbaticals etc.

“When we have to take the decision, we will take it together, and at this moment of time, our drivers for next season are Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button.”

When asked if he intended to compete in F1 next year, Alonso said: “I will, I will.”

The Spaniard went on to say that he did not feel under pressure following Dennis’ comments, and that the team boss should be instead focusing on Honda.

“If he wants to put pressure on someone, I’m sure it’s not me,” Alonso said.

“If it’s someone, it has to be on Honda so they do a good job all winter.”

Alonso’s miserable campaign continued in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday as he finished 17th thanks to a puncture in Q1.

“Our car has performed better in every session than we initially anticipated,” Alonso said. “So it was cruel luck to get a puncture at possibly the most critical point of the whole weekend, the final run of Q1.

“That was unfortunate, because we’d been looking very competitive, and our car seems to be performing quite well around here.

“The race will be difficult owing to our straight-line speed deficit, but I’ll be aiming to make a good start, run a good strategy, and make up some positions. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7am ET on Sunday.

Perez charges to best F1 qualifying result in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 28:  Sergio Perez of Mexico and Force India drives during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 28, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg may have taken his sixth pole position of the year in Abu Dhabi, but it was Force India’s Sergio Perez who received most of the plaudits after recording his best Formula 1 qualifying result on Saturday.

Perez displayed a good pace throughout the first two stages of qualifying, finishing third behind the two Mercedes drivers in both Q1 and Q2.

At one point in Q3, the Mexican even briefly threatened to challenge the Silver Arrows for a place on the front row after lapping within one-tenth of a second of Lewis Hamilton on his first run.

Perez could not match their pace on the final laps in Q3, while Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen was also able to edge him out by 0.133 seconds to leave the Force India driver fourth.

The result still marks Perez’s best-ever qualifying result, having previously only finished as high as fifth on a Saturday.

Although the Mexican started from P4 in Belgium 2012, Bahrain 2014 and Belgium 2015, he had qualified fifth for all three sessions before gaining a position by virtue of other drivers receiving penalties.

“Fourth place on the grid is a great result for us and I’m very pleased with our strong performance all the way through qualifying,” Perez said.

“We’ve made some good decisions this weekend with the changes we have made to the car and it’s taken us in a very positive direction. I think the analysis we carried out after the weekend in Sao Paulo has really paid off and we’ve learned a huge amount.

“All of my laps this evening were very clean and tidy, and we managed to get the maximum from the car. The challenge tomorrow will be keeping some very quick cars behind me, but I also think we have a good chance to make up some positions at the start.

“I have the confidence in the car to really push and there is definitely the potential to come away with a great result this weekend.

“In many ways it’s a shame that tomorrow is the final race of the season because the car is working very well at the moment and I’m enjoying the racing so much.”

Underpinning Perez’s good pace was teammate Nico Hulkenberg, who qualified seventh in the sister Force India car.

“It was a good qualifying session for the team, although I feel I could have been higher up the grid,” Hulkenberg admitted. “I was pretty happy with my laps, especially the one in Q3, so to find myself in seventh actually feels a little bit disappointing.

“We need to look at the data and figure out where we lost time and what we can do to recover it. Looking ahead to the race, we’ve been working hard to improve our race pace and hopefully the changes we have made will pay off tomorrow.

“The car is quick on the straights and the balance has felt good from the start of the weekend. Starting from the fourth row, we have every opportunity to score a good result tomorrow.”

Force India secured fifth place in the constructors’ championship last time out in Brazil, but will still be gunning to end the year on a high with a strong performance on Sunday in Abu Dhabi.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7am ET on Sunday.