F1 Grand Prix of China - Previews

Vettel focusing on damage limitation in China

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Defending Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel has set his sights on a top five finish at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix as he looks to try and cut the gap to the all-dominant Mercedes team at the front of the field.

The Silver Arrows have claimed all three race wins so far this season, and given the margins of the victories, it is difficult to see either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg not winning this weekend’s race at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Despite claiming Red Bull’s first ever win in China back in 2009, Vettel is not thinking about a repeat this time around.

“It is a big gap at the moment,” he said. “In Bahrain it looked quite bad for everyone bar Mercedes, but here in China it could be only a little bit different.

“Historically this track was one of the tracks that has favored them, and we can expect them to be strong because of the nature of the track. Also they will be strong because they are in very good shape, which means that they are the favorites going into this race.”

Although Vettel is not totally downbeat about Red Bull’s form, he does believe that the team can only cut a tiny part out of Mercedes’ advantage this weekend, and is therefore hoping to get back into the top five after finishing sixth last time out in Bahrain.

“We expect to have made a step forward, but how big that step is we will see soon,” he explained. “It would be a massive surprise though if we could close the gap.

“We have to be realistic, and take a look at the previous races where we have lost almost one second per lap. To close this gap in one go is hopefully not totally impossible, but also being realistic this is very difficult.

“Being in the top five is what would be good for us.”

The German driver faces the biggest challenge of his Formula 1 career in 2014. After enjoying five years at the top team, the seismic changes made to the regulations have put Red Bull at a disadvantage at the beginning of the year. Red Bull has performed admirably to recover from a disastrous pre-season, but for Vettel it is about picking up what points he can until the team can catch up in the development race.

Rosberg delighted with near-perfect lap en route to Russia pole

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 10:  Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg believes that he produced a near-perfect lap en route to pole position for the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:37.113 to beat Mercedes teammate and championship leader Lewis Hamilton to pole position by three-tenths of a second.

The result marked Rosberg’s third pole position of the season, and is the first time he has scored back-to back poles since the end of 2014.

Conditions in practice on Friday plus a scary crash for Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr. on Saturday meant that the field headed into qualifying almost blind in terms of setup and car balance, but Rosberg was pleased with what he achieved.

“It was a tricky session today as we were not able to practise a lot yesterday,” Rosberg explained. “We had to guess what the right set up for this track will be.

“But we nailed it and had a nearly perfect lap in my first run in Q3. So I’m quite pleased with that.

“I’m in the best possible position for tomorrow, which is great. I really hope for a clean race, it will be a great battle with Lewis.”

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff praised Rosberg for his consistently quick display in practice and qualifying, but believes that the lack of practice running will also have an impact on Sunday’s race.

“A great job from Nico to take a second pole position in a row; he has been quick all weekend and kept that going through qualifying to take P1,” Wolff said.

“For the race, it will be a bit of a journey into the unknown because we have not had much running this weekend. This track is tough on the rear tires and everybody will be watching the tire degradation carefully.

“We’re starting from the best possible position but we need to take everything one step at a time.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.

WEC: Porsche sweeps to front row lock-out in Fuji

Car #17 / PORSCHE TEAM (DEU) / Porsche 919 Hybrid Hybrid  / Timo Bernhard (DEU) / Mark Webber (AUS) / Brendon Hartley (NZL) Qualifying LMP1 & LMP2 - 6 Hours of Fuji at Fuji International Speedway - Shizuoka - Japan
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Porsche extended its streak of pole positions in the FIA World Endurance Championship to nine races by locking out the front row of the grid for the 6 Hours of Fuji on Saturday.

Sharing qualifying duties in the no. 17 Porsche 919 Hybrid, Mark Webber and Timo Bernhard posted a two-lap average of 1:22.763 seconds to give the German marque pole position at Fuji Speedway.

Yet again, it was the sister no. 18 Porsche of Marc Lieb, Neel Jani and Romain Dumas that put up the most stringent challenge, but fell three-tenths of a second short at the end of the LMP qualifying session.

Audi put up more of a fight to the Porsches this time around as both of its R18 e-tron quattros finished within half a second of the no. 17’s time. The no. 7 of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer will start third ahead of Lucas di Grassi, Loic Duval and Oliver Jarvis in the no 8.

Toyota endured another fairly routine qualifying en route to P5 and P6 as the TS 040 Hybrid car struggles to keep up with its rivals, beating only the Rebellion and ByKolles runners in LMP1.

In LMP2, G-Drive continued its dominant streak by finishing first and second in class. Sam Bird, Roman Rusinov and Julien Canal will start from pole tomorrow ahead of Gustavo Yacaman, Luis Felipe Derani and Ricardo Gonzalez in the sister car.

AF Corse bounced back from a difficult race in Austin to finish first and second in GTE Pro qualifying, led by the no. 71 of James Calado and Davide Rigon. Toni Vilander and Gianmaria Bruni will start just behind in P2 ahead of the no. 99 Aston Martin Racing entry.

Ferrari’s strong form carried over into GTE Am as well as the SMP Racing F458 Italia took class pole, finishing three-tenths clear of the no. 98 AMR Vantage.