McLaren hopeful for “fresh push and spirit” starting at Barcelona

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After signaling their intent to roll out a series of upgrades all the way into the heart of summer, McLaren surely hopes that what they’ve concocted for this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix will lead to better results for drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen.

Racing director Eric Boullier has had to keep the Woking team from getting discouraged after a subpar Chinese Grand Prix, but the Frenchman says that everyone’s ready to improve their fortunes.

“For us, the weekend will be about learning, and hopefully moving on from our disappointing performance in China last month,” he said. “The root of our under-performance has been comprehensively analyzed; we know the areas where our package falls short, and we’ve taken steps – both short- and long-term – to address those.

“While not all of those will be in evidence in Barcelona this weekend, they mark the start of a fresh push and spirit within the whole organization.”

Button and Magnussen both finished out of the points in Shanghai, marking the culmination of a dramatic fall in performance since they both landed on the podium during the season-opening Grand Prix in Australia.

In his comments, Button said that Barcelona always marks something of a fresh start to the season but this year, it’s an especially important one for him and McLaren.

“For us, it’s not simply about bringing new parts to the circuit: it’s about understanding and unlocking the car’s secrets, and using that understanding to take bigger steps with performance,” the former World Champion said.

“We’re still at the early stages with our car, and, for us, it’s less about the components that we fit to it, and more about the bigger picture – finding a useful direction, gaining trust in our measurements and pushing ahead.”

As for Magnussen, he has fond memories of Barcelona after sweeping the weekend there last year in Formula Renault 3.5 before he made the jump to F1.

He’s anxious to show that McLaren’s learned from their issues.

“I think the problems we encountered in China have definitely given us the data and the impetus we need to make some changes, so I’m keen to get back in the car on Friday and see if we’ve made a step forward,” he said.

Josef Newgarden wins pole for Grand Prix of Alabama

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With time running off the clock, Josef Newgarden lapped Barber Motorsports Park with a speed of 122.773 mph to win his third career pole and first on this track in the Grand Prix of Alabama.

Newgarden was .0128 seconds faster than teammate Scott Dixon in second.

Newgarden has two previous wins at Barber. He won last year’s edition of this race after starting seventh and in 2015 from fifth.

“I didn’t know if that was going to be enough,” Newgarden said after winning the pole.

“Team Chevy has done a good job,” Newgarden said. “They’ve really given us good power this weekend – good driveability. We’re going to need some fuel mileage tomorrow, which I think we’ll have. But it’s going to get mixed up with the rain.”

Dixon’s lap of 122.750 mph was not quite enough.

“I’m sure you could pick out a number of different things on a lap when it’s that close,” Power said about what made the slight difference between him and Newgarden. “A little mistake out of 9; a little lift here or there.”

Sebastien Bourdais (122.605 mph) qualified third, with Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.159) and James Hinchliffe (121.859) rounding out the top five.

Scott Dixon was the last driver in the top six.

Fast 12

Newgarden topped this chart with a speed of 123.475 mph.

He brought Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Sebastien Bourdais along with him to the Fast 6.

Marco Andretti (122.480), Alexander Rossi (122.216), Simon Pagenaud (122.050), Robert Wickens (122.042), Zach Veach (121.784) and Ed Jones (120.984) failed to advance.

Round 1, Group 1

Newgarden posted the fastest single lap in round one, group one of qualification for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.550 mph.

Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Wickens, and Andretti also advance to the fast 12.

Taking the final slot was Jones with a speed of 119.835 mph after an off-course excursion in final practice.

This was Andretti’s first advancement to the fast 12 for the first time since 2014.

Round 1, Group 2

Power had the fastest lap of 121.570 mph.

Bourdais, Veach (who is battling food poisoning-like symptoms), Rossi, and Pagenaud grabbed positions 2-4.

Scott Dixon had an uncharacteristically slow lap of 121.006, but managed to advance to the fast 12 when the session was red-flagged for an incident involving Tony Kanaan.

With three minutes remaining, Kanaan spun into the tire barriers while leaving pit road. Since he brought out the red flag, he lost his qualification time of 119.996 mph.

Takuma Sato had slipped off-course midway through the session and posted only the Ninth-fastest speed of 120.789 mph.