Verizon IndyCar Notes & Quotes: Indianapolis 500 Qualifying

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A few other nuggets we needed to hit after yesterday’s Indianapolis 500 qualifying

  • Polesitter Ed Carpenter is the 11th driver to go back-to-back in terms of the Indianapolis 500 poles. The others? Ralph De Palma 1920-21, Rex Mays 1935-36, Eddie Sachs 1960-61, Parnelli Jones 1962-63, Mario Andretti 1966-67, A.J. Foyt 1974-75, Tom Sneva 1977-78, Rick Mears 1988-89, Scott Brayton 1995-96, and Helio Castroneves 2009-10. That’s some illustrious company.
  • From IMS and INDYCAR: The 2014 Indy 500 Starting Field is the fastest in history, at an average of 229.382 mph. The previous fastest field was 2002, which had an average of 228.648 mph. The difference in time between fastest qualifier, Ed Carpenter and slowest qualifier, Buddy Lazier is 2.1509 seconds. This is the closest field by time in the history of the Indianapolis 500. The previous closest was 2.5399 seconds in 2011. The difference in speed between fastest qualifier, Ed Carpenter and slowest qualifier, Buddy Lazier is 3.147 mph. This is the second closest field by speed in the history of the Indianapolis 500. The closest was 3.130 mph in 1953.
  • Third-placed Will Power was a bit frustrated to miss out on pole, but still pleased with a front row grid position: “We were close. Carpenter and (James) Hinchcliffe had to put down two great laps to beat us. I really want to win a Verizon P1 pole award here,” he said.
  • Power’s Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, who starts fourth, on the temperature changes and how sensitive that makes the cars: “I mean, the engineers are really working the numbers.  Our cars are so sensitive to the weather.  Ten degrees, five degrees makes a difference out there.  Today being ten degrees warmer, it definitely made a difference.”
  • Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing’s Josef Newgarden lost a full mph on his fourth and final lap in the shootout, which cost him a 230-mph average. He’ll start eighth. “We really hung it out and gave it everything we had, but it got a little tough in that last lap. I thought I was going to end up in the wall for a minute, but we were able to keep it on track and finish off the four-lap run. That’s how Indy qualifying should be. You should lay it all out there and give it everything you have, and that’s what we did,” he said.
  • The Chip Ganassi Racing squad made some strides on Sunday, notably by the No. 9 Target team of Scott Dixon, who rolls off 11th. “It was a big improvement from where we were yesterday and I’m happy with our result today. We still have another practice session tomorrow under the new format next week so we’re going to keep working hard to keep the Target cars going in the right direction. The car was really smooth to drive and I think we could have been faster if I hadn’t had to deal with a bit of a crosswind on my run. Overall a better day than yesterday,” said the defending series champion. Tony Kanaan jumped seven spots from 23rd Saturday to 16th Sunday; meanwhile the NTT Data and Novo Nordisk efforts fell off a bit with Ryan Briscoe dropping from 17th to 30th and Charlie Kimball from 19th to 26th.
  • Kurt Busch is the fastest rookie in the field in 12th; the fastest full-season rookie Jack Hawksworth one spot behind in 13th. Consider the BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian team is one of just two teams with a single car (Lazier Partners Racing; the DRR Kingdom Racing entry features Ganassi development driver Sage Karam) entered, and you see what a feat that is. “Thirteenth on the grid, considering where we were at the beginning of the week, is a great job from the whole Bryan Herta Autosport crew and we’ll take that. It’s a little disappointing to not be farther up but the race is what counts so we’ll get after it,” said Hawksworth.
  • Dale Coyne’s three cars start solidly mid-pack in 14th (Justin Wilson), 21st (Carlos Huertas) and 22nd (Pippa Mann). In terms of strength of engineering, the team has it, and could be sleepers on Sunday. “Saturday went well and Sunday went even better. I am very proud of the entire staff, engineering department and, of course, our highly professional and skilled trio of drivers.  We have been close to winning this race the past two years and we look forward more than ever to next weekend’s Indy 500,” Coyne said.

Grosjean: ‘Unbelievable’ to score Haas’ best F1 qualifying result in Australia

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Romain Grosjean hailed Haas’ Formula 1 qualifying performance in Australia as “unbelievable” after picking up its best Saturday result since joining the grid.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation into F1 last year, with Grosjean leading its charge through its debut campaign.

Haas enters its sophomore year in 2017 looking to build on its eighth-place finish in the constructors’ championship, and made a strong start in Australia on Saturday.

While new driver Kevin Magnussen dropped out in Q1 following an error on his hot lap, Grosjean was able to take Haas into Q3 before securing sixth place on the grid for Sunday’s season-opener.

The result marks Haas’ best qualifying result to date in F1, beating Grosjean’s run to P7 ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix last November.

“It was quite an unbelievable qualifying session for us. It’s a shame that we didn’t get Kevin there, but the car is looking good, even better than what we’ve seen recently,” Grosjean said after the session.

“We’ve made some good progress over the weekend. There’s a lot more we can understand and analyze but, generally, it’s a great start for us.

“It’s always good to start with a strong qualifying session. It tells you that if you keep improving the car, you could be in a good place very soon. If that’s our baseline, and you can fight between sixth and 10th position, where it’s so tight, it would be great to be there most of the time and enjoy some good times.

“Tomorrow’s start is a big unknown. We’ve been practicing and some have been good, others not so much. Hopefully, we’ll get the first one right tomorrow.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Daniel Ricciardo frustrated to crash out of home F1 qualifying

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Daniel Ricciardo made no secret of his frustration after crash out of Formula 1 qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, resigning himself to a 10th-place start for his home race on Sunday.

Ricciardo entered the Melbourne weekend aiming to become the first Australian to finish on the podium at his home race since the event became part of the F1 world championship in 1985.

Despite struggling with the setup on his RB13 car on Friday, Ricciardo looked poised to claim a top-five grid slot for Sunday’s race, only to lose control of his car at Turn 14 in Q3 and end the session in the wall.

“That was a tough one today. I don’t crash into the barriers often and the last place I want to do that is at home,” Ricciardo said after the session.

“But I feel I crashed for the right reason, as I was basically pushing and trying to find the limit and these things happen, so let’s say I’m not disappointed by the approach, it was just more of a frustrating outcome, starting 10th instead of being under the top five.”

Ever the optimist, Ricciardo said the difficult qualifying will only serve as greater motivation to fight back up the order and give his home fans a result to celebrate on Sunday.

“I knew the crowds would have also preferred to see me further up the grid and it would have been nice to put on a better performance than that but tomorrow is where the points are,” Ricciardo said.

“It’s a chance to create a bigger headline if I have a good race so that’s what will motivate me to do better tomorrow. I made it a bit more difficult for myself but it’s going to be alright.

“To get a good start in the race will be the key. I saved a set of ultra-softs in Q2, I know that not everyone in front of me has, so maybe that gives me a chance.”

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Valtteri Bottas disappointed with P3 start for Mercedes F1 debut

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Valtteri Bottas came away from qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix feeling disappointed despite securing third place on the grid for his first Formula 1 race as a Mercedes driver.

Bottas joined Mercedes over the winter following world champion Nico Rosberg’s decision to retire from racing, and made his first official race weekend appearance for the Silver Arrows on Friday.

The ex-Williams driver made a splash in qualifying by running teammate Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel close, but was left to settle for third on the grid after finishing three-tenths of a second off the pole time.

“Third position is not ideal. In general I’m not happy with the result,” Bottas admitted after qualifying.

“But what I’m really happy about and proud about [is] what the team has done again with this car. I only saw a very small part of the preparation with the new car and the new era of Formula 1, and it’s really nice to see that all the work has paid off and we’re fighting at the very front.

“It seems to be very close this year, especially here. Myself I didn’t get any perfect laps in, so not that satisfied.

“Tomorrow’s the day that matters. It seems like in the race starts we’ve been quite strong. If we can keep that form I had in practice, and have a nice and clean race and get some really good points.”

Bottas’ best finish in Australia currently stands at fifth place in 2014 with Williams, with the Finn never qualifying any higher than sixth at Albert Park in his four previous attempts.

The Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from midnight ET.

Vettel: Front-row grid slot for Australia proof of Ferrari’s progress

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Sebastian Vettel believes that his charge to second place on the grid for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix acts as proof of the progress Ferrari’s Formula 1 operation has made over the winter.

Vettel arrived in Australia as one of the favorites to take pole following an impressive showing in pre-season testing, prompting three-time champion Lewis Hamilton to name Ferrari as the leading team.

Hamilton rallied in qualifying to take pole position for Mercedes, beating Vettel by two-tenths of a second, but the Ferrari driver managed to fend off Valtteri Bottas in the second Silver Arrow and clinch a front-row berth.

The result marked Ferrari’s best qualifying result since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix – Vettel’s and Ferrari’s last pole and victory in F1 – and the German was encouraged by the result.

“I think we have a good car. I think we are working well as a team,” Vettel said.

“Things are improving. Obviously it’s nice to see that things are working, the car is working. I had a mixed day yesterday, but the confidence in the car was there from testing and I think we showed that again today.”

Vettel conceded that he felt his final lap in qualifying could have been faster, but doubts it would have been enough to catch pole-sitter Hamilton.

“In the end I was not entirely happy with my lap. I was pretty happy with the end, maybe not so much with the opening of the lap where we lost a bit too much,” Vettel said.

“But I think Lewis did a very good lap. I would have loved to, but I don’t think pole was up for grabs. Tomorrow I think we can do something in the race. The car feels good, we’ve improved it so the pace should be much better than it was yesterday when we had practice.

“It’s been a big winter for us, lots of change we’ve gone through as a team in the last 12 months, and for the better. I think the team is getting stronger.

“Obviously everyone is pushing very hard and it’s not so easy to come here with a long journey to get to Australia, but I think people are fired up and we are motivated for tomorrow.

“I think it’s the first good opportunity.”