Webber: Ricciardo hasn’t put a wheel wrong all year

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For Mark Webber, the shift to the FIA World Endurance Championship has been refreshing, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t kept tabs – partially, anyway – on his old stomping grounds of Formula One.

We thought it appropriate to check in with the Australian here at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he makes his return to the field for the first time since 1999, with Mercedes.

Incidentally, it’s Mercedes’ downfall in the Canadian Grand Prix – which led to Webber’s Red Bull Racing replacement and countryman Daniel Ricciardo scoring his first career Grand Prix victory, and a popular one at that – that piqued Webber’s interest after originally tuning out.

“To be honest, I’ve enjoyed the change in chapter in my career, but I’ve still watched a few races,” Webber told MotorSportsTalk Tuesday. “I watched the start (from Canada) and it wasn’t looking that exciting. A bit touch and go. But then I saw the Mercs have problems.”

Webber can find no fault with how well Ricciardo has done in driving for Red Bull and alongside four-time World Champion Sebastian Vettel.

“For Daniel to get his first win was incredible for him,” Webber said. “He hasn’t put a wheel wrong all year so far. There’s been testing regulations, wet qualifyings, and all sorts of stuff that’s been thrown at him. But for him to notch up his first win is a big step for him.”

Webber co-drives with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley in the No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid in the FIA WEC. The trio finished on the podium at the season opener in Silverstone.

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.