Williams prepares to relearn in Austria this weekend

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Although he wasn’t part of the last Austrian Grand Prix in 2003, Felipe Massa does still have one prior start at the circuit – as a then 20-year-old rookie in the 2002 race, driving for Sauber.

As he and the rest of the Williams-Mercedes team head back this weekend, Massa expects a completely different challenge than what he faced as a first-year driver.

“There are very few guys who have driven the circuit which is a little advantage but the track and limit may have changed and the cars have changed so it won’t be the same as 11 years ago,” he said in the team’s advance release.

Still, he admits that the Red Bull Ring should be a fairly simple track to learn, with its point-and-shoot nature of mostly straights and right-hand corners.

“It’s not a difficult track to learn,” he said, plainly.

Teammate Valtteri Bottas doesn’t appear fazed by the prospect of racing at a new circuit.

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the simulator to prepare of Austria as I haven’t driven the circuit before,” he said. “I have also spoken with Felipe as he is one of the four drivers who have raced this track in Formula One. Learning a new track has never been a problem for me and I have the practice sessions to get to grips with things. I have heard only good things about the track and the fans, so I am really looking forward to getting there.”

Track temperature and high-brake wear pose the biggest setup challenge this week, according to Williams’ Rob Smedley.

“The layout of the track can pose issues on the tyres, especially as the temperatures can vary to quite hot or very cold, this can also change quickly,” he said. “A hot track would affect the rear tires as there is a large traction requirement, however in the colder conditions we may suffer with front right graining at Turns Five and Six.

“There may also be brake overheating problems as it is a high duty track, which is something we will need to look out for. The track is short and there are 71 laps which will affect the race strategy so we will have to be more dynamic in this area.”

Williams won the first Austrian Grand Prix at the former A1 Ring in 1997 with Jacques Villeneuve driving, and Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished third that year. The team added another podium with Juan Pablo Montoya finishing third in 2002, albeit heavily overlooked given that year’s Ferrari team orders controversy where Rubens Barrichello pulled aside for Michael Schumacher on the last lap.

Williams also won in Austria in 1979 (Alan Jones) and 1987 (Nigel Mansell) at the A1 Ring’s predecessor, the Osterreichring.

NHRA Houston winners: Brittany Force (TF), J.R. Todd (FC), Matt Hartford (PS)

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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John Force may have failed to qualify for a race for the first time in 221 races (dating back to September 2008), but daughter Brittany came through for dear old dad.

Brittany Force captured the Top Fuel division in Sunday’s final round of the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston.

Also winning: J.R. Todd earned his second consecutive Funny Car victory, while Matt Hartford captured his first career Pro Stock victory.

John Force failed to reach Sunday’s four rounds of eliminations after falling short during Friday’s and Saturday’s four qualifying sessions.

That left John Force Racing to be represented Sunday by Brittany Force, sister Courtney Force and the president of the organization and also John Force’s son-in-law, Robert Hight.

It was the first win of 2018 for Brittany Force in the fifth of 24 races on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Brittany Force, the defending Top Fuel world champion, defeated Terry McMillen in the final round with a winning pass of 3.762 seconds at 299.46 mph.

Brittany finally earned her first win at Royal Purple Raceway, becoming the last of all Force family members to have won at the Baytown, Texas track. She’s also the seventh member of JFR to have won there.

It was also the eighth win of her Top Fuel career.

“The tires were spinning and I’m trying to drive the thing down there and try to get it to the finish line,” Brittany Force said of her winning run vs. McMillen. “I didn’t know where (McMillen) was next to me, but it was just about getting down there first.

“I saw our win lights come on in the final round and that was the most important one.”

In Funny Car, Todd earned back-to-back wins for the first time in his career and the 13th overall win of his career. He defeated Hight in the final round with a run of 3.955 seconds at 313.29 mph to bring home the win to Kalitta Motorsports.

“It’s nice to have this much momentum early in the season,” Todd stated. “We struggled really bad last season and didn’t really turn around till probably the Western Swing. It’s nice as Kalitta Motorsports to come out swinging at these races this year.”

In Pro Stock, Hartford defeated local Houston-area favorite Erica Enders with a pass of 6.552 seconds at 211.36 mph, to become the 66th different driver to win in Pro Stock in NHRA history.

“We started in the back half of the field today and had to work our way through,” Hartford stated. “We earned this.

“We did a better job with our car today than the other teams. My driving is not why we won today and that is a fact. My crew tuned the car enough for us to be able to drive around her [Enders] at the end.”

The next NHRA national event is next weekend, April 27-29, with the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

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FINAL FINISHING ORDER:

TOP FUEL: 1. Brittany Force; 2. Terry McMillen; 3. Tony Schumacher; 4. Leah Pritchett; 5. Billy Torrence; 6. Steve Torrence; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Clay Millican; 9. Scott Palmer; 10. Bill Litton; 11. Terry Brian; 12. Antron Brown; 13. Kebin Kinsley; 14. Mike Salinas; 15. Terry Haddock; 16. Richie Crampton.

FUNNY CAR: 1. J.R. Todd; 2. Robert Hight; 3. Jack Beckman; 4. Tim Wilkerson; 5. Jonnie Lindberg; 6. Matt Hagan; 7. Del Worsham; 8. Jeff Diehl; 9. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 10. Ron Capps; 11. Richard Townsend; 12. Bob Tasca III; 13. Courtney Force; 14. Cruz Pedregon; 15. Shawn Langdon; 16. Todd Simpson.

PRO STOCK: 1. Matt Hartford; 2. Erica Enders; 3. Greg Anderson; 4. Jeg Coughlin; 5. Bo Butner; 6. Tanner Gray; 7. Alex Laughlin; 8. Rodger Brogdon; 9. Vincent Nobile; 10. Drew Skillman; 11. Chris McGaha; 12. Alan Prusiensky; 13. John Gaydosh Jr.; 14. Steve Graham; 15. Deric Kramer; 16. Jason Line.

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SUNDAY’S FINAL RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: Brittany Force, 3.762 seconds, 299.46 mph def. Terry McMillen, 3.818 seconds, 311.56 mph.

FUNNY CAR: J.R. Todd, Toyota Camry, 3.955, 313.29 def. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.993, 308.14.

PRO STOCK: Matt Hartford, Chevy Camaro, 6.522, 211.36 def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.570, 210.50.

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FINAL ROUND-BY-ROUND RESULTS:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Billy Torrence, 3.753, 318.32 def. Kebin Kinsley, 6.589, 96.12; Steve Torrence, 3.741, 309.06 def. Scott Palmer, 3.771, 314.09; Terry McMillen, 3.777, 317.79 def. Antron Brown, 4.771, 163.79; Leah Pritchett, 3.697, 327.43 def. Terry Brian, 4.233, 258.37; Brittany Force, 3.755, 316.67 def. Terry Haddock, 8.779, 73.92; Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 325.85 def. Bill Litton, 4.228, 216.31; Clay Millican, 4.662, 206.04 def. Mike Salinas, 8.614, 70.10; Doug Kalitta, 3.738, 329.02 def. Richie Crampton, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — McMillen, 3.766, 301.81 def. B. Torrence, 3.775, 311.49; Force, 3.739, 302.08 def. Kalitta, 3.819, 309.27; Schumacher, 3.737, 317.64 def. Millican, 6.473, 89.64; Pritchett, 3.740, 320.36 def. S. Torrence, 3.778, 312.64; SEMIFINALS — McMillen, 5.124, 213.64 def. Pritchett, 10.490, 73.72; Force, 3.766, 299.80 def. Schumacher, 5.074, 148.97; FINAL — Force, 3.762, 299.46 def. McMillen, 3.818, 311.56.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.951, 311.49 def. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.152, 245.81; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.878, 322.42 def. Todd Simpson, Charger, Broke; Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.133, 293.35 def. Courtney Force, Camaro, 5.944, 131.25; Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.125, 317.12 def. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.186, 298.93; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.009, 310.20 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 6.032, 116.63; Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.351, 283.85 def. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 7.418, 93.67; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.955, 321.73 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.989, 309.49; Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.958, 313.22 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.449, 248.71; QUARTERFINALS — Beckman, 5.286, 233.72 def. Worsham, 5.563, 215.62; Hight, 3.950, 310.84 def. Lindberg, 4.002, 305.56; Wilkerson, 3.972, 308.71 def. Hagan, 4.190, 240.08; Todd, 3.985, 309.70 def. Diehl, 9.175, 48.27; SEMIFINALS — Todd, 4.017, 309.06 def. Wilkerson, 6.604, 145.45; Hight, 3.959, 312.50 def. Beckman, 4.113, 293.35; FINAL — Todd, 3.955, 313.29 def. Hight, 3.993, 308.14.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Alex Laughlin, Chevy Camaro, 7.496, 118.16 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 13.143, 64.83; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.569, 210.77 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.543, 210.60; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.537, 211.13 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.545, 211.39; Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.560, 209.46 def. Jason Line, Camaro, 40.752, 26.02; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.537, 211.13 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.534, 210.93; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.539, 210.54 def. John Gaydosh Jr., Chevrolet Camaro, 6.708, 208.91; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.531, 210.31 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 12.327, 71.16; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.533, 210.70 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — Enders, 6.529, 211.03 def. Brogdon, 19.247, 40.33; Hartford, 6.530, 211.26 def. Gray, Foul – Red Light; Coughlin, 6.512, 211.03 def. Butner, 6.550, 210.90; Anderson, 6.514, 211.46 def. Laughlin, 14.034, 59.80; SEMIFINALS — Enders, 6.561, 209.95 def. Anderson, 6.572, 212.23; Hartford, 6.564, 210.83 def. Coughlin, 10.727, 98.44; FINAL — Hartford, 6.522, 211.36 def. Enders, 6.570, 210.50.

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UPDATED POINT STANDINGS:

TOP FUEL: 1. (tie) Tony Schumacher, 385; Steve Torrence, 385; 3. Antron Brown, 324; 4. Clay Millican, 309; 5. Doug Kalitta, 304; 6. Leah Pritchett, 284; 7. Brittany Force, 270; 8. Richie Crampton, 247; 9. Terry McMillen, 240; 10. Scott Palmer, 214.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Jack Beckman, 415; 2. Matt Hagan, 363; 3. J.R. Todd, 347; 4. Courtney Force, 342; 5. Robert Hight, 326; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 298; 7. Ron Capps, 289; 8. Shawn Langdon, 237; 9. Jonnie Lindberg, 221; 10. Del Worsham, 219.

Pro Stock: 1. Bo Butner, 374; 2. Greg Anderson, 337; 3. Chris McGaha, 330; 4. Deric Kramer, 322; 5. Vincent Nobile, 319; 6. Jason Line, 303; 7. Erica Enders, 292; 8. Tanner Gray, 287; 9. Drew Skillman, 277; 10. Alex Laughlin, 264.

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