IndyCar: Pagenaud ends Friday fastest in Houston

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As speculation surrounding his future begins to heat up this weekend in Houston, Simon Pagenaud isn’t letting it affect his day job.

The driver of the No. 77 Oculus Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda ended fastest on the day after the second Verizon IndyCar Series 45-minute practice session, at 1:00.1415 around the 1.7-mile M.D Anderson Cancer Center Speedway at NRG Park.

“I feel really good. This car is a pleasure to drive,” Pagenaud said post-practice. “The track has been improved quite a bit in Turn 1, which is quite pleasant. It looks pretty strong right now. We just need to keep up with the track because the car was pretty much perfect today. If we’re good tomorrow on the red Firestone tires, we should be in good shape.”

Second and third were Ryan Briscoe and Luca Filippi in the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, respectively. This marks Filippi’s first day in an IndyCar since he raced at Houston in October last year.

Helio Castroneves and Mikhail Aleshin rounded out the top five. Scott Dixon and Will Power, who won the two races in Houston last year, were eighth and ninth in this session. Power led the morning 45-minute practice.

This 45-minute practice session ended a few minutes early when Jack Hawksworth hit the curbing at the Turns 1 and 2 complex, with the latter curb launching the driver of the No. 98 Integrity Energee Drink BHA/BBM with Curb-Agajanian Honda airborne and then into the outside retaining wall. Hawksworth was OK but the Bryan Herta Autosport team will have a bit of work to do this evening.

Additionally, the curbing at Turn 2 is set to be ground down later today, to reduce the likelihood of liftoffs.

Aleshin (Turn 4) and Tony Kanaan (Turn 2) also had spins in the session but resumed without damage. Teams then completed standing start practice after the second practice session ended.

Here’s practice two times:

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Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”