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Rosberg storms to Silverstone pole ahead of Vettel and Button

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Nico Rosberg has secured pole position for the British Grand Prix after taming the tricky conditions at Silverstone on Saturday afternoon, finishing ahead of compatriot Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Jenson Button.

In the dying moments of Q3, a number of drivers managed to improve their times, but home favorite Lewis Hamilton was not one of them. As a result, he will start the race from sixth place on the grid after aborting his lap due to the falling rain.

Following many showers overnight, qualifying began in damp conditions with more rain falling lightly, warranting intermediate tires for Q1. Hamilton was the early pace-setter in the session, and he even suggested to the team that slicks could work if the track dried slightly. However, with Sauber reporting that more rain was due, most got out early to post a lap time and avoid being caught out by the weather.

The expected rain did not arrive initially, and the teams were able to head out for their second runs on dry tires. Nico Rosberg eventually finished quickest for Mercedes, but the big shock was seeing both Ferrari drivers drop out in Q1 after more rain began to fall. Fernando Alonso spun on his final lap, whilst Kimi Raikkonen was simply on the wrong tires. The result marks the team’s worst qualifying result since the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Equally as surprising was Williams’ double elimination in Q1 as Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa also struggled in the rain. After the momentum gained in Austria, the British team came back down to earth with a bump on home soil.

For Q2, intermediates were put back on as the rain continued to fall, but once again the track began to dry after the first set of runs. Lewis Hamilton sat in P1 on the intermediate tire, only to dive into the pits for drys with five minutes remaining in the session.

Nico Rosberg had made the switch slightly earlier, and went up to first place with his lap until Jules Bianchi momentarily shot up into top spot for Marussia. Although neither of the minnow’s drivers made it through come the checkered flag, Bianchi and Max Chilton did qualify an incredible P12 and P13 on the grid. Chilton will drop back five places due to a grid penalty, but it still marks the team’s best ever qualifying result in Formula 1.

The rain caught out Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez when he spun into the wall with one minute remaining, following the example set by teammate Adrian Sutil in Q1. Pastor Maldonado had to stop his car due to a problem and was also eliminated alongside teammate Romain Grosjean.

With no more rain falling, the drivers were able to head out on dry tires for Q3 in pursuit of pole position. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg once again gapped the field by over a second on their first runs, but provisional pole lay with the Briton by two-tenths of a second. Sergio Perez’s first lap was good enough for third ahead of Ricciardo, whilst Vettel opted to wait for the final run to post a time.

The final set of runs saw more great improvements. Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastian Vettel briefly popped up into P1, but it was Nico Rosberg who topped them all to secure pole position. Lewis Hamilton failed to improve his final lap time though, and will start the race down in sixth place.

McLaren enjoyed a great qualifying on home soil with Jenson Button in third and Kevin Magnussen fifth. Hulkenberg’s time was good enough for P4, whilst Vettel found some time on his final lap to qualify second behind Rosberg.

However, the spoils went to Rosberg. The German driver will know that with victory tomorrow, he will deal another huge blow to Hamilton’s title chances. Once again, the Briton was caught out in qualifying, and will unquestionably be disappointed with the result.

You can watch the British Grand Prix live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET tomorrow.

PWC: Parente back, Sellers, Hedlund join at K-PAX

Photo: PWC
Photo: PWC
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Defending Pirelli World Challenge GT champions K-PAX Racing have confirmed their lineup for this year’s season, which will see Alvaro Parente back to defend his crown in one of three McLaren 650S GT3s.

Parente will have two new teammates, in two talented Americans. Bryan Sellers will make his first run at a full-time PWC season in the team’s No. 6 McLaren, while Mike Hedlund, who’s driven off-and-on with K-PAX Racing technical partner Flying Lizard Motorsports, will run for a GTA title in the No. 98 McLaren.

Sellers and Hedlund replace Austin Cindric and Colin Thompson, respectively, as full-season drivers. Driver lineups for the SprintX races will be announced at a later date.

“With the addition of new teams, drivers and GT3 cars in the Pirelli World Challenge, 2017 is going to be tighter and more challenging than ever,” said Team Owner Jim Haughey. “So we are very pleased to have Alvaro, the returning Driver’s Champion, team up with the very competent Bryan Sellers in GT and Mike Hedlund in GTA.”

The full release is linked here.

These confirmations add to what’s shaping up to be, once again, a very good GT class field for the series.

Foyt confirms hire of Will Phillips as technical director

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Larry Foyt, Will Phillips and A.J. Foyt. Photo courtesy A.J. Foyt Racing
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A.J. Foyt Racing has confirmed the hire of ex-INDYCAR Vice President of Technology Will Phillips as the team’s new technical director. He’ll also serve as race engineer for Carlos Munoz this season. Trackside Online was first to report the hire.

Phillips was named as technical delegate for the Formula 4 United States Championship powered by Honda this past year, and now will be in a team role for the two-car Chevrolet outfit that Foyt has this season.

Munoz and Conor Daly will be in the pair of ABC Supply Co. Chevrolets this season, with Daniele Cucchiaroni continuing with the team as Daly’s race engineer. The duo tests this week at Sebring International Raceway’s short course.

He’s been a technical director/chief engineer, race engineer or design engineer at various teams, including but not limited to de Ferran Motorsports, Highcroft Racing, Rocketsports, and Reynard Motorsport.

“It is a privilege to join one of the most iconic teams in the IndyCar Series,” Phillips said in a release. “I have missed the competition and as such am looking forward to being back on the frontline. The depth of talent in the team is impressive and I look forward to working with them and helping create a cohesive engineering group to support Carlos and Conor.”

A.J. Foyt added, “I’m glad to have Will on our team. He’s smart and experienced and he was a close friend of “Ando’s” [the late John Anderson]. Ando worked for me and was a good friend of mine. I don’t know Will that well yet, but if Ando respected him, that’s good enough for me. I think Will can do a great job for us.”

Street in Nice renamed, unveiled in honor of Jules Bianchi

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 20:  Jules Bianchi of France and Marussia walks across the paddock prior to the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 20, 2014 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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A street has been renamed and unveiled on Monday in honor of the late Jules Bianchi in his hometown of Nice, France.

The former ‘rue du Sapin’ in Nice is now ‘rue Jules Bianchi,’ in the Frenchman’s honor. A ceremony took place Monday at that street at the intersection of ‘avenue Pierre de Coubertin.’

Posts from the unveil are linked below. Charles Leclerc, Bianchi’s countryman and Ferrari Driver Academy member who participated in a couple first F1 free practice sessions with Haas F1 Team last year, posted “You’ll never ever be forgotten.”

Bianchi died in 2015 following a coma sustained after his accident in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, where he suffered a diffuse axonal injury. Not long afterwards, his No. 17 was retired from active competition in Formula 1.

Bianchi scored the first points and to date, the best career finish for the Manor F1 team, when he finished ninth in the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix.

MRTI: Thompson, Castro announce 2017 USF2000 programs

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Parker Thompson. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda has received a shot in the arm with a pair of announcements in recent days.

Parker Thompson, who came up a hard-luck second in last year’s championship to teammate Anthony Martin, will be firmly entrenched as a title contender once more in 2017 with a switch to Exclusive Autosport in the team’s No. 90 Tatuus USF-17 Mazda.

The Red Deer, Alberta native raced for JDC Motorsports in 2015 before moving to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing last season. The move reunites Thompson with fellow Canadian and EA team owner Michael Duncalfe.

“This was easily one of the hardest off seasons I have had in my motorsport career thus far,” Thompson admitted. “I honestly didn’t know if I was going to get behind the wheel of a racecar in 2017, so when the opportunity arose to become a part of the EA organization, I was ecstatic.

“This is a dream team fit for myself, in a number of different ways. I met Michael when I was just 11-years-old racing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan at the Western Canadian Karting Championships. It just goes to show you what relationship building can do for your career down the road! Since then, I actually raced for Michael in his decorated FF1600 program, and claimed my first two formula car wins with him. There’s not many team owners in the paddock who I have had such a great history and relationship with over the years.”

More on the announcement is linked here via the USF2000 website, and Thompson also released a video that is linked below.

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Andre Castro, an 18-year-old born in New York but with Colombian heritage, is the second confirmed driver at Newman/Wachs Racing ahead of its return to full-time racing. He’ll be in the team’s No. 37 entry alongside the previously announced Dakota Dickerson in the No. 36 car, with the series sophomore expected to improve this year.

“We ran Andre in our first test at Indy last October, and we had some success with him right from the start,”said team manager, Brian Halahan. “He was fast and he worked well with the team, so I feel we can build on that and have him running strong as soon as he is back in the Newman Wachs car. I think Andre and Dakota will make good teammates and push each other to the front.”

Castro is a go-kart veteran with limited car racing experience, but was nominated as a finalist for last year’s Team USA Scholarship.

“I am thrilled to be a part of Newman Wachs’ return to open-wheel racing, said Castro. After working with the team closely in the weeks leading up to the Chris Griffis Memorial test at Indy last fall, I saw that the team was incredibly serious about coming back and winning straight out of the gate. At the test itself, I was able to work with engineer Alan O’Leary extremely well, and by the end of the final day, me, a rookie driver and a returning team, together, we managed to be on top of the time sheets.”

While these two are in the USF2000 field this year, one driver who won’t be back for a second go-’round is Cameron Das, who raced his debut season with JAY Motorsports. The Baltimore teenager has stretched his wings not just in USF2000, but also in SCCA’s new U.S. F4 Championship, which he won.

Das, 16, will shift to Europe this year and will be one to watch along with new Red Bull Junior driver Neil Verhagen. Das has been confirmed with Carlin for its BRDC British F3 team, along with previously confirmed drivers James Pull and Enaam Ahmed.

“British Formula Three feels like the natural next step in my racing development,” said Das, who’s already tested for the team. “I’ve already had a chance to see Carlin in action and I couldn’t be more excited to spend the 2017 season with them. I really appreciate the support from my sponsor Autobahn Indoor Speedway and other partners for allowing me to embark on this incredible opportunity. I cannot wait for the first race weekend.”

The signing did bring up a good point – Das is unquestionably the racing driver with the name closest in spelling to actress Cameron Diaz.