Wolff finally completes practice run despite early scare

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Susie Wolff finally completed a full practice session for Williams at Hockenheim today, but it wasn’t without an early scare that threatened to sideline her for the second race in a row.

During practice for the British Grand Prix, Wolff became the first woman in 22 years to take part in an official grand prix weekend session, but her bow lasted just 20 minutes after an engine failure on her car.

She had one final shot during practice today at Hockenheim, and lightning looked set to strike twice when her FW36 car began to slow as she exited the pits. The car was stuck in first gear, forcing her to crawl back at a pedestrian pace.

“That was a tough moment because it was immediately clear when I left the pit lane that there was a problem with the drive, and then I lost it completely at the hairpin,” she explained to reporters. “I stayed quite calm because at the end of the day, you’ve just got to get through it. These things are out of your control.

“In that moment, out on track, I said ‘no no no no no, it’s not going to finish like this’. I had such a good feeling for today. I think when you have that optimism and that belief that this is not the end, you just somehow know it’s going to work, and maybe I would be saying a different story now if I had stopped out on track but the truth is we got back to the pits and that was the most important thing.”

Wolff did manage to get her ailing car back to the pits, and Williams soon fixed the problem, allowing her to go out and complete a full run. She finished 15th on the timesheets, just two-tenths of a second shy of full-time Williams driver Felipe Massa. Wolff was delighted with the performance and the work undertaken.

“Yes, I’m happy with my performance today,” she said. “My main target result was always going to be Felipe, and the team set out a programme. It was important to do a good job today because obviously with the change in the setup, taking the FRIC out, it was important to then get as much information for the team as possible.

“So I knew exactly what I had to do and I knew it was my only chance then to show what I was capable of out there, but I had a really good feeling because I was well prepared for it. I know the track very well from my DTM times, and I was just looking forward to driving the car because it’s so much fun to be out there driving.”

As for a next run? Wolff is unsure, and could not comment on when Williams would next give her a chance to test the car when asked about it by NBC Sports.

“That’s the million dollar question, the next one…” she pondered. “That’s the difficulty because as soon as you come into the pit lane and finish the session, the next question is ‘okay, when do you get back in the car?'”

“That’s one of the toughest things in Formula 1: getting more opportunities. The team are happy with my performance, so that was an important step in the right direction, and now I have to see what else is possible.

“It’ll be difficult this season to get any more time in the car, that’s clear, but that’s next on my to do list.”

Wolff certainly held her own today during practice, and it will be interesting to see just how her fledgling F1 career develops from here. Nevertheless, she should be proud of her achievements over the past three weeks and of her result during practice in Germany today.

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.”