F1 Grand Prix of Germany - Qualifying

German GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

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It’s been quite a week or two for Nico Rosberg. Since the last grand prix at Silverstone, he has got married, seen his nation win the FIFA World Cup, signed a new long-term deal with Mercedes, and now – just to put the cherry on the icing of the cake – he has secured pole position for the German Grand Prix.

However, it was not the straight dogfight that we all expected between himself and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton. The Briton crashed hard during Q1 thanks to a right-front brake failure, wrecking his car in the process. He has qualified 15th, but is more likely to start from the pit lane tomorrow as a result of the shunt.

The real fight for Rosberg came from the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, but neither could prevent the German from claiming his fifth pole of the season and his first on home soil (well, assuming Germany is “home” that is…).

SESSION REPORTS

  • FP3 saw Rosberg start Saturday as he meant to go on. Hamilton was left trailing by six-tenths of a second come the checkered flag, with Fernando Alonso finishing third for Ferrari.
  • Qualifying was all about Rosberg once Hamilton’s session had come to an early end. However, a nice sub-plot also unfolded as Bottas, Massa, Magnussen and Kvyat all impressed.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

For the fourth race weekend in a row, we have seen a chink in Mercedes’ armor. Lewis Hamilton’s brake failure and subsequent crash was a very scary incident indeed, and frankly, it’s testament to the incredible safety standards in the sport at the moment that he was able to walk away with nothing more than a bit of bruising.

Hamilton said to the media after the session that it was another “gift” for Rosberg, but the Briton is going to be giving it his all tomorrow. From the pit lane (where he will most probably start), he faces an almighty uphill struggle, yet you would have to think that if anyone can make up for it in a race situation, Lewis can. He should dig out a video of his charge from 19th to 2nd in GP2 eight years ago for inspiration.

So that left Rosberg all alone to take pole, right? Wrong. In fact, Williams was a lot closer than the team appears to be getting credit for. Valtteri Bottas actually looked set to steal top spot away from Rosberg when he lit up green in the second sector on the timesheets; Rosberg had backed off, and wasn’t going to improve. A sloppy final sector meant that Valtteri couldn’t quite do it, but second place is still a sensational result for the breakout racer in Formula 1 this year.

Rosberg didn’t seem too comfortable to begin with in qualifying, though. In Q1, he hadn’t actually set a lap time within the required 107% when the red flag came out for Hamilton’s crash after locking up on both of his first two flyers. When he did go out and set just one lap time – he only needed one – he finished by putting all four wheels outside of the white line at the final corner.

If we were in Austria, the stewards would have deleted it; here, it went unpunished. Nico wasn’t the only one (we’re looking at you, Seb) to do so, but once again, there seems to be a variation in the enforcing of rules such as this between races.

Mercedes is still unquestionably the team to beat in Germany, but if we get some of the forecast rain, it could spice things up. For now though, the advantage – and also the pressure – lies with Rosberg. It would be an incredible way to cap off the last two weeks.

Join us for the German Grand Prix live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET tomorrow.

Conor Daly’s IndyCar gets painted

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Conor Daly
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Conor Daly will compete full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year in a ride for Dale Coyne Racing.

Daly will make laps in the No. 18 Honda sponsored by Jonathan Byrd’s. The 24-year-old driver tweeted out a picture today of his race car getting painted for the season, which starts on March 13.

Daly has six IndyCar races under his belt so far.

USF2000 reintroduces National Class for 2016

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The National Class is officially back in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series for 2016.

Yes, when Eric Filgueiras and Spencer Racing announced they’d be in the National Class, that kind of gave it away that the class would be back without it being formally introduced.

Luckily though, the series has released the news today. A formal release is below:

Drivers seeking to make their way onto the Mazda Road to Indy now have an alternate, lower-cost route onto the first rung, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, with today’s confirmation that the National Class will be returning in 2016.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering a scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via USF2000, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Eligible to drivers at least 20 years of age before or during the 2016 season, the National Class will be open to all Sports Car Club of America-legal FC (Formula Continental) cars, from any chassis manufacturer, dating back to 2000. Any aerodynamic devices approved by the SCCA are permitted, although in the interests of safety all cars must be fitted with a nosebox crash structure, wheel tethers, Staubli devices, approved head surrounds and seats and yellow light system as required by all other current USF2000 cars.

Cars will be permitted to run either the same 2.0-liter Mazda MZR engine per the USF2000 Championship Class regulations or sealed 2.0-liter Ford Zetec motors as prepared by Elite Engines or Quicksilver RacEngines with National Class mapping. Any SCCA-legal 6″ and 8″ wheels may be used, although all cars must run on Cooper tires.

Entry fees will be discounted 50 percent below the Championship Class rate, and each race winner will earn a free entry for an upcoming event in the same season. The second-place finisher will claim a 50 percent reduction in the entry fee for an upcoming race. In addition, race winners equipped with the MZR engine will take home a $1,000 award from Mazda.

As an added benefit and based on a minimum average car count of five entries per race weekend, the 2016 National Class champion will receive an “entry ticket” to the Mazda Road to Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout in the fall of this year where champions of select junior level-open wheel and karting series from around the world will compete for a Mazda scholarship to enter the USF2000 Championship Class in 2017.

The point system will be the same used by the Masters Class (formerly Expert Class) in the Pro Mazda championship.

“We are excited to bring back the National Class and allow drivers to sample the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “RC Enerson began his path on the ladder system in the National Class. It’s a great first step onto the platform for many drivers, and we are excited to offer this year’s champion an entry into the Shootout as well as a full-season entry package to USF2000 in 2017 in either the Championship or National Class.”

The Mazda Road to Indy will head to Barber Motorsport Park for Spring Training on March 5 (Indy Lights) and 6/7 (USF2000/Pro Mazda). The 2016 season will kick off on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Report: Scott Tucker arrested by FBI in payday lending scheme

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 30:  The #95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley driven by Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook and Raphael Matos during The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 30, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
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For four years from 2010 to 2013, Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports were American Le Mans Series regulars, first in the Prototype Challenge class and then the LMP2 class. They won, a lot, and were a regular championship-contending effort, plus those who worked for the team had nothing but positive things to say about the operation that was run.

That said, the funding of the team was always perpetually questioned, as Tucker was always allegedly involved within the payday lending business, and had reportedly abusive practices towards customers.

This has been something of a bubbling story for five years but per Reuters, on Wednesday, Tucker and one of his lawyers were arrested by the FBI for their alleged exploitation.

Per Reuters, an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court outlined millions that went to Tucker, who then used it for various luxury items. Allegedly, more than $67 million went to the Level 5 Motorsports race team.

Level 5’s last IMSA series start came under the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship umbrella in January 2014, when the team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GT Daytona class. The team withdrew from the championship following that race.

Social Roundup: IndyCar tests at Sonoma, Fontana

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Simon Pagenaud
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There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?

The engines of the Verizon IndyCar Series have roared back to life this week, a month before the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a test at Phoenix International Raceway two days ago, two more tests are occurring today in California, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and at Sonoma Raceway.

At Auto Cub Speedway is Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe.

In Sonoma is the entirety of the Chip Ganassi Racing team and Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud from Team Penske.

Here’s a look at how the day is progressing at each test through social media. We’ll update throughout the day. If you’re attending either test, tweet us pictures at @MotorSportsTalk or @danielmcfadin of how you’re taking in the beginning of the 2016 season.

Sonoma Raceway

Auto Club Speedway