Rosberg claims pole for German GP as Hamilton crashes out

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Nico Rosberg has secured his fifth pole position of the 2014 F1 season today at Hockenheim after Lewis Hamilton crashed his car in Q1, leaving the German with only the Williams drivers to contend with at the front of the field.

Rosberg went unchallenged on Saturday at his home circuit, after Hamilton’s terrifying brake failure in Q1 left the Briton in the wall and down in 15th place on the grid. However, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa put in good performances to qualify second and third respectively, giving Mercedes some food for thought, but ultimately the German marque reigned supreme again with its ninth pole in ten races.

As Q1 got underway at Hockenheim, Caterham faced a race against time to get Marcus Ericsson’s car repaired following a hydraulic issue that had sidelined him during FP3. Eventually, the team was forced to throw in the towel, meaning that he will start tomorrow’s race from last place.

The rest of the field did manage to get out early in the first part of qualifying, and Lewis Hamilton quickly rose to the top of the timesheets with his first flying lap. However, as he went about beating Valtteri Bottas, who had gone four-tenths quicker, Hamilton suffered a terrifying brake failure, causing his Mercedes car to crash into the wall at turn 11 at high speed. A red flag was immediately shown, and Hamilton thankfully walked away from the shunt with nothing more than his pride bruised.

The session restarted once the debris had been cleared, with Rosberg – having yet to set a time – heading out immediately on a set of super-soft tires. He went fastest on his first lap on the option compound, and duly finished the session there, a full five-tenths clear of the rest of the field. Predictably, the Marussia drivers joined Ericsson and Caterham teammate Kamui Kobayashi in the dropzone, with Adrian Sutil and Pastor Maldonado also failing to make it through to Q2.

Rosberg continued to set the pace in the second part of qualifying, immediately setting the pace ahead of Bottas and Vettel. McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen put in a good first run to sit fourth, whilst Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez both found themselves in the dropzone with five minutes to go.

They eventually went out to better their times, but Raikkonen could not find enough time to move out of the dropzone. He will start tomorrow’s race from a disappointing 12th place. Perez managed to get into Q3 by a very narrow margin ahead of Jenson Button, who finished 11th. Jean-Eric Vergne, Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean were also eliminated, with the latter also having to serve a three-place grid drop carried over from the British Grand Prix.

The final session saw the drivers complete two runs on the super-soft tire in their bids for pole position, and Perez was the first to post a lap time. His initial benchmark of 1:19.395 was soon beaten when Rosberg showed up, the German going almost three seconds quicker. Bottas and Massa slotted into second and third place with their first efforts, but after the initial runs, it was clear that it would take something spectacular to beat Rosberg.

Although Bottas was up on the pole time through the second sector, he just fell short of Rosberg’s best effort, meaning that the German’s own inability to improve went unpunished. Williams once again finished as best of the rest behind Mercedes in second and third, with Kevin Magnussen finishing a fine fourth for McLaren. Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel locked out the third row for Red Bull ahead of Fernando Alonso and Daniil Kyat. The Force India pairing of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez rounded out the top ten.

With his fourth pole in five races, Rosberg now has a chance to cap off a perfect week. Since the British Grand Prix, he has got married, seen Germany win the FIFA World Cup, signed a new long term deal with Mercedes and now secured pole position for his home grand prix. However, he will need to convert it into a fourth win of the season tomorrow if he is to truly take control of this world championship.

IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.