IndyCar: Bourdais wins pole for Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

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The battle for the Honda 200 pole position came down to the final moments of the Firestone Fast Six, but Toronto Race 1 winner Sebastien Bourdais emerged with the top spot on the grid thanks to his last lap of 1 minute, 24.1610 seconds around a rapidly drying Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Bourdais and the other competitors in the FF6 rode out the final round on the Firestone wet tires despite the changing track, which had been soaked prior to the start of the three-round qualifying session.

American driver Josef Newgarden appeared set to win the pole for the small Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team. But after Bourdais knocked him off the top spot, the Tennessee native could only get back up to second with his last lap of 1:24.6787.

“It was a totally different [third round] than it was in the first two sessions,” Bourdais told IndyCar Radio after his second pole of 2014. “There was a developing dry line so we went from totally outside to having to venture into not really well-known territory with the wet tires, which was really difficult to know when to make the [line] switch.

“The last lap, I knew I was shy and I needed some more, so I went for it. I made it stick, the Mistic machine gave me everything it got, and it was enough.”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan will start third tomorrow as he hopes to continue his recent run of success. He’ll be joined in Row 2 by Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz.

Munoz’s teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Team Penske’s Will Power will make up Row 3. Power could have a big chance to overtake Penske partner Helio Castroneves (+13 points over Power) for the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead, as Castroneves was unable to advance out of the first round and will have to start 15th.

Also faltering in the first round were Ryan Briscoe, Charlie Kimball and Scott Dixon – all from the Ganassi stable and all former Mid-Ohio winners. Briscoe and Kimball start 19th and 20th, while Dixon is starting 22nd and dead last.

Chip Ganassi Racing is seeking its sixth consecutive win at Mid-Ohio tomorrow afternoon (see some highlights from their current win streak here).

Under damp conditions, qualifying got underway with a red flag in Group 1 as multiple drivers including Briscoe, Power, and James Hinchcliffe all went off the slippery course just a few minutes into the 10-minute run. Officially, Briscoe triggered the red as he was briefly unable to get going after his spin in Turn 11.

The green returned with less than five minutes remaining, but almost immediately, another red came out for a spin involving Takuma Sato in Turn 6.

The session ran out of time while Sato was having his car restarted, but Race Control opted to give the drivers an additional period of time to run one more timed lap at speed. Juan Pablo Montoya, Carlos Huertas, Power, Simon Pagenaud, Mike Conway, and Kanaan were able to advance after the one-lap dash.

Group 2 also had an early red flag for Dixon, who slid into the grass at Turn 9. The green came back with less than four minutes left and when the time ran out, Hunter-Reay, Bourdais, Newgarden, Munoz, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson had all posted laps good enough to advance to Round 2.

A spin for Montoya in Turn 1 briefly redflagged the second round of qualifying, costing him his two best laps. Montoya would wind up not advancing to the Firestone Fast 6 (he’ll start 11th), but Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Munoz, Newgarden and Power did make it to the last round.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT MID-OHIO – HONDA 200
Qualifying Results
FIRESTONE FAST SIX
1. 11-Sebastien Bourdais, 1:24.1610
2. 67-Josef Newgarden
3. 10-Tony Kanaan
4. 34-Carlos Munoz
5. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay
6. 12-Will Power
ELIMINATED IN SECOND ROUND
7. 15-Graham Rahal
8. 19-Justin Wilson
9. 77-Simon Pagenaud
10. 18-Carlos Huertas
11. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya
12. 20-Mike Conway
ELIMINATED IN FIRST ROUND (GROUP QUALIFYING)
13. 7-Mikhail Aleshin
14. 17-Sebastian Saavedra
15. 3-Helio Castroneves
16. 25-Marco Andretti
17. 27-James Hinchcliffe
18. 98-Jack Hawksworth
19. 8-Ryan Briscoe
20. 83-Charlie Kimball
21. 14-Takuma Sato
22. 9-Scott Dixon

Hamilton endures ‘difficult’ Russia F1 practice, impressed by Ferrari

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Lewis Hamilton was left disappointed by a “difficult” day of Formula 1 practice in Russia on Friday for Mercedes as Ferrari stole a march on the field.

Hamilton arrived in Sochi looking to take his third win in Russia and claw back the championship lead after falling seven points behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in the standings.

The Briton was left to settle for fourth place in the final timesheets in FP2 as Mercedes struggled to match Ferrari’s one-lap pace, finishing over half a second back from Vettel in P1.

“Bit of a difficult day for us,” Hamilton admitted. “We managed to complete everything that we needed to do on our runs, but in terms of the balance of the car, the Ferrari seemed very, very fast on the long runs.

“So we need to work out how we can improve our pace. But there’s still everything to play for. The tires feel very peaky, so it’s easy to drop out of the window of performance, but when they’re working they seem to be good.”

Teammate Valtteri Bottas finished third-fastest in FP2 for Mercedes, and said the team had work to do overnight to ensure it could get the maximum out of the ultra-soft tire for qualifying.

“It’s been an interesting day. It’s a very different situation here with the asphalt and the temperatures compared to what we experienced in Bahrain,” Bottas said.

“We were learning about the tires on long runs and short runs and it seems like over one lap we still have work to do to get the maximum out of the ultra-soft tire – that’s our focus tonight. But we can’t forget how important the race is.

“We have started the weekend in the right way. The car feels good and the balance is there. A good start but we definitely need to work hard to find some lap time for qualifying.”

Qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix is live on CNBC from 8am ET on Saturday.

Stoffel Vandoorne set for 15-place F1 grid drop in Sochi

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Stoffel Vandoorne is set to receive a 15-place grid penalty for this weekend’s Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix after exceeding the number of permitted power units components for the season.

McLaren’s problems with engine supplier Honda have been well-documented, with a revision of the design of the power unit by the Japanese manufacturer backfiring to create further reliability and performance issues.

Vandoorne has taken the brunt of the issues in 2017, failing to score a point and recording just one classified finish – P13 in Australia, two laps down on the lead car – as well as being forced to change a number of components on his power unit.

Drivers are only permitted to use four of each power unit component across the course of the season before triggering a penalty, but Vandoorne’s usage has been so high that he is set to receive a grid drop for the Russian Grand Prix – only the fourth round of the season.

By taking an all-new power unit for the event in Sochi, Vandoorne has moved onto his fifth MGU-H and fifth turbocharger of the year, combining for a 15-place grid penalty on Sunday.

For every other ‘fifth’ component Vandoorne takes this season, he will receive another five-place grid drop. His first ‘sixth’ component will be worth 10 places; every remaining ‘sixth’ is five places; his first ‘seventh’ is 10 places and so on.

Ferrari dominates Russian GP second free practice

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Once Pirelli’s softest compound, the ultrasoft tires, came out to play in second free practice for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom, Scuderia Ferrari dropped the hammer compared to Mercedes AMG Petronas.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen ran at 1:34.120 and 1:34.383, respectively, in the pair of SF70H chassis – which easily eclipsed the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. This followed Raikkonen’s leading FP1 this morning.

It’s only practice but the thinking going into the race weekend was with a couple long straights, it would play to Mercedes’ strengths and its top-end speed. But Ferrari’s fired a warning salvo into that thinking in this session.

Bottas and Hamilton were six and seven tenths adrift on the same ultrasoft tires, before long runs commenced for the final 35 to 40 or so minutes of the 90-minute free practice. The Russian Grand Prix is expected to be a one-stop race.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were next, far off the top four and far ahead of the midfield. Verstappen’s session ended early inside of 20 minutes, as he parked his car with an apparent loss of power just before pit lane.

Williams’ Felipe Massa, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Force India’s Sergio Perez – making it four teams in as many positions from seventh through 10th in the crowded midfield. In fact while 1.790 seconds covered first to sixth, just 1.18 seconds covered seventh to 18th, covering all remaining teams!

Romain Grosjean, who tries new Carbon Industrie brakes this week, made several radio transmissions noting he wasn’t yet satisfied with the new supplier. There’s still been a lot of brake dust released from the fronts on both his and Magnussen’s car.

Meanwhile further down the grid, McLaren Honda has made yet another power unit change to Stoffel Vandoorne’s car, which cost him the opening minutes of the session. This will resign the Belgian to his fifth turbocharger and MGU-H of the season, and see him saddled with a grid penalty.

FP3 is next up, streaming online live on Saturday morning from 5 a.m. ET. Qualifying commences at 8 a.m. ET live on CNBC.

Raikkonen leads topsy turvy first free practice session in Russia

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Kimi Raikkonen has topped the timesheets in the first 90-minute free practice session for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix, although times are never entirely representative in this first running of the weekend on the notoriously low-grip to start Sochi Autodrom.

Naturally then it took longer for the fastest times to come in. Raikkonen posted a 1:36.074 on Pirelli’s supersoft tires, with just under half an hour remaining, which eclipsed the pair of Mercedes AMG Petronas entries of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, who were 0.045 of a second and 0.607 of a second behind, respectively.

Vettel was fifth without really getting a proper lap in – more than one second back of his not-under-fire but perhaps under-duress teammate – just behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in fourth.

This marks the last race that Verstappen will be racing as a member of Red Bull Racing for the first time, as it marks the one-year anniversary since local hero Daniil Kvyat’s first-lap nightmare here last year. The Toro Rosso driver in his special edition “torpedo” helmet he’s made this weekend clocked in 11th.

Raikkonen’s fastest time was more than two seconds up on FP1’s fastest time last year, and times will only get quicker the rest of the weekend.

Both Hamilton and Vettel got away with “moments” during the session. Early on, Hamilton had had a quick moment over the Turn 2 curbs but landed without damage. In the final 15 minutes Vettel spun as well at Turn 17, but again without hitting anything. Hamilton then ran wide at the exit of Turn 14, looping his car, but stopping it before it hit the barriers.

Meanwhile Ferrari stated both Vettel and Raikkonen are using new turbochargers this race, and didn’t cite any potential reliability concerns as a reason why.

Raikkonen’s overall best time looked set to be bettered before the first red and only flag of the session occurred in a fairly abnormal manner.

With less than 25 minutes to go in the session, a bizarre incident occurred as Esteban Ocon’s engine cover off the back of his Force India Mercedes popped off as he closed his DRS on the run to Turn 2. Ocon limped the wounded Force India back to the pit lane with no additional damage but it put the session under a red flag, which thus provided a green flag for Twitter snark.

Meanwhile the young Frenchman wasn’t the only driver with issues this session. Stoffel Vandoorne reported in a loss of power to his Honda-powered McLaren inside the final 10 minutes of the session; the Belgian has had woeful luck of late with power units, notably at Bahrain, and the team was hopeful it had made a step forward in the post-Grand Prix test there. A grid penalty would loom with another power unit change.

To start the session, Renault test driver Sergey Sirotkin, in a run-out in his home Grand Prix weekend, didn’t even get to complete a timed lap as he stopped on the backside of the circuit with a mechanical issue. Reboot attempts failed and left him without a lap, same as the driver he was filling in for in Nico Hulkenberg, who will be back in for FP2.

Speaking of, FP2 comes up live at 8 a.m. ET, 5 a.m. PT on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App.

Times are below: