Vettel expecting engine penalties, misses FP2 in Belgium

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Sebastian Vettel has said that he is expecting to be hit towards the end of the season as the new engine penalties for the 2014 season begin to come into play.

As part of the new technical regulations for this season, drivers are set to receive a grid penalty for using more than five components on the power unit across the course of the year. However, some of the drivers are already on their fifth and final component, even though we have a further eight races to go in 2014.

Vettel admitted that grid penalties were to be expected towards the end of the season, given how troublesome the cars have been so far this year.

“First of all I hope we have no issues with reliability, obviously it is clear that in the second half we won’t be so fast because we’ll have to pay the price of the first half,” Vettel told the media in Belgium on Thursday.

“The engine and other components will have to be changed at some stage and obviously we will receive the penalties for that, which is not great for the drivers perspective but it is part of the rules and part of the game.”

Vettel’s title defence has wilted in the face of Mercedes’ dominance, combined with Red Bull’s own struggles in 2014. However, he is hoping for a more trouble-free second half of the season.

“I think obviously it has been a tough season so far, we’ve had lots of problems with the reliability, I didn’t drive the car much and there were things that did bother me which have been fixed,” he explained.

“To be honest it hasn’t been our season yet, obviously the potential is there but we’ve missed a little bit of luck as well. I think the second [half] of the season should be a lot more quieter.

“We will hopefully have a lot more time to work on the Friday and Saturday and have a normal weekend.”

This did not happen in Belgium on Friday, though. Vettel suffered an engine failure during the first practice session, leaving Red Bull with a big repair job that forced him to sit out of FP2 at Spa.

The regulations state that drivers will receive a ten place grid penalty for the first time they use a sixth component, and then another five place penalty for every other sixth change. After that, there is another ten place penalty for the seventh component used, then another five for every other seventh change, and so on.

In short, expect some mixed up grids across the second half of the season.

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.