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Across the globe, this racing weekend was pretty freaking crazy

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While we primarily cover open-wheel racing here on MotorSportsTalk, to complement all our NBCSN race coverage on your home of motorsport, this weekend was arguably one of the craziest ones I can recall in terms of not just open-wheel story lines throughout the weekend, but also in the sports car world in four different series.

F1

Let’s start first in China with Formula 1, and the Chinese Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg won – that is now becoming the early normal story line at the front of the field, season 2016 – but the story after the race was the disagreement between Rosberg’s fellow podium finishers Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat from their first lap clash.

Kvyat took an aggressive line into Turn 1, which shot him into the two Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, Raikkonen ultimately going off course and sustaining a bit of damage.

As you can see post-race, Vettel and Kvyat agreed to disagree. On the bright side for both, Vettel needed the bounce back result after his failure to start in Bahrain with an engine failure, and Kvyat secured his first podium since his first career podium at Hungary last year.

Behind the podium finishers, Lewis Hamilton’s frustrating start to the 2016 season continued. He didn’t even get to post a time in qualifying and after starting 22nd from the grid, rather than pit lane, lost his front wing on the opening lap. He recovered to seventh but is suddenly, shockingly, 36 points behind Rosberg – and as my MST colleague Luke Smith writes, in a tough spot to recover as Rosberg stands either on the verge of his first title or runs the risk of becoming a statistical anomaly.

Luke’s touched on Rosberg’s brilliance to open the campaign, and I’ll leave you to reading his thoughts on the German’s perfect start to 2016 rather than bloviate by adding any further words of my own.

INDYCAR

Pagenaud leads Dixon. Photo: IndyCar
Pagenaud leads Dixon. Photo: IndyCar

From China, we head to Long Beach, where the Verizon IndyCar Series turned in a caution-free, 80-lap run at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Sadly the racing wasn’t the story – it wasn’t the most entertaining of races to begin with – and officiating became the story when it came down to whether Simon Pagenaud deserved a harsher penalty than the Official Warning he was issued by INDYCAR Race Control.

We’ll get into more on the call later this week on MST.

ADDITIONALLY AT LONG BEACH, THE PRO/CELEB RACE WAS CRAZY

This had nothing to do with IndyCar or sports cars, but the final Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race was crazy, including the three-car pileup at Turn 8 involving three drivers, two workers and a wrecker. Brett Davern, whose running wide into the Turn 8 wall started the melee, posted this tweet with a highlight video that summed it up.

SPORTS CARS

In four series, in two continents, controversy and post-race drama ruled the day.

IMSA

Taylors lead Porsche/Corvette. Photo courtesy of IMSA
Taylors lead Porsche/Corvette. Photo courtesy of IMSA

We’ll stay in Long Beach, first, for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix. Up front the Taylor brothers dominated for the overall and Prototype ranks, and JDC/Miller Motorsports took the Prototype Challenge class win.

But in GT Le Mans, where the factory battles between manufacturers take place, it got nuts – and stupid – late in the race.

Inside of 10 minutes to go, Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R led teammate Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette with Fred Makowiecki and Nick Tandy third and fourth in the Nos. 912 and 911 Porsche 911 RSRs.

Garcia had a rare spin at Turn 4 which took him out of the proceedings, but that was only the first heartbreak for Corvette Racing in the final 10 minutes as they sought their 100th win as a team.

Makowiecki made a near desperation lunge into the hairpin, Turn 11, which punted Milner out of the lead. Tandy, who’d now been promoted to third, snuck by on the inside to take the lead and ultimately the win.

“I just got wrecked basically. Two Porsches running nose to tail… it is pretty clear what happened there,” Milner said. “It is pretty disappointing that this is the kind of racing we have here where we are better than that for sure.”

Here was Tandy’s view, as he had a front row seat: “Something had to give, he had to make a move. Maybe there could have been a bit of give and take. You can’t put it all on the passing driver. It wasn’t a mistake because he was trying to pass. But the 912 is the car higher on points after two races, and there are no team orders, he was just racing – trying to get the maximum result for the maximum effort.”

All told it was an unsatisfying ending, because the GTLM class is known for great racing between four or five manufacturers – not hit-and-runs on the streets.

PWC

Parente inherited PWC win. Photo: PWC
Parente inherited PWC win. Photo: PWC

Staying in Long Beach, for the Pirelli World Challenge Replay X D Grand Prix at Long Beach presented by Cadillac, the drama occurred both during and after the race.

James Sofronas made a rare mistake where he clipped the apex at Turn 8 on the opening lap and bumped into Austin Cindric through the right-hander, thus giving the K-PAX Racing and Flying Lizard Motorsports crew another rebuild job to his No. 6 McLaren 650S GT3. To his credit, GMG Racing team principal Sofronas owned up to it during his interview on the CBS Sports Network race broadcast and apologized to Cindric for the contact.

Problem was, that first lap accident put what was already a spotlight event even further under the microscope and further under derision because there were more than 10 minutes of yellow in a 50-minute race before the race got restarted.

A couple further incidents led to more restarts – one of them where Johnny O’Connell in his No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R got by polesitter Alvaro Parente in another K-PAX McLaren.

Post-race, O’Connell received a penalty for over-boosting barely over the maximum allowable, and it dropped him to second. Per the team: “During post-race inspection the No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe was found to have two traction control induced turbo boost spikes during the race that were out of specification. The SCCA Officials thus relegated O’Connell to second handing the win to Parente.”

Still, to the series credit, having three factory drivers on the podium is a big deal and something it can hang its hat on.

WEC

Photo: Audi
Photo: Audi

From so much drama in the LBC to so much drama in the WEC, the overall win in the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opening 6 Hours of Silverstone changed hands after the checkered flag.

Audi’s No. 7 R18 with its now veteran trio of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler won on the road, but got bounced in post-race tech over the front skid block (see, skids aren’t just affecting INDYCAR).

“Post-race scrutineering revealed that the No. 7 car was not in compliance with article 3.5.6 a3 of the LMP1 Technical Regulations (thickness of the front skid block), and the Stewards of the Meeting decided to exclude the car from the race, as detailed in Stewards’ Decision No.27,” a statement from the FIA read.

Initially, Audi opted not to appeal, but later decided to do so. Per Sportscar365, there’s no word yet on when an a hearing will be scheduled.

ELMS

Why not add a post-race exclusion in the European Le Mans Series, as well, for good measure?

In the ELMS opener at Silverstone, the GTE-class winning JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 Italia got bounced for having an incorrect front splitter. More here from Sportscar365.

SO WHO ACTUALLY FINISHED WHERE?

Here’s your podiums in all of the aforementioned events, above:

  • F1: 1. 6-Nico Rosberg, Mercedes; 2. 5-Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari; 3. 26-Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull
  • IndyCar: 1. 22-Simon Pagenaud, Penske Chevrolet; 2. 9-Scott Dixon, Ganassi Chevrolet; 3. 3-Helio Castroneves, Penske Chevrolet
  • IMSA
    • P: 1. 10-R. Taylor/J. Taylor, Corvette DP; 2. 5-Fittipaldi/Barbosa, Corvette DP; 3. 31-Curran/Cameron, Corvette DP
    • PC: 1. 85-Goikhberg/Simpson, JDC/Miller; 2. 8-Popow/van der Zande, Starworks; 3. 38-French/Marcelli, Performance Tech
    • GTLM: 1. 911-Pilet/Tandy, Porsche 911 RSR; 2. 4-Gavin/Milner, Corvette C7.R; 3. 62-Fisichella/Vilander, Ferrari 488 GTE
  • PWC
    • GT: 1. 9-Alvaro Parente, McLaren 650S GT3; 2. 3-Johnny O’Connell, Cadillac ATS-V.R; 3. 31-Patrick Long, Porsche 911 GT3 R
    • GTA: 1. 07-Martin Fuentes, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3; 2. 54-Tim Pappas, Dodge Viper GT3-R; 3. 44-Brent Holden, Audi R8 LMS ultra
  • WEC
    • LMP1: 1. 2-Jani/Lieb/Dumas, Porsche 919 Hybrid; 2. 6-Sarrazin/Conway/Kobayashi, Toyota TS050 Hybrid; 3. 13-Tuscher/Imperatori/Kraihamer, Rebellion R-One AER
    • LMP2: 1. 43-Gonzalez/Senna/Albuquerque, RGR Ligier JS P2 Nissan; 2. 31-Dalziel/Derani/Cumming, ESM Ligier JS P2 Nissan; 3. 26-Rusinov/Berthon/Rast, G-Drive Oreca 05 Nissan
    • GTE-Pro: 1. 71-Rigon/Bird, Ferrari 488 GTE; 2. 51. Bruni/Calado, Ferrari 488 GTE; 3. 95-Turner/Thiim/Sorensen, Aston Martin Vantage V8
    • GTE-Am: 1. 83-Collard/Aguas/Perrodo, Ferrari F458 Italia; 2. 98-Dalla Lana/Lauda/Lamy, Aston Martin Vantage V8, 3. 50-Yamagishi/Ragues/Ruberti, Larbre Corvette C7.R
  • ELMS
    • LMP2: 1. 38-Dolan/van der Garde/Tincknell, G-Drive Gibson 015S Nissan; 2. 32-Coletti/Leal/Wirth, SMP BR01 Nissan; 3. 22-Capillaire/Lombard/Coleman, SO24! by Lombard Ligier JS P2 Judd
    • LMP3: 1. 2-Brundle/Guasch/England, United Auto Ligier JS P3 Nissan; 2. 3-Patterson/M.Bell/Boyd, United Auto Ligier JS P3 Nissan; 3. 9-Trouillet/Petit/Giubbert, Graff Ligier JS P3 Nissan
    • GTE: 99-Howard/Turner/MacDowall, Beechdean Aston Martin Vantage V8; 2. 56-Talkanitsa Sr./Jr./ Pier Guidi, AT Ferrari F458 Italia; 3. 96-Goethe/Hall/Stanaway, Aston Martin Vantage V8

Herta on pole for second Indy Lights race at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Colton Herta rebounded from a tough Friday dogged by persistent mechanical issues where he was barely on track, and a 13th place start for race one, to take the pole for Sunday’s race two (9 a.m. ET online on IndyCar.com; 11:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN) for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires at Road America.

The 17-year-old excelled in the cooler conditions this morning for qualifying in his No. 98 Andretti/Steinbrenner Racing Dallara IL-15 Mazda to post a time of 1:52.0034 for the top spot at the 4.014-mile circuit. He’ll start only 13th for today’s first race.

Freedom 100 winner Matheus Leist, who enjoyed his maiden IndyCar test here last week with Andretti-Herta Autosport, was back in his Carlin car and is second on the grid, just 0.0223 of a second off Herta’s time.

For Sunday, points leader Kyle Kaiser made it three teams in the top three for Juncos Racing, with Zachary Claman De Melo and Santiago Urrutia completing the top five on the grid.

Americans Neil Alberico and Aaron Telitz are sixth and seventh with Nico Jamin in eighth.

Leist’s pole time for today’s first race was 1:53.1760 with qualifying in warmer conditions, set yesterday afternoon.

Leist, Alberico and Ryan Norman will lead the field to green, which comes online today at noon CT and local time, 1 p.m. ET, online at IndyCar.com.

Weekend results are linked here.

Aleshin set to return to action today at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Mikhail Aleshin is set to return to action today in the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda ahead of today’s sessions for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The Russian driver was delayed by immigration issues in arriving back to the U.S. after racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last week with SMP Racing.

Aleshin posted on Friday that he was en route to the U.S. after getting it sorted, and the team confirmed Aleshin’s return on Saturday morning.

Team co-owner Sam Schmidt told the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network that Aleshin was en route and was optimistic he’d be back in time for Saturday’s sessions.

Canadian driver Robert Wickens filled in for Wickens on Friday, while facing an abnormal situation where he didn’t know if he’d be able to continue for the rest of the weekend. He posted a best time of 1:44.7085 in Friday’s combined practice, just under 1.9 seconds off Friday pace setter Josef Newgarden.

“I’m really happy with today. Obviously you always want to make as much progress as possible, and you never know if you’ve done enough or if I should achieve more, or whatever the case is,” Wickens said after the day. “The biggest thing for me is the car is still in one piece and I haven’t made a terminal error yet!

“The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team has done a fantastic job getting me up to speed and making me comfortable. It’s been a strange day because I’m not really sure if I’m doing the next session since I don’t know when Mikhail [Aleshin] is arriving or if he’s arriving. So I’m going to work overnight as if I’m driving tomorrow morning, and if not, then hopefully I can help out the team somehow.”

The third practice session begins at 11 a.m. CT and local time from Road America. Qualifying is today at 3 p.m. CT and local time and airs at 4 p.m. CT/5 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Renault denies speculation Kubica could enter Monza FP1

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Renault Formula 1 chief Cyril Abiteboul has denied speculation suggesting that Robert Kubica could appear in first practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Monza in September.

Kubica raced in F1 between 2006 and 2010, with his final full-season in the sport being completed with Renault before sustaining severe injuries to his right arm that appeared to end his single-seater career.

After a number of years in rallying, Kubica has recently tested a number of different cars, culminating in an outing in a 2012-spec Lotus F1 at Valencia earlier this month.

The reportedly-impressive test has led to speculation that Kubica could be capable of making a full-time return to F1 in the future, with paddock chatter in Montreal suggesting that an FP1 run-out at Monza was being discussed.

However, Abiteboul was quick to shoot this down during Friday’s FIA press conference, saying that it would not be happening.

“No, absolutely not. I don’t know where this is coming from and I can completely wipe that one out,” Abiteboul said.

“Robert has been a family member of the Enstone team, and Eric on my right knows what I mean. He has been very close and very loyal. The team in Enstone, which is a very small group of people, actually have been very loyal to a number of drivers.

“People feel very loyal and feel they owe something to Robert for making something big in their life and there was this opportunity that we give to him, that we could afford to him to drive again, because it was actually a marketing event that got cancelled, so we had a car available at the track and we offered that opportunity to him.

“Robert is going through some form of program to try to understand what he can do. He has been driving a number of cars, Formula E, GP3, F2, LMP2, you name it, so I think he wants to understand what he can do as part of his sort of rehabilitation program.

“We’ll see. There is nothing else that is planned for the time being, apart from a marketing event at Goodwood, where he will be driving the same car, E20, in front of Lord March’s house.”

Kubica’s links to the Renault seat come at a time when Jolyon Palmer is coming under increasing pressure after a point-less start to the year, leading to suggestions he could be replaced mid-season.

“Our situation is very clear: he has a contract with us,” Abiteboul said of Palmer.

“We are completely committed to helping him get through the period, which is a tough period, that’s obvious.

“He has no ultimatum, but having said that he has to deliver, like every single member of the team.”

Bottas tops final Baku F1 practice ahead of Raikkonen

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Valtteri Bottas closed out Formula 1 practice for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku at the head of the field after edging out Ferrari rival Kimi Raikkonen in the closing stages of FP3.

Bottas led Mercedes to the top of the classification in final practice with a fastest lap of 1:42.742 to finish 0.095 seconds clear of Raikkonen, the pair having exchanged blows in the final 15 minutes in the battle for P1.

After a mixed Friday, Mercedes appeared more comfortable through final practice as Lewis Hamilton completed the top three, four-tenths down on Bottas’ time.

Ferrari, meanwhile, was left to rely on Raikkonen at the front as drivers’ championship leader Sebastian Vettel suffered a setback.

The German driver was forced to pit with 20 minutes to go due to a problem on his car – an apparent hydraulics issue – prompting his mechanics to set to work quickly in a bid to resolve the problem ahead of qualifying.

After finishing both FP1 and FP2 as the fastest driver, Max Verstappen could not complete a hat-trick in FP3 as he was forced to park up at the side of the track late on, citing a shutdown on his car after reporting an earlier engine issue.

Joylon Palmer was another driver to hit trouble, suffering an engine fire in the early part of the session that meant he had to park up in the run-off area. After crashing out of FP2 on Friday, the already-under pressure Briton will head into qualifying on the back foot, if indeed Renault can fix his car in time.

Back on the timesheets, it was Daniel Ricciardo who followed the top three, taking fourth for Red Bull. Despite his stoppage, Verstappen did enough to take sixth in FP3, trailing Force India’s Esteban Ocon.

Felipe Massa wound up seventh for Williams ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Lance Stroll, while Sergio Perez took P10 overall.

Qualifying for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 9am ET on Saturday, with a re-air at 1pm ET on NBCSN.