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Bourdais leads early on Fast Friday before rain hits Indy

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INDIANAPOLIS – Rain has been predicted for parts if not all of Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and just before 1:45 p.m. on “Fast Friday,” it hit – hard.

This not before 32 of the 33 drivers entered for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil banked a combined 599 laps, and the speeds went up by seven mph compared to the best speeds this week.

The speed increase is by design as the boost is turned up from 1.3 to 1.4 mbar on the turbochargers, which gives the 2.2L V6 twin turbo powerplants produced by Honda and Chevrolet an additional 40 to 50 horsepower.

Sebastien Bourdais uncorked the fastest lap of the month to date in a new engine now powering his No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, at 233.116 mph with a tow. Bourdais has had two engine failures this month, one in the INDYCAR Grand Prix last weekend, and a second yesterday in practice at the north end of the track.

The Frenchman is yet to finish in the top-five in the Indianapolis 500 in six prior starts – his best finish is seventh – and he could use a bounce back Indianapolis 500 after early retirements at Phoenix and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Bourdais was one of 22 drivers who eclipsed 230 mph in a tow. That number drops to just six drivers who went 230-plus without a tow, which Bourdais also led at 231.192 mph.

Honda’s reliability issues persisted as a motor issue occurred for Jack Harvey’s No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport car, and smoke came billowing out the back of his car. That’s the fifth engine issue within the last week in the Honda camp; the manufacturer is diagnosing the cause.

More to follow.

Speeds are below.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.