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Rahal inherits pole for Detroit 1 after Castroneves penalized

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Graham Rahal will start from pole for Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear, Round 7 of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, after a controversial qualifying session saw Helio Castroneves lose his fastest lap for failing to slow down enough for a caution flag.

Rahal and Castroneves were in separate groups (Rahal in Group 1, Castroneves in Group 2), with Rahal just barely nipping Takuma Sato to go fastest in Group 1. Rahal set a track record in the process, turning a quick lap of 1:13.9681.

Castroneves, meanwhile, was able to better Rahal’s time when he went out in Group 2, with the Team Penske driver also doing so on his last lap with time of 1:13.8901.

However, amidst celebrations with his No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske teammates, Castroneves was notified by INDYCAR officials that he would lose his fastest lap after failing to slow for a caution flag (caused by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ Mikhail Aleshin, who received a penalty for causing that).

Castroneves second lap was still quickest of his group and puts him on the outside of the front row.

Rahal’s pole is the third of his career and his first in 134 starts (Kansas, 2009). It’s also the team’s first pole since Scott Sharp did so at Texas in 2007.

Qualifying was conducted differently from its normal fashion on road and street circuits. The field of 22 cars was split into two groups of 11, with combined times from each group setting the grid.

Because Rahal won the pole, his group assumes the odd-numbered grid positions. Takuma Sato will start third, with Alexander Rossi fourth, James Hinchcliffe fifth, and Scott Dixon sixth.

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Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.