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Vettel holds on for Hungary F1 victory despite handling issue

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Sebastian Vettel extended his Formula 1 drivers’ championship lead with a hard-fought victory in Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, nursing a handling issue through the majority of the race to lead Ferrari to a one-two finish.

Vettel fended off a stiff challenge from Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen and championship rival Lewis Hamilton through the closing stages to take his fourth win of the season, snapping a two-month victory drought for the Italian marque.

However, it was not without contention as Raikkonen was left frustrated by Ferrari’s tactics, having felt he had the pace to pass Vettel and take his first win since Australia 2013.

Vettel made a clean start from pole to retain his lead from Raikkonen despite the Finn’s advances around the outside of Turn 1, while Hamilton slipped back into the clutches of the Red Bull duo of  Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

As the pair jostled for position, a lock-up for Verstappen caused him to run straight into Ricciardo, putting the Australian into a spin and out of the race. Ricciardo vented his frustration over team radio, saying: “If that’s who I think it was…” Verstappen was quickly hit with a 10-second time penalty for his involvement in the clash.

Vettel and Raikkonen were able to perfect the restart on Lap 6 to pull away from the chasing pack, quickly forging a healthy advantage over Valtteri Bottas, who ran third for Mercedes ahead of Verstappen and Hamilton through the early part of the race.

Vettel was able to retain his advantage over Raikkonen through to the first round of pit stops, albeit with a reduce gap when the German was hit with a minor steering issue, causing his pace to drop marginally.

Mercedes moved to put pressure on Ferrari at the front by pitting Bottas early in a bid to get the undercut, the Finn swapping to the soft compound tire at the end of Lap 30.

Ferrari waited two laps before bringing Vettel in from the lead of the race in order to curb the threat from Bottas, with Raikkonen coming in soon after. Raikkonen was able to cut the gap to Vettel marginally through the stop, but now had Bottas less than four seconds behind, Ferrari’s position was far from secure.

Bottas and Hamilton began to make serious inroads on Vettel and Raikkonen as the former’s handling problems continued, with five seconds covering the quarter as the race passed half-distance. Vettel was told to avoiding heavy kerbing in order to avoid making the issue worse, leaving Raikkonen frustrated all-the-while as his mirrors became filled with the silver cars.

Hamilton began to up his pace, telling the Mercedes pit wall that he needed the opportunity to try and catch the Ferraris at the front of the pack. The Briton was waved past Bottas in third, agreeing he would let his teammate re-take the position if he couldn’t pass the Ferraris ahead.

Hamilton wasted little time in catching Raikkonen, crawling all over the rear of the Ferrari. Raikkonen was left to play rear-gunner for Vettel, who was still unable to escape as he stayed off all of the kerbs in order to avoid making the problem worse.

Raikkonen told Ferrari that he felt uncomfortable holding station and not making an effort to try and catch Vettel, prompting the Finn to up his pace and get to within DRS range of Vettel. Hamilton was able to tag along, setting up a close chase between the trio heading into the final 15 laps.

Hamilton’s car soon began to overheat while running in Raikkonen’s dirty air, prompting him to drop back on multipe occasions before closing once again. As the laps ticked down, Vettel was able to slowly up his pace and open up a gap to Raikkonen, creating some breathing room.

Vettel ultimately crossed the line nine-tenths of a second clear of Ferrari to extend his championship lead and enter the summer break on a high, heading up a one-two finish for the Prancing Horse.

Despite taking his penalty during his pit stop, Verstappen was able to close up on Bottas through the closing stages, putting pressure on Mercedes as it considered swapping positions back.

Hamilton honored the deal and let Bottas past at the line, giving the Finn third place. Hamilton edged just three-tenths ahead of Verstappen in fourth. The points gap stands at 14 points heading into the summer break.

McLaren charged to its best result of the year as Fernando Alonso defeated Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. in a close battle to finish sixth, with teammate Stoffel Vandoorne picking up his first point of the year in P10. The result lifts McLaren to ninth in the constructors’ championship ahead of Sauber.

Force India continued its solid season by taking another double-points finish with Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon in P8 and P9, capitalizing on a no-score for Williams.

Kevin Magnussen narrowly missed out on points for Haas, finishing 11th, while teammate Romain Grosjean retired early after being released from the pits in an unsafe manner.

Daniil Kvyat took P12 for Toro Rosso ahead of Renault’s Jolyon Palmer, while Lance Stroll was 14th for Williams ahead of the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.

Nico Hulkenberg retired late on for Renault, as did Paul di Resta, whose F1 comeback saw him be forced to park it in the garage with 10 laps remaining.

F1 now embarks on its summer break, returning with the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August.

HUNGARIAN GP RACE RESULT

Hunter-Reay released from hospital; not yet cleared to drive at Pocono

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Ryan Hunter-Reay has been released from a nearby hospital at Pocono Raceway after his accident in qualifying for Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) but has not yet been cleared to drive. He’ll be re-evaluated by INDYCAR Sunday morning.

The full release from INDYCAR and Andretti Autosport is below:

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was evaluated at Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Saturday for injuries to his left hip and knee sustained in a crash in qualifying for the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Hunter-Reay was treated and released but has not been cleared to drive, pending a re-evaluation Sunday morning.

“During qualifying today, out of nowhere, the car stepped out on me,” Hunter-Reay said. “It was a bit of a wiggle, which I caught. The second time it happened, it came with no warning – which is a bit confusing. I hit my hip pretty bad as well as my knee, so the doctors thought it would be best to go in for further evaluation. After a CT scan and MRI, I am able to go and get a good night’s sleep. I’m sure I’ll wake up sore, but will hopefully be able to get back in the DHL machine tomorrow.

“I know the entire Andretti Autosport team worked hard to get the car put back together and with 500 miles, there is still a chance to win from the back of the field. I can’t thank the Holmatro Safety Team enough for their quick response along with the medical staff at INDYCAR, Pocono and Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest. Also, thank you to the fans for reaching out with their support.”

IndyCar Paddock Pass: Pocono (VIDEO)

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NBCSN’s coverage of the Verizon IndyCar Series continues this weekend with the series trip to the “Tricky Triangle” for the ABC Supply 500 (Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN).

The NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass also continues for another episode from the three-turn oval, Pocono Raceway, in Long Pond, Pa.

NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter and Indy Lights analyst Anders Krohn checks in for the latest edition of the show, which you can see above.

On tap in this week’s episode are interviews with Team Penske teammates Josef Newgarden and Will Power, and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Hunter-Reay led first practice; however was involved in a heavy accident in qualifying later Saturday afternoon and transported to a nearby hospital.

His status is unclear for Sunday.

Newgarden leads the championship but had a tough qualifying run – he was only 14th Saturday afternoon – while Power was second among Chevrolets and starts fifth. He is the defending Pocono race winner.

You can see the episode above. Past IndyCar Paddock Pass episodes are below:


Chaves, Harding continue to shine at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – In two previous starts in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been shining stars, finishing ninth at the Indianapolis 500 and fifth at the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 at Texas Motor Speedway, avoiding several crashes and incidents in both races to do so, and advancing from 25th and 20th on the grid, respectively.

Returning to the series for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway (Sunday 2:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the combination continues its remarkably strong form, qualifying eighth for Sunday’s race, third fastest of the Chevrolet runners.

And with the goal of turning the team into a full-time effort next year, Chaves and the team appear to be picking up right where they left off.

“We’re just here to improve our team, get it ready for next year,” Chaves told NBC Sports. “We’d like to go home with a great result of course, that’s always the aim. But I think the work we did throughout the practice improved the car enough to wear I was pretty comfortable at the end.”

Of course, even though the team is still very new to the world of racing (their first race was this year’s Indianapolis 500), it doesn’t stop Chaves from having lofty expectations.

“You always want to shoot for the win,” he asserted when asked about expectations for this weekend’s ABC Supply 500. “Obviously it’s never easy – with the limited time we have on track, it just makes it even harder on top of it. We’re always trying to keep our expectations high and do the best job we can to accomplish them.”

Gabby Chaves and Harding Racing have been very impressive out of the box. Photo: IndyCar

And perhaps Chaves is right to have big expectations given the team’s first two races. Ninth at Indianapolis and fifth at Texas are genuinely impressive results for the brand new team. And on the surface, they are a surprise, given the organization itself hadn’t run any races at any level prior to this year. But, Chaves explained that the people involved in the team are more than familiar with the sport and know how to build a successful operation.

“It’s just a matter of having the right people involved,” Chaves said of their early success. “Our team owner, Mike Harding, is very dedicated to making sure that we have the means to go out and hire the best people we can. It’s hard to do when the full-time teams have already got most of those guys, but there’s a few guys left out there who are very quality guys. Then that comes down to our team manager, Larry Curry, who has been able to track down these guys and give them a good offer to come on board with us. We’re just going to get better from here.”

Specifically, team manager Curry has been instrumental in recruiting talent and helping the team get ahead of the game, as Chaves explained.

“When it came down to our Indy deal, we started getting our car ready, and a little bit through his connections, we were able to get our mockup engine a little sooner, our body fit sooner – enough that we had the time to go out and test and do a shakedown run at Texas before Indy. It’s that type of experience and knowledge that Larry brings to the team that helps us out.”

NBCSN’s Robin Miller reported earlier this weekend in a piece for RACER.com that the team is ready for a full season in 2018, with Harding also telling the Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network’s Jake Query that “100 percent number” Miller cited is closer to 95 percent.

Chaves stopped short of going that far, but feels confident that a full-season effort will come together.

“Obviously, our plans are still to go out and run the full season. I’d say every day we get closer and closer to that. I’d say it’s looking really good. I know (Robin Miller’s report) mentions 100% – I think we’re close to that. But, it’s not done until it’s done. So I’ll just keep focused on my job here this weekend.”

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Power tops final practice at Pocono

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LONG POND, Pa. – Team Penske’s Will Power topped final practice for tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway. Power’s best lap of 216.294 mph was turned late in the session and pipped teammate Simon Pagenaud for the top spot, making it a Team Penske 1-2 in final practice. Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Max Chilton and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth, the best of the Honda teams, while Helio Castroneves rebounded from his earlier qualifying crash to end the session in fifth, putting three Penske cars in the top five.

Of note: pole sitter Takuma Sato was 11th quickest and Ed Carpenter was 16th, Carpenter having missed qualifying as Ed Carpenter Racing made repairs to his No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet and missed the lineup time for pre-qualifying inspection by only a few minutes.

Also: Andretti Autosport’s No. 28 DHL Honda, usually piloted by Ryan Hunter-Reay, did not venture onto the track for final practice, with Hunter-Reay currently being evaluated at a local hospital following a qualifying crash.

Times are below. Tomorrow’s ABC Supply 500 begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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