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MRTI: Askew takes critical USF2000 pole

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The Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires kicked off its Friday action from Watkins Glen International early in the morning, with qualifying for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda at 8:00 a.m. ET and second practice for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires at 8:45 a.m. ET.

Below are quick reports for both sessions.

USF2000

Qualifying for this weekend’s USF2000 season finale saw an all-out duel between title combatants Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay.

VeeKay, who notably did not turn a flying lap in second practice on Friday to save a set of tires, was the first to drop the hammer, leading early on with a lap at 1:47.853. However, Askew overtook him in the second half of the session with a 1:47.531, and the two dueled each other from there.

In the end, after they swapped the lead a couple times between them, it was Askew securing the pole, and a critical bonus point in the process, with a quick lap of 1:46.163, which broke the track record by over six seconds. Askew’s time bettered VeeKay’s best lap of 1:46.272 by just over one tenth of a second.

The pole for Askew increases his points lead over VeeKay to 14 ahead of this afternoon’s season finale.

Kory Enders, Andres Gutierrez, and Kaylen Frederick filled out the top five. The session saw a brief red flag after Robert Megennis spun and made contact with the wall exiting Turn 1. Megennis, who is pulling double duty this weekend and running in both USF2000 and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, will start the USF2000 race from 20th.

Qualifying results are below. The final race of the USF2000 season rolls off at 1:15 p.m. ET.

Indy Lights

Aaron Telitz topped Indy Lights Practice on Saturday morning, turning a quick lap of 1:33.237. Colton Herta, Nico Jamin, Shelby Blackstock, and Neil Alberico completed the top five. Champion-elect Kyle Kaiser was ninth at the end of practice.

The session was stopped on two occasions. First, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, and Nicolas Dapero all spun in separate incidents due to cold temperatures, forcing a brief stoppage as they returned to the pits. However, all three were able to return to the track.

The second incident was for Juan Piedrahita, who locked up the brakes entering Turn 8 and hit the outside wall with the nose of the car before sliding into the gravel. Piedrahita’s No. 2 Team Pelfrey entry suffered significant damage to the front wing assembly and left-front suspension, and he was unable to return to the track.

Of note: Carlin’s Garth Rickards did not go out for practice in the morning and will not be participating in Indy Lights competition for the rest of the weekend. Rickards’ No. 11 entry incurred damage during Friday practice after going over the curbing, and the team was unable to repair the car.

 

Lap times are below. Qualifying for tomorrow’s season-ending Indy Lights race begins Saturday afternoon. at 2:15 p.m. ET.

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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.