Photo: Porsche

Porsche secures FIA WEC pole in Mexico

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The FIA World Endurance Championship resumes its season with the first of five flyaway races to conclude its nine-race season at the 6 Hours of Mexico from Mexico City.

While the championship’s future plans were the topic of discussion earlier this weekend, on-track it was time for the 26 cars to focus for qualifying late Saturday afternoon following two practice sessions earlier in the day.

LMP1/LMP2

Three different cars led practice earlier in the weekend with the No. 1 Porsche 919 Hybrid, the No. 2 Porsche and No. 8 Toyota TS050 Hybrid, respectively, top of the charts in LMP1 between Friday’s lone practice, and then the No. 2 Porsche and No. 8 Toyota top of Saturday’s second and third practice sessions.

That set it up for qualifying, which was bumped up a few minutes owing to incoming bad weather, to see the latest battle between the two remaining LMP1 hybrid manufacturers for the pole spot.

In the end, it was Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley, sharing the No. 2 Porsche, who scored the pole position with a best average lap time of 1:24.562 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Those two share their car with Earl Bamber.

The sister Porsche (No. 1 of Andre Lotterer, Nick Tandy and Neel Jani) ended just behind at 1:24.710, with the Toyotas not far off either. With an average of 1:24.802, the No. 7 Toyota ended ahead of the No. 8 Toyota.

Similarly in LMP2, it was the No. 36 Signatech Alpine Matmut Alpine A470 and Nos. 38, then 37 Jackie Chan DC Racing Oreca 07s which made it three different cars leading practice prior to qualifying there.

In qualifying, it was the lone Signatech Alpine car on pole. Nicolas Lapierre and Gustavo Menezes share that car with new third driver Andre Negrao, moving over from the No. 35 car that has been withdrawn from competition. A 1:32.809 average lap time put this car atop the charts.

The No. 38 Jackie Chan DC Racing, No. 31 Rebellion Racing, No. 26 G-Drive Racing and No. 25 CEFC TRS Manor Orecas completed the top five here.

GTE-Pro/GTE-Am

AF Corse secured the GTE-Pro class pole with Davide Rigon and Sam Bird in the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE at an average time of 1:39.425.

The two drivers are reunited this weekend after Bird missed the series’ most recent race at the Nürburgring in mid-July owing to his FIA Formula E Championship commitments at New York City.

This result comes after the No. 51 Ferrari, No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage V8 and No. 71 Ferrari led the three practice sessions in order. The No. 95 Aston Martin slots in second, ahead of the pair of Ford Chip Ganassi Team UK Ford GTs.

Dempsey-Proton Racing scored the GTE-Am class pole with Christian Ried and Matteo Cairoli in the No. 77 Porsche 911 RSR (1:42.166). That pair shares the Porsche with Marvin Dienst. The No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8 of Pedro Lamy, Paul Dalla Lana and Mathias Lauda will roll off from second in class.

Sunday’s race runs from noon to 6 p.m. local time, so 1 to 7 p.m. ET.

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.