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Vandoorne repeats best F1 result in Malaysia, passes Alonso in points

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Stoffel Vandoorne’s rise in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship continued on Sunday in Malaysia as he matched his best grand prix finish of P7 for McLaren.

After a tough start to his first full season in F1, Vandoorne charged to seventh place in Singapore two weeks ago before leading McLaren’s charge once again in Malaysia, repeating the result.

A perfectly-executed race saw Vandoorne finish second out of the midfield runners in Malaysia, trailing only Force India’s Sergio Perez, and pass teammate Fernando Alonso in the points standings.

“I can say that this was my best ever race in Formula 1,” Vandoorne said after the race.

“All weekend, I’ve been really strong and felt really confident with the car. After qualifying seventh, we weren’t really confident about where we’d finish in the race, so to pull off seventh today is an amazing result.”

Vandoorne ran as high as fifth early on, but was not surprised to slip back, losing places to Perez and the recovering Sebastian Vettel.

“I made a great start. We knew it was probably going to be difficult to hold off the Force Indias and the Williams behind, but only Perez came through,” Vandoorne said.

“From then on, I had amazing pace, pushed hard every lap to try and manage the tires and maintain the gap over Stroll, and I managed that until the end. I’m very happy.”

By contrast, Alonso had a tough race spent mostly running outside of the points as he struggled to put McLaren’s aerodynamic updates to good use.

“It was a tough race today. From the very beginning, at the second corner, the two Williams touched in front of me, and made me lose a few positions,” Alonso said.

“As a result, we ended up in the secondary group, running a little slower than our true pace, and could not overtake.

“So I lost a lot of time, and that really compromised our race. A shame, definitely not one of our best races today.

“But we’ll have better days, and, hopefully in Japan, we’ll come back with stronger form, and I’ll be able to add my contribution to the constructors’ championship on Honda’s home ground.

“Having scored points at this track and at Singapore, two very different circuits, is really good for the team. I hope we can continue scoring more points in the remaining races.”

NHRA: John Force-like motor explosions get contagious during Sunday’s Gatornationals

Photo and video courtesy NHRA
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John Force is rubbing off on others – but probably not the way they or he would like.

The 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion has had spectacular motor explosions in each of the first three races of the new NHRA season, including during Friday’s qualifying for this weekend’s Gatornationals.

During Sunday’s quarterfinals of eliminations, Force’s teammate (and son-in-law and president of John Force Racing) Robert Hight squared off with fellow Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.

As the duo closed in on the finish line, both cars experienced spectacular motor explosions of their own – virtually side-by-side and nearly at the same time.

Hight’s car was the first to explode, tossing its body high in the air. A split-second later, Hagan’s car exploded, also sending the body flying.

Check out the NHRA video:

Hight wound up losing the race.

Hagan, meanwhile, and his crack pit crew rolled their backup car off the hauler, put in a new motor and went on to race through the semifinals and into the finals, losing to race winner “Fast Jack” Beckman.

“We had a pretty great race day, to be honest,” Hagan said. “I’ve never been to the finals in Gainesville.

“We obviously had a huge blow up in the second round, then to watch these guys pull the other car back out and put it together in the amount of time they had, then turn a win light on against Capps (Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the semifinals), then to be able to go to a final, it was huge and it speaks for itself.”

As for Hight, here’s his take on what happened with the motor explosion:

“I couldn’t see (Hagan) over there and it wasn’t like it was hazing the tires or anything else. As it turns out it wasn’t spinning at all. It kicked two rods out when it blacked the bearings in the crank then it hit the valves and blew up.

“The thing gave me no indication at all before that. What really scared me was once I got it under control and I look over and see his body is off his car. I am thinking ‘Oh man, he got gathered up in me.’ Then I stood up and looked and his injector was sideways so I realized he had an explosion as well. We are just lucky we didn’t get into each other.”

As for the guy who has had so much trouble in the motor department, John Force, he lost in the first round of Sunday’s eliminations to daughter Courtney Force.

John Force planned on shutting the motor off on his car at around the 700-foot mark of the 1,000-foot dragstrip, not wanting to risk another motor explosion – even though it meant a likely loss to his daughter.

Now John Force and his entire four-car team, including Courtney Force, Robert Hight and daughter and Top Fuel driver Brittany Force, will be off for extensive testing to try and determine what’s been causing the motor explosions.

“We have to evaluate it and go test,” Force said. “We’ll figure it out.”

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