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Gasly’s USGP no-show in vain as Super Formula finale is cancelled

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Red Bull junior and Toro Rosso Formula 1 driver Pierre Gasly’s absence from the United States Grand Prix was in vain after the Super Formula season finale was canceled due to a typhoon.

2016 GP2 champion Gasly was placed in Super Formula by Red Bull for 2017, only to be drafted in at Toro Rosso for the Malaysian Grand Prix earlier this month.

Gasly was supposed to see out the F1 season, but a joint call by Red Bull and Honda saw the Frenchman stick to his prior commitments and skip this weekend’s USGP in order to fight for the Super Formula title at Suzuka.

Entering the final race weekend half a point back from series leader Hiroaki Ishiura, Gasly stood a chance of becoming the first rookie Super Formula champion in over 20 years.

However, with heavy rain in the area affecting qualifying, officials at Suzuka announced the remainder of the meeting would be canceled due to a typhoon in the area, declaring Ishiura the 2017 champion.

Gasly’s absence from the USGP has paved the way for Porsche factory driver Brendon Hartley to make his surprise F1 debut with Toro Rosso in Austin, with the New Zealander set to qualify today.

Gasly is due to return to Toro Rosso for the final three races of the F1 season, starting with next weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

Teammates James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens earn top-fives at Barber

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For the first time this season, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates James Hinchcilffe and Robert Wickens earned top-five finishes in the same race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

Hinchcliffe finished third in the Grand Prix of Alabama; Wickens was one spot behind in fourth.

Wickens had one previous podium at Phoenix with his second-place finish. Hinchcliffe’s best result was a fourth in the season-opener in St Petersburg, Fla., so this marked his first podium of the year.

Both drivers needed a little help from the rain.

As precipitation began to fall in the closing stages of the race, Hinchliffe asked his team on a couple of occasions if it was wet enough to pit for rain tires. He was told twice to stay out and was then called into to the pits at the optimal time.

“Solid weekend for us after coming here before – not a great test,” Hinchcliffe said. “Two cars in the top 10 qualifying; two cars, top five in the race. Pretty proud of these boys, everybody on the Arrow car.”

The rain helped Wickens’ race strategy come together.

“I was having to save a lot of fuel in that second stint,” Wickens said. “So once (Scott) Dixon starting getting close to me I was thinking ‘Oh God, I’m going to actually have to give this one up.’ And then the rain came, so the fuel mileage happened naturally. So, yeah, it saved us a bit.”

And while both were pleased with their top-five finishes, drivers are rarely satisfied unless they are standing on the top step of the podium.

Wickens’ top-five finish was hard-fought. After winning the pole at St Petersburg and starting sixth at Phoenix, he failed to advance to the Fast 6 in back-to-back races at Long Beach and Barber – qualifying 10th both times.

“I was a little gutted that we came out in a big bunch of traffic,” Wickens continued. “It made the race fun, but a little frustrating as well because of people off sequence and whatnot. We lost a lot of track position there. Both of us could have been fighting for higher steps on the podium, but we need to do a little better job in qualifying. “