Bottas on pole, Mercedes front-row lock-out in Abu Dhabi qualifying

Leave a comment

Valtteri Bottas edged out Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton in the final stage of qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday to pick up the final pole position of the 2017 season.

After lagging behind Hamilton through all three practice sessions, Bottas appeared to make a step towards his teammate early in qualifying before taking provisional pole with a stunning opening lap in Q3 at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Bottas looked to have thrown away his advantage after a slow start to his final Q3 lap prompted Mercedes to send him back to the pits, with Hamilton improving and on course for his fourth pole in Abu Dhabi.

A mistake at the final corner saw Hamilton run wide and lose time, failing to improve in the process to leave Bottas on pole position for the season-closer.

As Mercedes locked out the top two positions, Ferrari and Red Bull shared the second and third rows, with Sebastian Vettel leading the way in third place ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who squeezed ahead of Kimi Raikkonen with his final qualifying lap.

Max Verstappen had a difficult qualifying in the second Red Bull, finishing over a second off Bottas in sixth, with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg ending the session as the leading midfielder in P7.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon grabbed eighth and ninth place on the grid for Force India, while Felipe Massa will start his final F1 grand prix from P10 on the grid after barging his way through to Q3 at the expense of Fernando Alonso.

The final qualifying session of the McLaren-Honda partnership failed to offer much joy as both Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne dropped out in Q2, finishing 11th and 13th respectively.

Carlos Sainz Jr. failed to make it through to Q3 after a slow final effort due to a suspected power unit issue, taking 12th, while Kevin Magnussen and Lance Stroll filled out the Q2 dropzone in 14th and 15th.

The race for P6 in the constructors’ championship took an early twist in qualifying as both Toro Rossos and one of the Haas drivers were eliminated at the first hurdle, playing to Renault’s favor.

Romain Grosjean was bumped out in Q1 by Stroll’s late lap, while Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley were 17th and 20th respectively, split by the Sauber pair of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

 

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne