Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Friday St. Petersburg notebook

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Friday saw all three series of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires hit the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida for practice and qualifying ahead of Race 1 on a double-header weekend for all three series as they kick off their 2018 seasons.

Some familiar faces rose to the occasion in qualifying for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, while a new face ended up taking pole in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Below are reports on happenings from all three series.

Indy Lights: Aaron Telitz Edges Pato O’Ward for Race 1 Pole

Belardi Auto Racing’s Aaron Telitz, who scored a victory in Race 1 at St. Petersburg last year, put himself in prime position to do the same in 2018, scoring pole for Race 1 with a lap of 1:05.128, about one-and-a-half tenths quicker than Andretti Autosport’s Pato O’Ward, who qualified second.

Colton Herta, who won Race 2 on the streets of St. Petersburg last year, qualified in third for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing, while Santiago Urrutia, Telitz’s teammate at Belardi, qualified fourth. Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni, last year’s Pro Mazda champion, qualified fifth in his Indy Lights debut.

Results are below. Race 1 for Indy Lights rolls off at 1:05 p.m. ET on Saturday.

Pro Mazda: Askew Survives Frantic Final Minutes to Grab Race 1 Pole

Oliver Askew will lead the Pro Mazda field to green in Race 1. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The final minutes of Pro Mazda qualifying were about as frantic as they get, with a number of drivers taking the top spot, only to be overtaken by the next car on the track, and then again by the next car on the car, and so on.

All told, at least five different teams had drivers at or near the top of the time charts as qualifying drew to a close. In the end, it was Oliver Askew and Cape Motorsports, last year’s USF2000 champions, surviving the last-minute chaos to take pole for Race 1 with a lap of 1:08.103, almost two tenths of a second ahead of the second-place run from Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson.

RP Motorsport Racing rookie Harrison Scott impressed on his debut, qualifying a strong third after leading the session at various points, with the Juncos Racing duo of Carlos Cunha and Robert Megennis rounding out the top five.

Qualifying results are below. Pro Mazda Race 1 rolls off at 12:10 p.m. ET on Saturday.

USF2000: Jose Sierra Knocks Off Kyle Kirkwood to Take Surprise Race 1 Pole

Jose Sierra surprised many by qualifying first for Race 1 of the USF2000 weekend. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Cape Motorsports’s Kyle Kirkwood and DEForce Racing’s Jose Sierra found themselves in a duel for the pole at the end qualifying. Sierra actually led the way, but Kirkwood managed to take the top spot from him on his final lap.

Sierra, however, had one more trick up his sleeve and retook the top spot as the session came to end, and the 18-year-old native of Mexico will lead the USF2000 field to the green for Race 1.

Kirkwood managed to qualify in second, followed by Pabst Racing’s Kaylen Frederick in third. Newcomer Igor Fraga was fourth for Exclusive Autosport while Zach Holden, one of Sierra’s teammates at DEForce, qualified fifth.

Results are below. Race 1 for USF2000 rolls off at 10:15 a.m. ET.


Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.