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Formula 1: Vettel holds off Bottas charge to win in Bahrain

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Differing tire strategies for Scuderia Ferrari and Mercedes AMG Petronas produced a thrilling finish to Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

Pole sitter, and leader for most of the race, Sebastian Vettel started the race on super soft Pirelli tires before switching to the softs on a Lap 18 pit stop. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas started on the super softs as well, but the team put Bottas on medium compound Pirellis during their stop on lap 21.

Mercedes started Hamilton on soft tires, and he worked his way from ninth on the grid up to fourth in the first stint, which featured a thrilling three-wide pass into Turn 1, in which he passed Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, and Fernando Alonso in one move.

Hamilton pitted on Lap 26, the team also putting him on mediums.

The differing tire strategies set up a showdown in the second half of the race, with Ferrari looking at a two-stop strategy, while Mercedes went with one stop. However, Ferrari changed their strategy following a disastrous pit stop for Kimi Raikkonen on Lap 36, in which he left early and clipped one of the crew members with the left-rear tire.

The left-rear had also been left loose on Raikkonen’s SF71H, forcing him to come to an immediate stop on the pit lane, while medical personnel tended to the injured crew member.

In terms of race strategy, Ferrari opted to call an audible to keep Vettel out the rest of the way, hoping that their soft tires would last and that Bottas and Hamilton would not catch him.

While Hamilton was a little too far back in third to catch the front two, Bottas put on a charge in the final ten laps to close right on the back of Vettel, getting within DRS range with two laps remaining.

However, despite being on better tires – Vettel’s softs had clearly gone passed their point of usefulness – Bottas could not find a way around Vettel, who did a superb job of holding Bottas at bay to take the win, his second in a row to start the 2018 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season, and on his 200th career start as well.

Bottas and Hamilton ended up second and third to complete the podium.

Behind the top three, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly put in the best performance of his young F1 career, starting fifth and running a strong and clean race the entire way to finish an outstanding fourth, the team’s best result since Carlos Sainz Jr. finished fourth at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix.

The result earned Gasly “Driver of the Day” and set off a frantic and enthusiastic celebration for the Toro Rosso team.

Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen finished a stout fifth, rebounding from the team’s disappointment from the Australian Grand Prix, followed by Renault Sport F1 Team’s Nico Hulkenberg in sixth. The McLaren F1 duo of Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne finished seventh and eighth, putting both cars in the points for the second race in a row.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1’s Marcus Ericsson used a one-stop strategy to finish a brilliant ninth, scoring the team’s first points of 2018, while Sahara Force India’s Esteban Ocon finished 10th, also scoring the first points of 2018 for his team.

Red Bull Racing’s efforts, however, came to a disastrous halt in the early laps. Max Verstappen suffered a left-rear puncture following contact with Hamilton on Lap 2 after trying an inside pass in Turn 1 – the right-front of Hamilton’s W09 having touched the left-rear of Verstappen’s RB14 on corner exit as they battled for tenth.

Ahead of them, Daniel Ricciardo, who ran in fourth at the end of Lap 1, came to a halt just after the Verstappen contact, his RB14 suffering a sudden loss of all power, briefly forcing a Virtual Safety Car so his chassis could be removed from the circuit.

Verstappen, meanwhile, was forced to retire after incurring too much damage from his puncture.

The double DNF drops Red Bull behind McLaren to fourth in the constructor’s championship, with two races down in 2018.

Results are below. Formula 1 heads to the Shanghai International Circuit for the Chinese Grand Prix next week.

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NHRA shocker in Houston: John Force fails to qualify for first time since 2008, snaps 221-race streak

Photo and videos courtesy NHRA
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Sunday’s eliminations in the 31st annual NHRA SpringNationals at Royal Purple Raceway in suburban Houston  just won’t be the same without John Force.

In one of the most stunning turn of events seen in the last decade-plus in NHRA drag racing, the legendary 16-time Funny Car champion and the sport’s all-time winningest driver on Saturday failed to qualify for Sunday’s main event of the race weekend.

It marks the first time Force, who turns 69 on May 4, failed to qualify for a race since Sept. 13, 2008 in Charlotte race, snapping a string of having made the eliminations in each of the subsequent 221 races until failing to do so Saturday.

“That is hard for me,” Force said after failing to go any faster than 222.29 mph in the four qualifying rounds for the race, two on Friday and the other two on Saturday. “You earn what you get. We didn’t put it in the show. We couldn’t get to half-track.

“We have had a lot of problems all year. At least I got my final shot to get in and I didn’t make it. I will be here tomorrow rooting on Robert, Courtney and Brittany (teammates Robert Hight and daughters Courtney and Brittany Force). I’ll be signing autographs for all the fans. I am sorry to all of you fans that I didn’t make it.”

Saturday’s failure to qualify marked only the 22nd time he’s DNQ’d in his 40-year professional drag racing career. He set a drag racing record by qualifying for 395 consecutive events from 1988 until April 2007.

“I am bummed that the boss didn’t get in. That was quite a streak he had going,” Hight said of hoss and father-in-law. “There is nobody better at rallying a team and leading a comeback than John Force.

“He loves the fight and he will do whatever it takes to get his team back on top. It really isn’t something to worry about because two of our Chevys are No.1 and No. 2 right now.

“We have good combinations and we just have to duplicate one of those set ups for John’s PEAK Funny car. He’ll be back next week in Charlotte.”

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As for the other classes (information courtesy NHRA Media Relations):Leah Pritchett set a new Top Fuel track record during the final qualifying session on Saturday to secure the top spot in Top Fuel heading into Sunday.Hight (Funny Car) and Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) are also No. 1 qualifiers in their respective categories at the fifth of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Defending event champion Pritchett raced her Mopar Dodge dragster to a pass of 3.680-seconds at 326.00 mph. This is her first No. 1 qualifier of the season and eighth of her career.

“We’ve been developing our confidence the last couple of races,” Pritchett stated. “To be able to put it on the track is phenomenal. We know we need to be exceptional because our competition is exceptional.”

Pritchett will line up against Terry Brian in round one of eliminations on Sunday. Defending world champion Brittany Force locked-in the No. 2 spot after a 3.701 at 313.80 in her Monster Energy dragster. Tony Schumacher is seeded third and will face William Litton.

Hight’s final qualifying pass of 3.894 at 317.27 in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro took him to the top of the Funny Car category. This is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season, second at Houston and 58th of his career.

“This is going to be a new ball game tomorrow,” Hight said. “With fresh asphalt and the sun being out; these cars are going to spin. It’s definitely going to be fun. Two of our Chevy’s are one and two (in Funny Car) which shows we have good combinations.”

Hight will face-off against Todd Simpson Sunday morning in the first round. Teammate Courtney Force sits in the No. 2 position with a pass of 3.911 at 295.14 in her Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Camaro and two-time world champion Matt Hagan rounds out the top three.

Anderson, four-time Pro Stock world champion, remained atop the field Saturday with his pass of 6.492 at 213.00 in his Summit Racing Equipment Chevrolet Camaro from the first qualifying session on Friday. He notched his third consecutive No. 1 qualifier of the season and is seeking his first victory of the year.

“I haven’t had great Sunday’s yet,” Anderson stated. “I know I’m going to break through one of these days though. The weather is going to be great again tomorrow. I feel good about it, I’m excited and so far it’s just been a great weekend.”

Anderson will race Steve Graham in the first round of eliminations. Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified in the No. 2 position with a pass of 6.504 at 212.36 in his JEGS.com/Elite Performance Chevrolet Camaro and Tanner Gray is third.

Eliminations at the NHRA SpringNationals begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday at Royal Purple Raceway.

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SUNDAY’S FIRST-ROUND PAIRINGS FOR ELIMINATIONS:

TOP FUEL: 1. Leah Pritchett, 3.680 seconds, 326.00 mph vs. 16. Terry Brian, 4.275, 284.62; 2. Brittany Force, 3.701, 320.20 vs. 15. Terry Haddock, 4.081, 287.17; 3. Tony Schumacher, 3.703, 322.73 vs. 14. Bill Litton, 3.927, 306.60; 4. Billy Torrence, 3.737, 317.87 vs. 13. Kebin Kinsley, 3.819, 313.51; 5. Antron Brown, 3.740, 324.98 vs. 12. Terry McMillen, 3.783, 314.31; 6. Clay Millican, 3.746, 315.78 vs. 11. Mike Salinas, 3.766, 313.73; 7. Doug Kalitta, 3.748, 320.05 vs. 10. Richie Crampton, 3.766, 316.23; 8. Scott Palmer, 3.754, 318.17 vs. 9. Steve Torrence, 3.759, 313.88. Did Not Qualify: 17. Terry Totten, 4.636, 216.34.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.894, 317.27 vs. 16. Todd Simpson, Dodge Charger, 4.318, 288.33; 2. Courtney Force, Camaro, 3.911, 313.58 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Camry, 4.151, 283.49; 3. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.913, 311.85 vs. 14. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.077, 305.77; 4. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.918, 317.42 vs. 13. Richard Townsend, Camry, 4.026, 308.99; 5. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 3.918, 301.94 vs. 12. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.017, 307.51; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 3.925, 311.41 vs. 11. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 3.994, 311.34; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.926, 313.00 vs. 10. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.989, 313.37; 8. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.927, 316.52 vs. 9. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.938, 314.09. Did Not Qualify: 17. Jim Campbell, 4.341, 273.05; 18. John Force, 4.625, 222.29.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.492, 213.00 vs. 16. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.775, 205.60; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.504, 212.36 vs. 15. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.621, 208.65; 3. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.507, 211.99 vs. 14. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.592, 210.93; 4. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.513, 212.29 vs. 13. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.548, 210.67; 5. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.518, 211.99 vs. 12. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.545, 210.50; 6. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.525, 212.79 vs. 11. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.532, 212.73; 7. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.527, 212.29 vs. 10. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.532, 211.79; 8. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.528, 211.93 vs. 9. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.530, 211.33.