Paul di Resta optimistic for Bahrain Grand Prix

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Paul di Resta has every reason to feel quietly confident for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix after finishing 5th in both free practice sessions today.

The Force India driver has made a good start to the season, and he recovered from an early run-in with teammate Adrian Sutil in China to finish 8th. di Resta believes that a repeat performance in Bahrain is not out of the question.

“We’ve had a constructive day,” he told Sky Sports. “I think from lap one the car has worked well. We’ve had issues we’ve had to address and there were points where it was more difficult in FP2, but eventually we worked back to the level we were at in FP1.

“We’re fairly content that we could repeat what we did in Malaysia with the heat, and it’s naturally proving the car works much better in these conditions.”

Force India has made a good start to the 2013 season, with Adrian Sutil leading at the Australian Grand Prix after perfecting his strategy. The car certainly appears to be kind on its tires, and di Resta is also happy with his long run pace.

“I can say that, even on long runs, if we qualified anywhere in the top ten then I’m fairly happy of a repeat of a decent race.

“I would certainly like to think that Q3 is well on our list, where we are at the moment.”

di Resta finished last year’s race in P6, fending off Fernando Alonso towards the end, and he will be keen on repeating this performance as he looks to impress some of the more established teams during his third season in Formula One. The team certainly appears to be in a position to battle for points, and underperforming McLaren will undoubtedly act as a yard stick for Force India this weekend.

MORE: Watch qualifying and the Bahrain Grand Prix online or on your phone or tablet

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.