Rosberg storms to pole position in Bahrain

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Nico Rosberg has claimed pole position for the Bahrain Grand Prix after finishing quickest in qualifying today.

The Mercedes driver surprised many to go quickest in the final session, with the team expected to struggle in Bahrain. Rosberg’s time of 1:32.330 was two-tenths quicker than Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, who will join his compatriot on the front row.

Fernando Alonso qualified 3rd, with a mistake in Q3 meaning that he could not challenge for pole position, despite finishing quickest in Q1. Lewis Hamilton qualified 4th, but he will drop five places on the grid due to a gearbox penalty. Mark Webber, who also has a penalty, finished 5th, meaning that Felipe Massa will start in 4th for Ferrari on the harder tire.

Force India impressed once again to finish 7th and 8th, with Paul di Resta outqualifying Adrian Sutil, whilst Kimi Raikkonen could only line up 9th. Jenson Button failed to set a time, and he will start in 10th tomorrow.

The first qualifying session saw Alonso finish five-tenths clear of the rest of the field, with Red Bull leaving Vettel and Webber’s laps until very late on the softer tire. Further back, Marussia’s struggles continued as Max Chilton qualified last behind Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde, whilst Jules Bianchi finished a full nine-tenths behind Charles Pic. Esteban Gutierrez qualified P18, with a five-place grid penalty dropping him to last, whilst Pastor Maldonado was highly unlucky to make it into Q2. The Venezuelan driver set a lap time identical to that of his teammate Valtteri Bottas, but the Finn made it through having posted his time before Maldonado.

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Q2 failed to yield too many surprises as all of the big names made it through. However, Romain Grosjean could not match teammate Kimi Raikkonen for pace, finishing 11th, whilst Sergio Perez’s poor form continued as he ended up in P12. Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified 6th for last year’s race in Bahrain, could only line up 13th, albeit just 0.2 seconds off Button’s P10 time. Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas and Jean-Eric Vergne completed the classification in Q2, lining up 14th, 15th and 16th respectively.

The flurry of activity towards the end of Q3 meant that it was crucial to get good track position, and Rosberg appeared to perfect his lap to seal his second career pole position. Mercedes will be wary of Red Bull and Ferrari tomorrow, especially with Alonso running strongly in practice, and Massa’s alternative strategy suggests we are in for a thrilling race in Bahrain tomorrow.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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