Nico Rosberg satisfied with practice performance

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Nico Rosberg stormed to the top of the timesheets in the second free practice session for the British Grand Prix and although the Mercedes driver is pleased with his performance, he conceded that there is still work to do.

“It’s been a good day pace wise, for sure,” Rosberg explained. “For qualifying, I think I can do the job again. That’s a nice start to the weekend.”

Once again though, Rosberg admitted that he was struggling with the W04’s long run pace which saw him fail to convert pole position into a victory at the Bahrain and Spanish Grands Prix.

“We did a long run this afternoon and it was looking- okay not great and that’s going to be the big challenge for us, long runs on this track.”

Rosberg did confirm that some of the upgrades applied to the car were intended to aid its tire wear.

“There are further pieces again that are on the car to help with tire degradation, we hope it’s the right thing to do. Today was difficult to learn much about it but we’ll see as the weekend goes on and especially in the race. I’m sure we’re on the right track.”

Indeed, the wet weather curtailed running in FP1 and made any evaluation impossible. Rosberg did extend his sympathy to the fans who had braved the conditions, although he also made his reservations over the FIA’s introduction of an ‘FP1 tire’ for next season clear.

“It was a bit disappointing for the fans today. They paid a lot of money and then we don’t run, so it would be worth looking into that [extra set of tires].

“But what to do, I don’t know, because we already have that extra set of tires as it is. It’s just the fact that we don’t really want to risk things going out in the wet when it’s going to be dry all weekend and it’s things like engine degredation. We only have a limited amount of engines for the season, and any extra laps that we do, we lose power, so you don’t want to do any useless laps on the engine either.”

It is clear that, once again, Mercedes will be competitive in qualifying, but as they have already found out this season, it means little if the race pace is not there on Sunday.

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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