A look down Baltimore's pit lane (Tony DiZinno)

Thursday notebook: Baltimore IndyCar and ALMS setup day

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Although there is no on-track activity Thursday at the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT, IndyCar and American Le Mans Series teams were still heavily in action preparing and setting up for the weekend around the street course that encloses Camden Yards. A few quick news and notes to follow from both series:

  • There’s not much in the way of circuit changes, other than the asphalt being laid down around pit in and the temporary chicane being put in on the front straight. The biggest change, of course, is the painting of pit boxes in reaction to last week’s Scott Dixon/Will Power contretemps at Sonoma. As IndyCar is the primary series at the circuit, the pit boxes are designed to IndyCar specifications; the unintended consequence, though, is that the sharing American Le Mans Series teams will need to guide their cars in knowing that their available space is smaller. More than 30 ALMS cars are entered while only 24 IndyCars will take the green flag on Sunday.
  • IndyCar points leader Helio Castroneves had his media availability Thursday and among the topics he discussed, besides points and IndyCar’s new pit box changes, was how restarts will work here at Baltimore. A year ago, his Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe was passed by Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final restart as the two exited the chicane and launched on the front straight.  “We’ll hit the details of this in the driver’s meeting but here, it’s very difficult to time it correctly,” he said. “It goes from single file, to double file, and then you go. You have to time it just right to make sure you have a good idea of when to go.” Castroneves has finished just 17th and 10th in two prior Baltimore starts.
  • Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing sophomore Josef Newgarden did a photo shoot with the Soft Side 1 to raise awareness and help kittens in the Baltimore area find homes. If you follow Newgarden on Instagram you’re aware he’s made tongue-in-cheek references to cats before, and the sounds of “oohs” and “awwwws” were prevalent at every angle.
  • Other ALMS notes: Dane Cameron joins the PR1/Mathiasen PC class entry as co-driver to Mike Guasch. The RSR team, run by Paul Gentilozzi, has sold its own PC chassis to Peter Baron’s Starworks team and Alex Popow replaces Duncan Ende as the car’s Silver-rated driver. It’s unfortunate for Ende, who co-drove with Bruno Junqueira to victory at Road America three weeks ago and won’t have a chance to repeat.
  • In ALMS P2, as was written earlier this week, there’s a shuffle in the P2 class with Guy Cosmo moving from Extreme Speed to Level 5. Cosmo will co-drive with Marino Franchitti in the No. 552 HPD ARX-03b with Level 5 team principal Scott Tucker and the returning Ryan Briscoe in the championship-leading No. 551. Anthony Lazzaro, who had been rated a Gold driver, will take Cosmo’s place in Extreme Speed’s No. 01. P2 regulations state at least one Silver driver must be used in a car and Lazzaro, who turned 50 earlier this week (August 26) would qualify to be downgraded to a Silver per that age change. That said, when I asked him directly about the change, he was unsure whether his birthday meant he would have a different driver classification to meet the requirement.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.