Vettel leads incident-packed FP2 at Suzuka

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As he seeks his fourth Japanese Grand Prix win and potentially, a fourth straight Formula One World Championship, Sebastian Vettel topped the timesheets once again in Friday’s second 90-minute free practice.

Vettel is the first driver this weekend to dip into the 1:33 range at the 3.6-mile Suzuka Circuit, a 1:33.852 with 55 minutes remaining and on Pirelli’s medium (alternate) tires.

Mark Webber was next in the second Red Bull Renault, in a new chassis (1:34.020), ahead of Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) and the pair of Lotus Renaults, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean.

Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), Daniel Ricciardo (Toro Rosso), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Jenson Button (McLaren) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) completed the top 10.  All from Webber to Button were in the 1:34 range.

With the fast laps done early most of the rest of the session was spent in full race runs on both the hards and mediums; lap times generally were in the 1:39 to 1:40 range.

Raikkonen’s session ended early when with more than half an hour left, he lost control at the tail end of the Esses. His Lotus snapped at Dunlop and beached itself in the gravel. Fortuitously for the Finn, he was near the back of the paddock entrance, which made for a short walk back to the team garage.

While Raikkonen’s off was one part of the session, it wasn’t the biggest moment. Sergio Perez lost control at Spoon 17 minutes into the session, when his right side wheels got onto the painted surface on driver’s right at corner entry to the left-hander. His McLaren snapped and he smacked the tire barrier at an almighty rate. Perez was a bit dazed and had to take a few minutes to collect himself before getting out of the car under his own power.

Alonso had a spin at the entrance to Degner 1, with no damage, while Pastor Maldonado had an incident at Degner 2 when he ran wide and slid through the gravel, into the tire barrier. After his lost wheel in FP1, it was a lost day for the Williams driver.

Webber also had a moment when he came upon Paul di Resta’s slowing Force India, again through Degner, and allegedly cursed out the Force Indias over the radio.

Charles Pic resumed in the Caterham after missing FP1 and led teammate Giedo van der Garde and Marussia’s Max Chilton at the back of the field. The usual 22 cars were down one this session with Jules Bianchi out after crashing in FP1.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.