Schmidt trio of Aleshin, Razia, Harvey complete first oval tests

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Sam Schmidt’s IndyCar and Indy Lights teams ventured to Homestead-Miami Speedway this week for a pair of oval tests, to give three drivers their first crack at an oval.

On Tuesday, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports IndyCar rookie Mikhail Aleshin took his official oval rookie test.

The Russian passed with flying colors, and, judging by the tweets below, he seemed happy with the experience.

On Thursday, the team’s Indy Lights program took to Homestead with three drivers. Tristan Vautier, who Aleshin replaces in IndyCar, is still proving an invaluable asset to both SPM and the series as he spent the day doing tire testing for Cooper Tire. Cooper replaces Firestone as Indy Lights’ tire partner, and will also serve as the series’ presnting sponsor in 2014.

Meanwhile Jack Harvey, who is confirmed, and Luiz Razia, who appears all but confirmed to SPM’s Lights cars, had their first runs on the oval.

Razia, who was named to Marussia’s F1 team in 2013 before sponsorship fell through, was quite excited after his first run.

Harvey was a little more measured, but still pleased.

Where Harvey and Razia, assuming he’s confirmed, will stack up on the ovals remain to be seen. Jack Hawksworth, another Englishman who won three races in 2013 for SPM’s Lights organization, struggled to match up versus teammates Sage Karam and Gabby Chaves on the five oval events.

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.