Sauber’s de Silvestro signing puts its 2014 drivers on notice

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Simona de Silvestro’s signing as a Sauber-affiliated driver for 2014 is already the first domino in the 2015 Formula One silly season.

Put simply, her signing puts Sauber’s two 2014 race drivers Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez already on notice.

Sutil will enter his seventh season this season and first with Sauber, Gutierrez his second. The German has been a serviceable midfielder his last three seasons with Force India, while Gutierrez showed some promise at times during his rookie campaign with Sauber this year.

The inter-team battle between these two will be fascinating to watch, because the Monisha Kaltenborn-led team has a deep pool in reserve.

If you were to make up a projected depth chart, de Silvestro would be third behind team reserve Giedo van der Garde and Russian Sergey Sirotkin, who is a confirmed test driver.

Van der Garde has the most experience in Formula One machinery and is the only one with Grands Prix under his belt. Sirotkin has the potential to bring in a Russian sponsorship package and will no doubt improve with a year’s worth of racing experience in the World Series by Renault.

Don’t underestimate the potential of Ferrari’s role in this, either. Ferrari has been a consistent partner with Sauber on-and-off since 1997 (excluding the BMW Sauber years), and de Silvestro and Ferrari have a connection from the announcement she would race in at least one weekend of the new Ferrari winter series.

If de Silvestro makes it into Formula One in 2015, she’d be the first female driver entered on a race weekend since Italian Giovanna Amati in 1992. Amati failed to qualify in her three starts for the Brabham team.

The last female driver to qualify for a Grand Prix was the late Lella Lombardi at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix; Lombardi is also the only female to score in the World Championship, with a half point achieved for sixth place in the shortened 1975 Spanish Grand Prix at Montjuich Park.

Five drivers: Lombardi, Amati, Maria Teresa de Filippis, Divina Galica and Desire Wilson, have participated in a Grand Prix weekend. Susie Wolff has also tested for Williams in recent years; the late Maria de Villota was a test driver for Marussia before her tragic 2012 accident.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III