F1 notes and quotes: Bahrain Day 3

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Lewis Hamilton led Friday’s third day of testing for Formula One at Bahrain. Of course, there were more quotes of note to emerge from the day. Here’s a nugget from each of the 11 teams at the end of day:

  • Friday pace-setter Lewis Hamilton’s race simulation for Mercedes was interrupted, but he was still pleased with his level of running today. “It was nice to be able to put together a good lap today because generally speaking there seems to be less grip available than last year,” the 2008 World Champion said in the team’s post-day release.
  • Something apart from the standard line of quotes from McLaren’s Jenson Button, after clocking in second on Friday. “Today was a really busy session – my engineers looked exhausted afterwards, and I’ve never seen that before!” exclaimed the 2009 World Champion, who completed a day-high 103 laps. Button also announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Jessica Michibata, in a bit of happy news for the paddock.
  • High marks were offered by Williams’ chief test and support engineer Rod Nelson after Felipe Massa ended P3 and Valtteri Bottas spent the day doing live pit stop practice. “We are happy with how it has gone today. The car is proving to be solid and we are getting a good handle on things,” said Nelson. Massa hailed the afternoon as “busy” and “very positive;” Bottas confirmed there were no problems.
  • A good day for Sauber as well, with Esteban Gutierrez and the team able to practice pit stops and gain experience on both Pirelli’s soft and super soft compounds. “We did have small issues, but were able to solve them quickly. Mechanically and aerodynamically the car is working well, and it is becoming more consistent,” said the young Mexican.
  • Sergio “Checo” Perez took over at Force India and said he was continuing to get used to the feeling of the car, but had a few small issues in the morning. Still, 57 laps completed for him and he’ll have a second day on Saturday.
  • A telemetry glitch slowed Ferrari in the morning, as Kimi Raikkonen took over from Fernando Alonso. From director of engineering Pat Fry: “Today was a bit frustrating, because we were stopped for quite a time with a small but tricky problem. We knew that sooner or later we would have to deal with some problems and that was what happened.”
  • For Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso, a heavy day of running was just what the doctor ordered. “This was the first time I have managed to do a lot of running and it was very important for me, as well as for the team, that I completed 57 laps. We worked on many things and made progress in several areas,” he said in the team’s post-test release.
  • No official quotes or release from Lotus today, same as the rest of the week. But Pastor Maldonado did a Q&A on the team’s website yesterday , and got his first running of the week in today, so there’s that…
  • Daniel Ricciardo remained upbeat despite the latest early stoppage for Red Bull. Said the Australian, “Obviously, I would have liked to do more this afternoon but we still have tomorrow ahead of us and it’s important to be ready for that. The car is definitely making progress though. Tomorrow it would be nice to get more laps in and then roll on next week.”
  • It was a big day for Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson, with the Swede earning his FIA Superlicence after completing 98 laps (more than 300 km). “The boys have worked really hard today and we’ve pretty much had no issues which meant I could just get on with the program, and that was the main goal for today,” said Ericsson, who proved in the team’s post-test release he’s already got the standard testing line down.
  • Sadly more issues for Marussia and Max Chilton, with the Englishman only adding four laps Friday to his 17 on Thursday. Jules Bianchi returns to the wheel on Saturday.

With 200 IndyCar wins in the books, Penske looks for No. 201 at Indy

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The history of Team Penske at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a storied one that features 16 Indy 500 wins, including a pair of four-time winners in Al Unser and Rick Mears, and number of utterly dominant performances.

Yet, they’ll head to this year’s 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500 looking to avenge a pair of relatively subpar performances in each of the last two years.

Power was the only Penske driver to finish in the Top 10 in 2016, with Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud finishing 11th and 19th after fuel strategy intervened late in the race. And last year, all the Penske cars were somewhat down on pace compared to other teams, notably the Honda cars.

Power was the only Penske driver to qualify for the Fast Nine Pole Shootout last year – he qualified ninth. Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves were 18th and 19th in the grid, while Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud were 22nd and 23rd.

And only Castroneves was in winning contention in the final laps as he battled eventual winner Takuma Sato – Montoya was sixth, while Pagenaud was 14th and the only other Penske running at the end. Both Newgarden and Power crashed out on Lap 183.

This year, however, could see a return to the dominant form we’re used to seeing from the Penske outfit. All four cars entered – Pagenaud, Power, Newgarden, and Castroneves – qualified inside the top nine, with Pagenaud and Power on the front row.

They have all been near the front of the time sheets, especially in laps without a tow from another car, and the indication is that the Penske cars may be the fastest ones in the field.

All told, it leads to very high expectations for a team that already expects highly of itself.

Leading the way for Penske is current points leader and defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden. Newgarden’s best Indy 500 finish is third in 2016, but he only has one other Top 10 there – ninth in 2015.

But, with an IndyCar title now under his belt, Newgarden has his eyes set on an Indy 500 win.

Josef Newgarden looks to add an Indy 500 crown to his 2017 championship. Photo: IndyCar

“I think Indianapolis…is certainly next on the list for me,” he detailed in a press conference ahead of qualifying. “It’s not next on the list for the team, they’ve won it many times. The good thing is we have four great opportunities, especially having Helio back. I think we have one of the best opportunities in the entire field to win this race.”

Pagenaud, like Newgarden, is also looking for his first Indy triumph, though his record there isn’t quite as good. He has been fast at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but only has two Top 10s to show for it – eighth in 2013 with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and tenth in 2015 in his first year with Penske.

And a Pagenaud win would be somewhat historic – it would be only the fourth time a French driver has won the “500,” and the first since 1920 (Gaston Chevrolet).

Pagenaud explained that this race always holds a place as a top priority, and that success at Indy is all about preparation.

Simon Pagenaud looks to become only the first French driver to win an Indy 500 since Gaston Chevrolet in 1920. Photo: IndyCar

“It really is our number one goal. In Roger and Tim’s heart, it’s the most important one,” Pagenaud declared. “We prepare really hard. The team does a fantastic job at just understanding every bit and component of this new aero kit, trying to extract the best out of the equipment.”

Pagenaud added, “On the driver side, there’s a lot you can do obviously to review the past races, try to focus yourself, try to put yourself into the race before it happens, try to just improve. That’s what we try to do every day. That’s the goal. That’s why this group is so good. We push each other so hard that you always try to push the limits away.”

Power, the man who delivered Penske his 200th IndyCar win, is no stranger to success at IMS, having won the Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course three times. But, he is yet to find Victory Lane on the oval, and that leaves a void in an otherwise stellar career.

Will Power has won the INDYCAR Grand Prix three times, and looks for his first win at the “500” this weekend. Photo: IndyCar

Power spotlighted the opportunity in front of him, and detailed that running in traffic has been a strength thus far through practice.

“It’s fantastic to have that opportunity. Obviously very focused on (trying to win),” he revealed. “I feel like we have a really good opportunity to win this year. I mean, I think Chevrolet has brought a really good engine. I feel like we’re really fast. Running in traffic and such, I felt like we’ve been pretty strong, especially when you get to the front.”

Castroneves is the only Penske driver with Indy 500 wins on his resume. But, with three wins to his name, Castroneves is more than familiar with IMS glory.

Now a part-time IndyCar driver who races full-time in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship with the Acura Team Penske outfit, Castroneves’ sole focus is on getting that elusive fourth win.

Helio Castroneves looks to join the four-time winners club at the Indy 500. Photo: IndyCar

And he has momentum on his side too, coming off a debut IMSA win for the Acura Penske outfit at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. A fourth Indy 500 win would put an exclamation point on the month for Castroneves.

“I think about it every day,” he said when asked about how often he ponders getting that fourth win. “It was one of those incredible ones, I have phenomenal car, the Pennzoil car was really strong last year. Obviously coming back here, first of all, I want to thank Roger and (team president Tim Cindric) for giving me the opportunity to be back at the Indy 500. It’s such a special place for so many people. Just to be back and able to continue our goal and pursue for the number four, it’s incredible.”

Pagenaud and Power will flank pole sitter Ed Carpenter on the front, starting second and third respectively. Newgarden starts fourth, while Castroneves will start eighth.

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