Sergio Perez, Force India top Day 1 of final F1 preseason test

1 Comment

As one of three drivers to log more than 100 laps today at Bahrain International Circuit, Force India’s Sergio Perez was quickest in the first day of the final Formula One preseason test with a time of 1:35.290 in the VJM07.

Perez’s lap was slower than the 1:33.283 that Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg put down at the end of last week’s first preseason test at Bahrain, but it was still a solid display of reliability that appears to have pleased his colleagues on the Silverstone-based outfit:

Today was also another strong day for Mercedes-powered teams as a whole. Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was second-fastest but logged the most laps with 128, while McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen turned in 109 laps.

Only one Merc-powered driver, Rosberg, didn’t go over 100 laps – and he was still close to the mark with 89 circuits.

Meanwhile, the Renault-powered squads – led by four-time reigning World Champions Red Bull – continued to struggle mightily.

Things appeared to be looking up for Red Bull after Daniel Ricciardo ran 32 laps early in the session. But they were kept out of much of the afternoon session as a reported overheating problem on the RB10 forced them inside the garage for a while.

As for the other Renault teams, an exhaust problem on Pastor Maldonado’s E22 caused Lotus to call it a day earlier than anticipated. Red Bull’s “brother” team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, managed to put together 56 laps with Daniil Kvyat at the controls, but Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi was only able to log 19 laps.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came to a stop on the track during the final moments of today’s test, but not before posting the third-fastest time after an electrical problem had dogged the Scuderia for a bit in the morning.

THURSDAY TIMES FROM BAHRAIN:
1. Sergio Perez, Force India-Mercedes, 1m35.290s, 105 Laps
2. Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes, 1m36.184s, 128
3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m36.432s, 54
4. Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 1m36.624s, 89
5. Adrian Sutil, Sauber-Ferrari, 1m37.700s, 89
6. Kevin Magnussen, McLaren-Mercedes, 1m37.825s, 109
7. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-Renault, 1m37.908s, 39
8. Max Chilton, Marussia-Ferrari, 1m38.610s, 44
9. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso-Renault, 1m39.242s, 55
10. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus-Renault, 1m40.599s, 31
11. Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham-Renault, 1m42.285s, 19

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne