Keselowski: New qualifying format fits my style

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After winning the 2012 Sprint Cup championship, 2013 was a tough season for Brad Keselowski. But he’s started off 2014 well with a third-place finish in the Daytona 500 and now, the pole for Sunday’s The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Keselowski is the first pole winner under the new “knockout” qualifying format that’s being implemented by NASCAR this season. Naturally, the Michigan native thought highly of it in his post-qualifying comments.

“I don’t know how to say it but it feels like a lot of things are coming together for me personally over the last few months,” he said. “Whether it is personally or professionally – even the rule changes. I think qualifying has been one of those formats that I have struggled with. It just didn’t suit my style in the past. This qualifying format really does suit my style a lot better.

“It gives me a chance to learn and apply which to me was instrumental to our success today and hopefully will be in how we go forward. It is interesting how a small format change like this can favor or disfavor teams and individuals and this is one that we have been able to take like a fish to water. Hopefully we will continue to do that.”

But he too shared the concerns of other drivers such as Jamie McMurray and Joey Logano about the safety issues involved with teams doing slow laps on the track in order to cool down their cars.

NASCAR does not allow teams to use cool-down units on pit road during qualifying to keep them from popping the hood and making illegal adjustments to their cars.

“I think it is always a concern to see cars that are significantly slower than other cars on the track,” he said. “…What is difficult is if you are in NASCAR’s position and you disallow those tactics, then essentially, you will kill this format and it won’t work because the cars won’t be able to be cool enough to run a second or third time which is what makes this format relevant. It is a tough line to walk.”

Altogether, Keselowski felt like it was too soon to tell what will and will not work regarding the knock-out format.

“I think it is just way too early to tell and like anything else needs to get a couple weeks under its belt and then we can draw a better conclusion on where we are at,” he said.

Sergio Perez wins rain-delayed race in Singapore over Leclerc; Verstappen seventh

Sergio Perez Singapore
Clive Rose/Getty Images,
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SINGAPORE — Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.

Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.

Perez was investigated for a potential safety car infringement but still kept the win after a 5-second time penalty for dropping too far back after being warned.

Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.

Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.

Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.

The race start was delayed by more than an hour to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window; 59 laps were completed.

Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.

With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.

Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.