Vettel faces uphill struggle to win tenth straight GP

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Defending Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel has admitted that he and Red Bull have a big task ahead of them next weekend in Australia, as the German driver faces an uphill struggle to win his tenth straight race.

Vettel won the final nine races of the 2013 season, equalling Alberto Ascari’s sixty-year-old record for consecutive victories (although the Italian’s feat is hotly disputed). Upon winning the final race in Brazil last November, attention soon turned to the Australian Grand Prix where Vettel could become the first driver to make it ten in a row.

However, after a very troublesome winter testing period and a number of problems with the RB10 car, Vettel has conceded that he faces an enormous task if he is to win at Albert Park.

“We didn’t do as much running as we would have liked in testing this year, so we have work to do in Melbourne, but it will be good to get to the first race,” Vettel explained. “It’s hard to know where we are; it’s fair to say that we’re not the favorites to win and we have to catch up with others that have completed more mileage, but we’ll do our best with the great people that we have working for the team.”

Throughout testing, the Renault-powered teams struggled with the new engines whilst those with Mercedes engines excelled. In Bahrain, all eight of the Mercedes-powered drivers finished in the top ten on the final timesheets, whilst Red Bull languished down the pecking order – quite the turnaround from five months ago.

Nevertheless, Vettel remains positive: “We have achieved a lot together and I know everyone is working flat out as normal. It’s a good event to start the season and there’s always a great atmosphere. Formula 1 racing is something that I love and I can’t wait to get going.”

Given Red Bull’s tendency to improve across the course of a season, it is far too early to write off the team’s title aspirations for 2014. However, Vettel may have to focus on damage limitation in the first few rounds of the year, picking up points and capitalizing on others’ misfortune.

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 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


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