Kobayashi rallies to make it through to Q2 on F1 comeback

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As the spotlight shone on front-runners Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo following qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, one of the lesser-known yet most remarkable stories on Saturday in Melbourne came from Kamui Kobayashi and Caterham.

Despite being out of Formula 1 for over a year and managing just a handful of laps during practice due to problems with his car, the Japanese driver managed to make it through to Q2, and even outqualify Force India’s Sergio Perez to finish 15th.

On Friday in Australia, Kobayashi managed just one lap in the three hours of practice sessions as he and teammate Marcus Ericsson were blighted with problems. When the final practice session came around on Saturday, it was imperative that both drivers made it out, but particularly for Ericsson as he may not have been permitted to start the race without some mileage under his belt. Kobayashi completed 19 laps in FP3 and finally appeared to be getting the car to work.

Q1 began under a thick layer of cloud, and it was only a matter of time until rain began to fall over the Albert Park circuit. Therefore, most drivers opted to head out early and post a time. Some struggled in the slippery conditions, with Lotus drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado struggling and qualifying on the back row of the grid as a result. Both Marussia drivers also found themselves in the dropzone alongside Ericsson and Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez, meaning that with five minutes to go, Kobayashi was on the cusp of a great result and making it into Q2.

The expected rain began to fall, meaning that times did not improve and any meaningful running was impossible, handing Kobayashi a berth in Q2. The rain persisted throughout the second session, and the Japanese driver pushed hard to record a best lap time of 1:45.867, putting himself in 15th place on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

Given the setbacks that they have faced across the course of the race weekend, it was an incredible performance by Kobayashi and Caterham on Saturday in Australia. The team will now be hoping to carry this good form into the race on Sunday as it goes in search of its first points in Formula 1 once again in 2014.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.