Vettel, Alonso and Magnussen cleared of infringements

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Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen have all been cleared of any wrong-doing by the FIA race stewards following qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix today.

All three drivers were called before the stewards after the final part of qualifying for alleged infringements during the session that may have resulted in a grid penalty.

Alonso was accused of blocking Esteban Gutierrez during the wet-dry first part of qualifying today at Albert Park. The Sauber driver failed to make it through to Q2, qualifying down in 19th place and finishing over nine-tenths of a second off of the required time. However, upon analyzing the telemetry and video footage, the stewards deemed that Alonso had not impeded Gutierrez and did not penalize him.

Both Vettel and Magnussen were called to the stewards’ office for going too quickly through the yellow flag zone at turn four at the end of Q2. During the final minute of the session, Kimi Raikkonen spun his Ferrari in the wet conditions, bringing out the yellow flags. Under the rules, drivers must slow down through a yellow flag zone, meaning that none of the drivers were expected to improve their times on their final lap because of this.

Nevertheless, Magnussen still managed to improve and get into Q3, whilst Vettel bettered his time to move up to P12. After qualifying, both drivers were called before the stewards under suspicion of not acknowledging yellow flags.

However, neither driver was found guilty and no grid penalties were imposed. The explanations offered by both drivers and supporting video footage was deemed suffice to clear their names.

Therefore, the grid remains as per qualifying, with the exception of Valtteri Bottas and Esteban Gutierrez’s grid penalties after both made a gearbox change. Magnussen will start from fourth, Alonso will line up one place further back in fifth, and Vettel will start way back down in P12.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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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.

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