Hamilton quickest in first practice for Bahrain GP

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Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the first practice session ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix as Mercedes once again dominated proceedings on Friday afternoon in Sakhir.

The British driver, who is coming off the back of winning in Malaysia last weekend, posted a fastest time of 1:37.502 to finish two-tenths ahead of teammate Nico Rosberg as Fernando Alonso and Nico Hulkenberg were the only drivers to finish within half a second of the Silver Arrows.

Following a noisy GP2 practice on Friday morning, free practice got underway in a somewhat quieter fashion as the drivers kicked off the tenth Bahrain GP race weekend. Most came out early for an installation lap, but Rosberg’s session got off to a bad start as he suffered a loss of power on his car, forcing him to crawl back to the pits. The Mercedes team quickly got to work to fix the problem, and he was soon sent him back on his way.

Robin Frijns and Giedo van der Garde were two of the first drivers to post a time as both enjoyed some running in the session as part of their duties as test drivers for Caterham and Sauber respectively. Similarly, Felipe Nasr stepped in at Williams for Valtteri Bottas, and quickly moved to the top of the timesheets. He was soon displaced once the full-time drivers came out on track, and Daniil Kvyat was the first to lay down a serious benchmark ahead of Sergio Perez and Jenson Button. Predictably, Mercedes hit back as Rosberg moved ahead of Kvyat for P1, and he was soon followed by teammate Lewis Hamilton who went fastest by one-tenth of a second. Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg popped up into third place with a solid lap time, just two-tenths shy of Hamilton’s

With the excessive heat posing a number of problems in Bahrain, many opted to sit in the pits and limit their running. The race will start at 6pm local time on Sunday, meaning that conditions will be far cooler than in practice.

In a rather bizarre moment, Ferrari was forced to send its mechanics down the pit lane to retrieve Fernando Alonso after he was found to have an odd tire on his car. The team should avoid a penalty as the Spaniard had not joined the track.

With 15 minutes to go, Alonso fitted a set of the quicker medium tires and went fastest of all for Ferrari (with all four tires the same this time around). Hulkenberg improved his time to move up into second place, and these times finally stirred the Mercedes drivers from their garages. Rosberg soon re-established his dominance to move two-tenths of a second clear of Alonso, before Hamilton put another two-tenths over his teammate with seven minutes to go.

Ultimately, this time proved to be unbeatable, handing Mercedes yet another one-two at the top of the timesheets.

Latest INDYCAR Aeroscreen test continues to provide feedback; data to series

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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RICHMOND, Virginia – After completing its third Aeroscreen test since October 2, INDYCAR continues to collect valuable data and feedback from the drivers and engineers involved in testing.

The latest test of the Aeroscreen came Tuesday, October 15 at Richmond Raceway, a .750-mile short oval. Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has been involved in testing dating all the way back to 2017 at Phoenix with the original “Windscreen.” Tuesday’s test was the first-time two-time NTT IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was able to test the device that partially encloses the cockpit proving greatly enhanced driver safety.

It was also the first time the current “Aeroscreen” designed and created by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Pankl and Dallara has been tested at a short oval – a track that measures under 1.5-miles in length.

The previous tests were at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 and the Barber Motorsports Park road course on October 7.

“It wasn’t a problem getting in the car today and relearning a new viewpoint,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com at the conclusion of Tuesday’s test. “It felt like a new viewpoint. It’s still an Indy car. It still feels like an Indy car. The car does a lot of the things it did before. It required some slight tuning differences to accommodate a different center of gravity and different total weight.

“Overall, it still felt like the same Indy car I drove three weeks ago. You get used to that new viewpoint within 30 or 40 laps. It was alien at first but halfway through the day it feels like home again.”

Newgarden’s Team Penske test team along with INDYCAR officials worked on changes to getting air into the cockpit and directing the air to the right place where the driver can utilize it.

“We’ve come up with some solutions that we like,” Newgarden said. “INDYCAR and the teams will continue to fine-tune this. That is why we are doing these tests. The main goal was to figure this out and fine-tune this stuff. We have come up with a lot of good solutions to all of the little things we have talked about that we have needed so when Sebastien Bourdais goes to Sebring (on November 5), it will just be another version.

“We are already close. Because they are such small details, it feels like normal racing stuff and we will come up with solutions for that.”

Some drivers who have participated in the Aeroscreen test has said, they almost feel naked without having the halo-like structure with a clear windshield protecting them on the race car.

“Once we got through a whole IndyCar season, if you took it off, it would feel really strange,” Newgarden said. “People adapt so quickly to a change, what the car looks like. Once you give us a couple of races and a full year, it will feel like home and something we are very used to as drivers.

“It is already starting to get that way. People are feeling more comfortable with it. The field of view is almost identical to the way it was before. Your peripheral vision is identical, the way you look out the front of the cars is identical, the way you see the tires is identical.”

Individual driver preference will allow for shading of the sun and that can be accomplished with the visor strips on the helmet and the tear-offs on Aeroscreen.

Drivers will also have a bit of a quieter atmosphere inside the cockpit. The partial enclosure makes it easier to hear his radio communication and the sounds of the engine in the driver’s car. It partially blocks out the sounds of the engines in the other cars and the rush of wind traveling at high speeds that used to buffet in and around the helmet.

“It has changed the noise level slightly inside the cockpit,” Newgarden said. “For me, it wasn’t super dramatic. It’s a slight reduction in wind noise. You’re not getting the wind directly over your head as dramatically as you would before. All that external noise has just been dimmed.

“You can hear the radio a touch better, things like that. But the engine noise is still quite prominent. It’s bolted directly behind us, so you still hear quite a bit of what’s going on in the car and the engine.”

Dixon was in the car at Indianapolis on October 2 and returned on Tuesday. The Barber test on October 7 included this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, in a Team Penske Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

“The only differences are the openings on the front wing that creates some more airflow around the legs and body and a different inlet in the screen that was in place today,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There were helmet cooling options since the Barber test because on the road course, some of the drivers were getting a little hotter.

“This project has been very in-depth. It hit the ground running very smoothly. There are some alternate options they are trying to create, especially on the street courses where we will experience hot condition. On street conditions, your depth perception changes because of how close you are to the walls, but we should get used to that.”

Two weeks ago, Team Penske driver Will Power said it takes a different style to get out of the race car because of the added height of the Aeroscreen.

That hasn’t been a problem for Dixon.

“That’s easy, man,” he said. “Just go through the hole in the top.”