Vettel focusing on damage limitation in China

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Defending Formula 1 world champion Sebastian Vettel has set his sights on a top five finish at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix as he looks to try and cut the gap to the all-dominant Mercedes team at the front of the field.

The Silver Arrows have claimed all three race wins so far this season, and given the margins of the victories, it is difficult to see either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg not winning this weekend’s race at the Shanghai International Circuit.

Despite claiming Red Bull’s first ever win in China back in 2009, Vettel is not thinking about a repeat this time around.

“It is a big gap at the moment,” he said. “In Bahrain it looked quite bad for everyone bar Mercedes, but here in China it could be only a little bit different.

“Historically this track was one of the tracks that has favored them, and we can expect them to be strong because of the nature of the track. Also they will be strong because they are in very good shape, which means that they are the favorites going into this race.”

Although Vettel is not totally downbeat about Red Bull’s form, he does believe that the team can only cut a tiny part out of Mercedes’ advantage this weekend, and is therefore hoping to get back into the top five after finishing sixth last time out in Bahrain.

“We expect to have made a step forward, but how big that step is we will see soon,” he explained. “It would be a massive surprise though if we could close the gap.

“We have to be realistic, and take a look at the previous races where we have lost almost one second per lap. To close this gap in one go is hopefully not totally impossible, but also being realistic this is very difficult.

“Being in the top five is what would be good for us.”

The German driver faces the biggest challenge of his Formula 1 career in 2014. After enjoying five years at the top team, the seismic changes made to the regulations have put Red Bull at a disadvantage at the beginning of the year. Red Bull has performed admirably to recover from a disastrous pre-season, but for Vettel it is about picking up what points he can until the team can catch up in the development race.

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that makes its debut today at Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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