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.

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