Alonso scores Ferrari’s first podium finish of 2014

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After a difficult week that saw team principal Stefano Domenicali resign on Monday, Fernando Alonso has brought the Ferrari team some joy by scoring its first podium finish of the season today in China.

The Spanish driver made a great start from fifth place, and was running in second after passing both of the Red Bull drivers and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg. However, during his final stint, Rosberg managed to close and pass Alonso with relative ease thanks to the superior straight line speed of the Mercedes W05 car. Nevertheless, he was delighted with P3 after such a poor start to the season.

“It was a good weekend,” Alonso said on the podium after the race. “We did improve the car a little bit compared to the first three races, so we felt more competitive.

“Being here on the podium is a nice surprise for us, a nice surprise finally. Yeah, with podium finish today, I’m third in the drivers’ championship behind these two guys [Rosberg and Hamilton]. We didn’t have the start to the season we would have liked, but at the end of the day we’re still in the fight.”

Alonso’s race nearly ended at the first corner after he was tagged by Williams’ Felipe Massa. Despite a big side-swipe, both cars managed to continue, but Alonso was concerned about any possible damage.

“It was a big contact,” he said. “I asked on the radio “can you check the car?” It felt okay but obviously I don’t know from the outside how it looks. It was okay, and we were very lucky to finish the race. Hopefully next time it will be a cleaner start.”

The Spaniard finished over 50 seconds ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, and certainly appears to be more at ease with the F14 T car than he had in the first three rounds of the season.

Ferrari will be hoping for another good result at Alonso’s home race, the Spanish Grand Prix, in three weeks’ time.

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 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


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