Rosberg rockets to Canadian GP pole ahead of Hamilton

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Nico Rosberg has secured pole position for the Canadian Grand Prix after producing a fine final lap in qualifying to deny his teammate Lewis Hamilton in the final stage of the session today.

Hamilton had dominated proceedings in Montreal across the course of the weekend, but a mistake on his final lap heading into turn eighth meant that he had to settle for second place. Rosberg’s margin of victory was less than one-tenth of a second.

Qualifying began with just 21 cars vying for the 16 spots in Q2 after Esteban Gutierrez’s crash in practice forced Sauber to change his chassis. Valtteri Bottas was soon out on track in Q1, posting the first lap time of 1:18.270, but this benchmark did not last long. Teammate Felipe Massa was able to go half a second faster and occupied top spot until Nico Rosberg came through to put Mercedes back up into first place.

Lewis Hamilton took his time to warm things up having made a mistake at turn one on his first timed lap. Once he got his act together, the Briton moved up into first place by two-tenths of a second. Bottas improved to move back ahead of his teammate in third place, but Kimi Raikkonen appeared to be struggling. The Finn had to save his car from spinning twice, and Sergio Perez also pushed too hard and was lucky not to hit the wall.

At the bottom of the order, Pastor Maldonado dropped out in Q1 for the sixth time this season when he pulled over at the side of the track with a problem on his car. Marcus Ericsson’s session also came to an abrupt end when he binned his car at turn nine, bringing out the red flag with 16 seconds left on the clock. As a result, the session did not restart, meaning that Max Chilton could not improve his time and dropped out alongside his teammate and Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi.

Q2 began on time with Adrian Sutil being the first driver to venture out on track. He was soon followed by the rest of the runners, who were running on super-soft tires in order to have a shot of making it into Q3. Felipe Massa was the early leader in the session ahead of current teammate, Valtteri Bottas, and former teammate Fernando Alonso. The two Mercedes drivers headed out later on, but neither Hamilton nor Rosberg could topple Massa with their initial efforts.

With three minutes to go, the drivers began their final runs. Sergio Perez managed to improve and jump up to 12th place with his first lap, but Adrian Sutil was still left languishing down in 16th and quite a way off the rest of the field. Bottas improved his time to move into second place behind his teammate, only for the Mercedes drivers to go first and second late on with Hamilton ahead of Rosberg. Jean-Eric Vergne produced a late lap to get through, dumping Hulkenberg and Magnussen out alongside Perez, Grosjean, Kvyat and Sutil.

The final session saw Bottas head out early in order to get some clear air, and set the first benchmark of 1:15.550 for the rest of the field to follow. Nico Rosberg was the first Mercedes to cross the line and better it, going some six-tenths quicker, and although Hamilton managed to beat Bottas, he fell 0.068 seconds short of his teammate. With the German on provisional pole, Hamilton had one final chance to claim his fifth pole of the year.

On the final runs, both Rosberg and Hamilton made marginal improvements, but the Briton just could not find the pace to better his teammate’s lap, meaning that he had to settle for second place. Sebastian Vettel produced a fine final flyer to qualify third ahead of the Williams pair of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa. Daniel Ricciardo qualified sixth ahead of Alonso and Vergne, whilst Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top ten.

After dominating proceedings in practice, Hamilton will unquestionably be frustrated not to have converted this form into a fifth pole position of the season. With an all-Mercedes front row, though, the stage is set for yet another fascinating battle between Hamilton and Rosberg in the race on Sunday.

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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