Vettel: Gap to Mercedes hasn’t changed since Australia

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Sebastian Vettel has said that Red Bull needs to make bigger gains with the RB10 car if it is to even begin to cut the gap to Mercedes at the front of the field.

Red Bull’s defence of its world championships has been very tame, whilst Mercedes has taken advantage of the new regulations to forge ahead at the front of the field with almost double the points of any other team.

Despite appearing to make up some ground over the first half of the season, Vettel feels that Red Bull is just as far behind the German marque now as it was in March, and is unsure whether the gap can be made up before the beginning of next season.

“It’s difficult to say right now,” Vettel said when asked about catching Mercedes for 2015. “The gap is very big and we didn’t really close the gap since race one.

“We have tried lots of things to improve but they do the same thing. We need bigger steps of development to close the gap even more. I think at the end of the season we can judge a little better what we need to do during the winter.”

The likely banning of FRIC suspension systems for the German Grand Prix could dent Mercedes’ advantage, but Vettel is unconcerned about the change at Red Bull should it go ahead.

“We know what we are running but we don’t know what they are running,” he said. “It’s pretty clear what the FIA has said and probably some teams will be more affected than other teams.”

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas also suggested that Mercedes of all teams will be affected, saying: “Maybe some teams could be more affected than us I would say. We’ll see, I don’t really know what’s going to happen.

“What will be the decision, I think we’ll be okay with it. I don’t think it’s going to be key to the season or anything like that.”

Vettel will be hoping to return to form at his home race in Germany next weekend, but barring a double failure for Mercedes like we saw in Canada, his hopes of securing back-to-back home wins appear to be slim.

Josef Newgarden dominates from pole to win KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America

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There’s a reason why Josef Newgarden calls Road America his favorite racetrack – and he showed why Sunday, dominating to victory in the KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisc.

Newgarden led all but two laps from the pole and was in a class of his own throughout the 55-lap caution-free race on the 4.048-mile, 14-turn road course in central Wisconsin, defeating runner-up Ryan Hunter-Reay by 3.3759 seconds.

“(I wanted this one) really bad,” Newgarden told NBCSN in victory lane. “I wanted to win here since last year. This car has been a rocket all weekend. It wasn’t easy. Ryan was very quick and I knew Dixon was right behind him, so we were working for it the entire race.

“I kind of knew what I had to do, but it was a lot of work. Ryan was really pushing me. It’s good to get a win. It doesn’t matter what car, as long as it’s Team Penske.”

It was Newgarden’s series-leading third win of the season in the first 10 races (also won at ISM Raceway in Phoenix and Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama), pushing him past Team Penske teammate and Indy 500 winner Will Power and Scott Dixon, who both have two wins in the 2018 campaign.

“I was hoping to make it more interesting for the fans here at Road American and on TV,” Hunter-Reay said. “The last two stints, when he put on used red and I had blacks, he was really hooked up. … I was pushing 110 percent, that’s for sure.

“Unfortunately, I just couldn’t catch up to Josef. I was able to close up the gap a little bit here and there, but not like I was early in the race. He found his own way for sure. Definitely, the clean air out front helps, but hats off to him: he had a great race and deserves the win.”

Dixon finished third, followed by Takuma Sato, Robert Wickens, Graham Rahal, Simon Pagenaud, Spencer Pigot (his best finish of the season), Ed Jones and James Hinchcliffe.

Dixon (393 points) maintains the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead, Hunter-Reay (348) moved up two spots to second place, Alexander Rossi (tied with Hunter-Reay for second at 348) dropped one spot to third, Newgarden (343) climbed one spot to fourth and Will Power (328) dropped two spots to fifth in the standings.

“It’s so tight … so tough,” Dixon said. “The Verizon IndyCar Series, right now, the competition is through the roof. To get a podium these days is tough enough, yet to get a win. But we’ll keep pushing and see what we get.”

There was action right from the opening lap, including misfortune for Indianapolis 500 winner Will Power, who suffered engine issues that sent him to the pits after the opening lap.

After trying to work on his car in the pits, Power’s team pushed it back to the paddock to attempt further repairs, but those efforts failed and the car was retired.

Power was third in the IndyCar points standings coming into the race, 36 points behind series leader Scott Dixon. He finished last (23rd) in Sunday’s race and will likely drop to fifth in the standings.

“They replaced the exhaust, and it just blew straight back out,” Power told NBCSN’s Marty Snider. “So, there’s obviously something going on in there that’s gone wrong.

“I feel bad for all the guys. It’s just one of those things, you know – you’ll get that every now and then at some point. No good, but we’ll move on to the next one.”

Also, 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi had an issue with what appeared to be brakes- or suspension-related that resulted in a lengthy pit stop after 38 laps. Rossi finished 16th in the 23-car field.

“Hugely disappointing,” Rossi told NBCSN. “It was good enough for fourth … but I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”

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