Vettel: Pole position not possible today

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Sebastian Vettel has said that second place on the grid for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix was the optimum that he could achieve given the pace of pole-sitter Nico Rosberg.

In a frantic final part of qualifying, Vettel momentarily was on pole position after going fractionally faster than Rosberg with his final lap time. However, the Mercedes driver went fastest in all three sectors to pull out a 0.4 second gap to the field and secure his fifth pole position in six races.

Vettel’s assertion on Friday that Red Bull was a step closer to Mercedes in Hungary was proven in qualifying, and he was pleased with the result when speaking in the post-session press conference today.

“It seems that we are a little bit closer but obviously Nico’s final lap was very good so the gap was again quite big,” Vettel said. “Bigger than we were hoping for, because if we get everything perfect and Nico maybe has a bit of a wobble, we can have a crack, but it didn’t happen.

“They did a good job. Obviously Q3 was a mixed bag, it could have been anything, so therefore with the more dry conditions at the end to get second was the optimum.”

Vettel does not believe that Red Bull is quite close enough to fight Mercedes in the dry just yet, and is instead preparing himself for a fight with the Williams drivers of Valtteri Bottas (P3) and Felipe Massa (P6) in Hungary tomorrow.

“I think we are here to fight, we want to do that,” Vettel said. “If it rains, I think we definitely have a better chance than in normal standard dry conditions but even then, I think we were closer this weekend. Long run pace looked a lot better on Friday compared to them. Obviously hard to judge how much they were sandbagging or running different modes on Friday.

“It should be closer than in the last couple of races, definitely. I think we can have a good fight with Williams, which seems to be out of reach for the last couple of races.”

You can watch the Hungarian Grand Prix live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET tomorrow.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for the injured Oliver Askew, also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at Ground Zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.