IndyCar: Bourdais wins pole for Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

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The battle for the Honda 200 pole position came down to the final moments of the Firestone Fast Six, but Toronto Race 1 winner Sebastien Bourdais emerged with the top spot on the grid thanks to his last lap of 1 minute, 24.1610 seconds around a rapidly drying Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Bourdais and the other competitors in the FF6 rode out the final round on the Firestone wet tires despite the changing track, which had been soaked prior to the start of the three-round qualifying session.

American driver Josef Newgarden appeared set to win the pole for the small Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team. But after Bourdais knocked him off the top spot, the Tennessee native could only get back up to second with his last lap of 1:24.6787.

“It was a totally different [third round] than it was in the first two sessions,” Bourdais told IndyCar Radio after his second pole of 2014. “There was a developing dry line so we went from totally outside to having to venture into not really well-known territory with the wet tires, which was really difficult to know when to make the [line] switch.

“The last lap, I knew I was shy and I needed some more, so I went for it. I made it stick, the Mistic machine gave me everything it got, and it was enough.”

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan will start third tomorrow as he hopes to continue his recent run of success. He’ll be joined in Row 2 by Andretti Autosport rookie Carlos Munoz.

Munoz’s teammate, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Team Penske’s Will Power will make up Row 3. Power could have a big chance to overtake Penske partner Helio Castroneves (+13 points over Power) for the Verizon IndyCar Series points lead, as Castroneves was unable to advance out of the first round and will have to start 15th.

Also faltering in the first round were Ryan Briscoe, Charlie Kimball and Scott Dixon – all from the Ganassi stable and all former Mid-Ohio winners. Briscoe and Kimball start 19th and 20th, while Dixon is starting 22nd and dead last.

Chip Ganassi Racing is seeking its sixth consecutive win at Mid-Ohio tomorrow afternoon (see some highlights from their current win streak here).

Under damp conditions, qualifying got underway with a red flag in Group 1 as multiple drivers including Briscoe, Power, and James Hinchcliffe all went off the slippery course just a few minutes into the 10-minute run. Officially, Briscoe triggered the red as he was briefly unable to get going after his spin in Turn 11.

The green returned with less than five minutes remaining, but almost immediately, another red came out for a spin involving Takuma Sato in Turn 6.

The session ran out of time while Sato was having his car restarted, but Race Control opted to give the drivers an additional period of time to run one more timed lap at speed. Juan Pablo Montoya, Carlos Huertas, Power, Simon Pagenaud, Mike Conway, and Kanaan were able to advance after the one-lap dash.

Group 2 also had an early red flag for Dixon, who slid into the grass at Turn 9. The green came back with less than four minutes left and when the time ran out, Hunter-Reay, Bourdais, Newgarden, Munoz, Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson had all posted laps good enough to advance to Round 2.

A spin for Montoya in Turn 1 briefly redflagged the second round of qualifying, costing him his two best laps. Montoya would wind up not advancing to the Firestone Fast 6 (he’ll start 11th), but Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, Kanaan, Munoz, Newgarden and Power did make it to the last round.

VERIZON INDYCAR SERIES AT MID-OHIO – HONDA 200
Qualifying Results
FIRESTONE FAST SIX
1. 11-Sebastien Bourdais, 1:24.1610
2. 67-Josef Newgarden
3. 10-Tony Kanaan
4. 34-Carlos Munoz
5. 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay
6. 12-Will Power
ELIMINATED IN SECOND ROUND
7. 15-Graham Rahal
8. 19-Justin Wilson
9. 77-Simon Pagenaud
10. 18-Carlos Huertas
11. 2-Juan Pablo Montoya
12. 20-Mike Conway
ELIMINATED IN FIRST ROUND (GROUP QUALIFYING)
13. 7-Mikhail Aleshin
14. 17-Sebastian Saavedra
15. 3-Helio Castroneves
16. 25-Marco Andretti
17. 27-James Hinchcliffe
18. 98-Jack Hawksworth
19. 8-Ryan Briscoe
20. 83-Charlie Kimball
21. 14-Takuma Sato
22. 9-Scott Dixon

Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.