Brake problem hinders Hamilton in Q3, but he is pleased with P2

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Lewis Hamilton has ended his streak of disappointing qualifying results in Belgium today after securing second place on the grid behind his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg.

The Briton was unable to top his teammate’s time in wet conditions at the end of Q3, but this still marks his first front-row start since the Canadian Grand Prix back in June.

Speaking in the post-session FIA press conference, Hamilton revealed that he had a problem with his front-left brake during the final part of qualifying that did not help his cause.

“I had a glazed front-left brake, so the car was pulling to the left,” he explained. “There was nothing I could do on the outlap to try and get rid of that, so I was struggling under braking.

“I had to make the braking point further back, I was losing massive amounts, particularly at turn one.”

Hamilton was asked whether or not he was disappointed with the result, given that his championship rival starts just ahead of him, but the Briton said that second place may in fact be a better place to start.

“I’m not disappointed today actually,” Hamilton said. “In previous years, P2 is actually the best place to start here, so I’m quite blessed that that is the case.

“I started on pole here last year and Sebastian [Vettel] passed me along the top straight, so I think it gives you the most opportunity.”

Indeed, since the turn of the century, the race has been won just five times from pole position – a hit rate of less than 50%.

For Hamilton though, it was a good result as it brings to an end his luckless form in qualifying. He hit trouble in Q1 in Germany and Hungary, forcing him to start from the back, but he still rallied to finish in the top three. This weekend, he will start from second place and faces less of a fight to make up the deficit to Rosberg in the championship.

“I’m just happy to be up here,” Hamilton said. “I was going into qualifying not knowing if the car was going to make it through it, and I’m grateful for all of the hard work that the team put in to make sure that we had no problems.

“It’s a great feeling to be back up here.”

You can watch the Belgian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7.30am ET tomorrow.

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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