Starting grid for the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix

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Nico Rosberg’s streak of pole positions extended to four in Belgium yesterday after he saw off Mercedes teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton in the final part of qualifying at Spa-Francorchamps.

The German driver secured his seventh pole position of the season by two-tenths of a second after taming the wet conditions in his W05 Hybrid, but with Hamilton securing his first front-row start since the Canadian Grand Prix in June, the stage is set for an epic fight at the front of the field today.

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso both managed to capitalize on the wet conditions to qualify on the second row, whilst Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas line up in fifth and sixth place on the grid.

The session did see the likes of Jules Bianchi and Kevin Magnussen shine, with both youngsters securing a good grid slot for today’s race. P16 may not seem like much, but for Bianchi and Marussia, it is a very big deal indeed.

Although the forecast for today’s race is dry, rain could yet interrupt proceedings given Spa’s microclimatic nature.

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

FROM THE STEWARDS’ OFFICE

It has been a quiet weekend for the stewards in Belgium, with only two minor bits of news:

  • Daniel Ricciardo was fined €1,000 for speeding in the pit lane during qualifying.
  • Pastor MaldonadoFernando Alonso and Daniil Kvyat were randomly selected for anti-doping tests as part of the FIA’s regular procedure.

STARTING GRID FOR THE 2014 BELGIAN GRAND PRIX

1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari
5. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
6. Valtteri Bottas Williams
7. Kevin Magnussen McLaren
8. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
9. Felipe Massa Williams
10. Jenson Button McLaren
11. Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
12. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
13. Sergio Perez Force India
14. Adrian Sutil Sauber
15. Romain Grosjean Lotus
16. Jules Bianchi Marussia
17. Pastor Maldonado Lotus
18. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
19. Max Chilton Marussia
20. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber
21. Andre Lotterer Caterham
22. Marcus Ericsson Caterham

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.

Follow@KyleMLavigne