Rosberg takes eighth pole position of 2014 at Suzuka

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Nico Rosberg has secured pole position for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix after edging out Mercedes teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton in qualifying at Suzuka today.

[VIDEO: Full replay of Qualifying]

The German driver lapped the historic F1 circuit with a fastest time of 1:32.506 to finish two-tenths of a second clear of Hamilton, giving him his eighth pole position of the season at the expense of his teammate.

Just hours after the paddock had been rocked by the news of Sebastian Vettel’s decision to leave Red Bull at the end of the current season, qualifying got underway at Suzuka in dry and sunny conditions. Despite crashing at the end of FP3, Hamilton soon set about establishing his dominance at the top of the timesheets, finishing ahead of Rosberg by just 0.060 seconds in the final classification.

In the Q1 dropzone, the usual suspects at Caterham and Marussia filled out the bottom four positions with Marcus Ericsson finishing as the lead backmarker. When the checkered flag fell at the end of the session, Sauber looked set to lose both of its drivers in Q1, only for Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil to pull out some fine final laps to make it through at the expense of Lotus drivers Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean.

Keen to redress the balance, Rosberg hit back at the beginning of Q2 to go fastest ahead of Hamilton by an even slenderer margin, gapping the Briton by 0.032s with his first run. Williams, Ferrari and McLaren all looked comfortable inside the top ten, but Red Bull – the attention for the F1 world on Saturday – was staring down the barrel of an early elimination as neither Vettel nor Daniel Ricciardo featured inside the top ten after the first set of runs in Q2.

However, they soon found some pace, with both drivers squeezing into the top ten thanks to improvements on their second run. Vettel slipped through in tenth place, having made a mistake on the exit of Spoon, while Ricciardo finished seventh.

Instead, it was Toro Rosso, Force India and Sauber that were the casualties of Q2 with all three teams losing both of their drivers. Jean-Eric Vergne will start the race from 11th ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and Toro Rosso teammate Daniil Kvyat. Nico Hulkenberg finished 14th after locking up at the final complex of corners, but he will still start ahead of the Sauber drivers in 15th and 16th.

Looking to get ahead of the game in Q3, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas went out on track early to post a lap time on a clear track, and duly moved into first place with his initial effort. He was soon bumped off top spot by Rosberg, who put in an impressive lap time on his first run, and it proved to be too quick for Hamilton as the Briton fell three-tenths short after the first laps in Q3.

With his final flying lap, Rosberg managed to pull out another tenth of a second to leave Hamilton facing a big task to secure pole position, and ultimately the Briton couldn’t do it. He did manage to improve with his final lap time, but was still two-tenths adrift of Rosberg at the flag.

Williams enjoyed a very successful qualifying session as its drivers finished third and fourth, with Valtteri Bottas coming home ahead of Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso put the rumors about his future to one side to qualify fifth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo.

Both Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button did their chances of a new McLaren deal some good by lining up seventh and eighth on the grid. Sebastian Vettel had a ragged final lap to finish ninth ahead of his likely 2015 teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, who was tenth.

Once again, Mercedes was the dominant force in qualifying, and with Typhoon Phanfone set to hit Suzuka tomorrow, it could well be that pole position is all the more crucial for Rosberg. Regardless of the weather, he has managed to regain some of the momentum he lost in Singapore, and winning on Sunday would do his championship hopes a world of good.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series triples to 34 races in 2023

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023
Xtreme Outlaw Series

After hosting 10 rounds in 2022, the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series 2023 schedule will more than triple to 34 races. The 2022 season featured seven different winners in the first seven races, a female racer in Jade Avedisian as the only repeat winner and Zach Daum as the champion.

“Dirt Midget racing is a growing entity in American motorsports, and the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota is proud to drive further into the growth of the division with both a diverse and lucrative schedule for 2023,” newly appointed Series Director Tyler Bachman said in a press release. “From the kickoff at our first indoor event, to each of the new tracks we’re set to visit next year, it’s a lineup we know both our teams and fans will enjoy.”

The championship purse fund has also more than double with an increase of $42,000 to $80,000 in 2023. The champion will win $25,000. Last year, Daum pocketed $10,000.

In addition, the series will offer tow money to the top 12 in points. Six drivers attempted to qualify for all 10 races in 2022 with 89 drivers attending.

The series will begin on March 10 at Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin, Ill. and end the same place it did in 2022 at I-44 Riverside Speedway in Oklahoma City on October 15.

During the season, they will visit 21 tracks in 10 states.

Some highlights of the season include the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series pairing up with the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars in 2023 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. in April for the Outlaw Showdown and again in August for the Ironman 55 weekend, as well as the creation of a five-day Midget Speedweek.

The Midget Speedweek will immediately follow the Ironman 55 with a swing through Pennsylvania and New York.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023 Schedule

Friday, March 10 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Saturday, March 11 | Southern Illinois Center | Du Quoin, Ill.
Friday, March 31 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.

Saturday, April 1 | Farmer City Raceway | Farmer City, Ill.
Friday, April 14 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Saturday, April 15 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.

Friday, May 5 | Humboldt Speedway | Humboldt, Kan.
Saturday, May 6 | 81 Speedway | Park City, Kan.
Tuesday, May 23 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.
Wednesday, May 24 | Millbridge Speedway | Salisbury, N.C.

Thursday, June 1 | Tri-City Speedway | Pontoon Beach, Ill.
Friday, June 2 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.
Saturday, June 3 | Wayne County Speedway | Wayne City, Ill.

Friday, July 21 | TBA
Saturday, July 22 | Southern Illinois Raceway | Marion, Ill.
Friday, July 28 | TBA
Saturday, July 29 | Atomic Speedway | Chillicothe, Ohio
Sunday, July 30 | Brushcreek Motorsports Complex | Peebles, Ohio

Friday, August 4 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Sat, August 5 | Federated AP Raceway at I-55 | Pevely, Mo.
Tuesday, August 8 | Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway | Newmanstown, Pa.
Wednesday, August 9 | Action Track USA | Kutztown, Pa.
Thursday, August 10 | Linda’s Speedway | Jonestown, Pa.
Friday, August 11 | TBA
Saturday, August 12 | Bridgeport Motorsports Park | Swedesboro, N.J.
Friday, August 25 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa
Saturday, August 26 | Davenport Speedway | Davenport, Iowa

Friday, September 1 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Saturday, September 2 | Paragon Speedway | Paragon, Ind.
Friday, September 15 | Jacksonville Speedway | Jacksonville, Ill.
Saturday, September 16 | Red Hill Raceway | Sumner, Ill.

Friday, October 13 | Port City Raceway | Tulsa, Okla.
Saturday, October 14 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.
Sunday, October 15 | I-44 Riverside Speedway | Oklahoma City, Okla.

* Co-sanctioned with POWRi