Button expecting difficult race from P4 in Russia

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Jenson Button has said that he is expecting a difficult race in Russia tomorrow despite qualifying in an excellent fourth place.

McLaren has endured a difficult season, currently ranking sixth in the constructors’ championship behind Force India. However, it looks set to move ahead of its rivals this weekend after Button and teammate Kevin Magnussen both qualified inside the top six in Sochi.

Magnussen will drop down to 11th by virtue of a grid penalty, but Button is hopeful of a good result from fourth after resolving the issues with the MP4-29 car that cropped up in FP3.

“We were strong on both options and primes yesterday, in both FP1 and FP2, but this morning in FP3 we went backwards, even though we weren’t running a lot of fuel,” Button explained. “With the setup we’d adopted, the car just wasn’t working for us, but, importantly, we kept our heads after that, worked through the issues, and came to qualifying with a much improved car.

“Tomorrow, I really don’t know what to expect. Our long runs have been pretty good, but it isn’t obvious how many pit stops most drivers will be making. If you lock up here, however, you’ll completely flat spot a tire, and, if you do that, a one-stopper will become untenable, so as I say it won’t be straightforward at all.”

The British driver is fighting for his seat at McLaren as Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso looks poised to rejoin the British team. Although he has more experience and success than Magnussen, at 34, he is approaching the final few years of his F1 career.

In Japan, Button produced a stellar drive to finish fifth, and a repeat result in Russia tomorrow could give McLaren plenty to consider over the next few weeks.

You can watch the Russian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET tomorrow.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III