Hamilton flies in qualifying to secure Russian GP pole

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Lewis Hamilton has secured pole position for tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix after fending off stiff competition from teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg during qualifying in Sochi today.

The British driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:38.513 to finished two-tenths of a second clear of Rosberg, but Williams’ Valtteri Bottas very nearly spoiled the party, finishing third after running wide on his final and quickest lap time.

Formula 1 has arrived in Sochi this weekend with a heavy heart following Jules Bianchi’s accident in Japan. The Frenchman remains in hospital in a critical but stable condition, and is the foremost thought for the entire paddock this weekend.

In a mark of respect for its driver, Marussia has opted to race with just one car this weekend in Russia, meaning that 21 cars took to the track for qualifying on Saturday afternoon.

With track evolution and grip being critical around the new Sochi Autodrom circuit, most of the drivers opted to immediately head out in Q1 on the option tire in search of the quickest possible lap time. Jenson Button was one of the few to buck the trend, and did momentarily sit in first place on the medium tire but was soon bumped off as Rosberg and Hamilton resumed normal service for Mercedes in first and second place respectively.

Instead of pitting early, the drivers opted to stay out and continue to learn the circuit as it became faster and faster. Felipe Massa was the shock exit in Q1 after a problem developed on his Williams, leaving him down in 18th position come the checkered flag. Marcus Ericsson put in a good lap to finish 17th, just one-tenth of a second off a place in Q2, with Caterham teammate Kamui Kobayashi finishing 19th ahead of Pastor Maldonado and Max Chilton.

Picking up where he left off in Q1, Hamilton immediately established his dominance in the second part of qualifying by going six-tenths faster than the field, leaving his rivals searching for time. Although Rosberg did cut the gap to 0.2 seconds, he still found himself staring down the barrel of a defeat ahead of Q3.

One man who didn’t expect to be missing the final session was Sebastian Vettel, who struggled for pace and finished down in 11th place. The German driver was eliminated alongside the Force India pair of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez, who qualified 12th and 13th respectively ahead of the two Sauber drivers and Romain Grosjean.

Q3 saw the field head out early to try and find some heat and increase grip on their tires, but Rosberg sent out a statement of intent by going fastest of all ahead of Bottas and Button as Hamilton opted to bide his time before posting his optimum lap.

With three minutes to go, Hamilton finally found his feet to move to the top of the timesheets, but Rosberg could not respond after making a mistake on his hot lap. Both had one more shot in their battle for pole position, and Hamilton made his count, enjoying a lead of two-tenths of a second at the flag.

However, Bottas very nearly upset the odds, going fastest of all in sectors one and two before running wide at the final corner, leaving him third. Jenson Button proved that McLaren’s practice form was genuine, qualifying fourth ahead of home favorite Daniil Kvyat.

Kevin Magnussen qualified sixth for McLaren, but will drop to P11 due to his grid penalty. Daniel Ricciardo finished seventh ahead of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, with Jean-Eric Vergne rounding out the top ten.

In a close qualifying session, it was Hamilton who made it count once again to secure his seventh pole position of the season. With victory tomorrow, he could move into a 17-point lead at the top of the drivers’ championship, taking him ever closer to a second world title.

Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series triples to 34 races in 2023

Xtreme Outlaw Midget 2023
Xtreme Outlaw Series
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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