Brake issue thwarts Hamilton’s pole quest in Austin

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AUSTIN – All the signs and momentum had pointed to Lewis Hamilton securing pole position for the United States Grand Prix. He’d led all three practice sessions and was poised to secure what would have been his eighth 2014 pole – level with Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

But the Englishman will line up second following a trying qualifying, as he battled a left front brake issue throughout the entirety of the day. Rosberg seized the advantage in securing his ninth pole of the year.

“I struggled with the brake temperatures,” Hamilton explained during the post-qualifying press conference. “The left was off from the right. It just kept catching. Even if I tried to save it, that really made it off.”

Asked whether it would be a further problem for race day if not fixed, Hamilton responded, “Potentially, yes.”

The primary issue, Hamilton said, is locking. There’s a handful of heavy braking zones at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas – particularly on the runs into Turn 1 and Turn 12 – which are both left-handers.

“The vibration isn’t so bad, and we had a minor flat spot. The issue is locking,” he said. “If I can’t fix the left brake, that will be a continuing issue without the race. Flat spots lead to blistering and more.”

It’s a delicate situation for Hamilton heading into tomorrow as it could well be a case of damage limitation for him. Finishing second to Rosberg would reduce Hamilton’s current 17-point World Championship lead to 10. Third to Rosberg would see the gap drop by 10, to seven. It gets worse the further down Hamilton would finish.

There’s still plenty of motivation for Hamilton to get the win though. As we’ve chronicled throughout the week, the U.S. is as good as a second home race for Hamilton, and he’s been busy speaking up the race as much as possible – including on NBC’s TODAY Show earlier in the week.

He’ll also be celebrating the six-year anniversary of his sole World Championship on Sunday, when he famously beat Ferrari’s Felipe Massa to the 2008 title by a single point.

The title isn’t specifically on the line Sunday, but how Hamilton and Mercedes manage this brake issue could go a long way towards determining which of the team’s two drivers is crowned World Champion later this year.


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

Petit Le Mans lineup

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.



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