Hamilton tames wet conditions to grab pole in Malaysia

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Lewis Hamilton has secured pole position for tomorrow’s Malaysian Grand Prix after making the most of the wet conditions in the final part of qualifying to finish ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

For the second race in a row, Hamilton will start on pole after making the most of the tricky conditions, and although he failed to better his time towards the end of Q3, the Briton had done enough to hold off the improving Vettel by 0.074 seconds.

With the thunderstorm threatening to hit the circuit during Q1, most of the drivers opted to get out early and post a lap time in case of a rain shower. Unsurprisingly, it was the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Rosberg that set the early pace on the medium compound tire, dipping into the 1:39s very quickly as Vettel sat third for Ferrari after his initial run.

Behind the leading trio, the fine margins meant the most of the runners had to head back out for a second run. Carlos Sainz Jr put in an impressive display to finish fourth for Toro Rosso ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean, whilst Marcus Ericsson got himself into Q2 for the first time in his F1 career by finishing seventh.

However, in the sister Sauber, Felipe Nasr was less fortunate, finishing 16th and dropping out in Q1. He was eliminated alongside McLaren’s Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, marking the first time that the team has lost both drivers in Q1 at consecutive races. Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens will form the final row of the grid tomorrow should the stewards allow them to race.

At the start of Q2, all of the cars headed out early as thunder and lightening began to close on the track, resulting in a queue at the end of the pit lane when the session went green.

As the drivers tried to jostle for position, Rosberg managed to find a bit of space to post the latest time ahead of Vettel and Bottas, but for the rest of the field, it was largely a question of timing. Hamilton managed to go eighth with his lap despite being released late by Mercedes, but Kimi Raikkonen was less fortunate, going P11 after being blocked by Ericsson.

Just as the field completed its first flying lap, the thunderstorm hit Sepang hard with heavy rain falling. With the drivers unable to improve their times, all opted to remain in the pits and stay dry, with the fate of the bottom five drivers already sealed. Pastor Maldonado, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez were usual dropouts for Q2, but Sainz was unlucky given his early pace in Q1. Despite appearing to block Raikkonen, Ericsson continued his strong showing by finishing 10th and squeezing into the final part of qualifying.

Q3 was unsurprisingly delayed due to the storm, with the drivers being forced to wait 35 minutes before the rain eased and conditions improved to allow them out on track for Q3.

When the drivers did head out, it was Hamilton who set the early pace once again, thriving in the wet conditions to beat Rosberg by 1.2 seconds with his first lap time. However, with the track continually improving, it soon became a question of being in the right place at the right time to improve.

Vettel was the first to improve his time, moving up into second place for Ferrari, and was assured of a front-row start when Rosberg failed to improve his time with his final lap.

Hamilton had also hit traffic, but with no other drivers improving, the Briton was able to celebrate his second pole of the season at the end of the session. However, with the Mercedes drivers both slowing down on their outlaps to try to create some space, they may have only hindered each other’s efforts.

Red Bull bounced back from its difficult start to the season in Australia by qualifying fourth and fifth on Saturday, with Daniel Ricciardo leading home teammate Daniil Kvyat.

However, the outstanding display came courtesy of 17-year-old Max Verstappen, who managed to qualify sixth despite having never driven an F1 car in wet conditions before.

Williams enjoyed a less fruitful session as Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa qualified seventh and ninth respectively. Romain Grosjean split the duo in P8, whilst Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson rounded out the top ten.

For Hamilton though, the rain was not enough to stop him from securing his second pole position of the season. Rosberg will unquestionably be hoping to hit back in the race, but with Vettel in second place, Ferrari will be hoping to get in the fight for the win tomorrow if more rain strikes.

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”