GP2: Vandoorne continues pole position streak in Bahrain

Leave a comment

Stoffel Vandoorne’s streak of pole positions in the GP2 Series has carried over into the new season as the Belgian driver topped the timesheets during today’s qualifying session in Bahrain.

Vandoorne started on pole position for the last four races of the 2014 season en route to securing second place in the drivers’ championship, and claimed a fifth to start the new season at the Bahrain International Circuit on Friday evening.

The ART Grand Prix driver posted a fastest lap of 1:39.237 to finish three-tenths of a second ahead of teammate Nobuharu Matsushita, who will make his GP2 debut from the front row of the grid.

Another rookie that excelled in qualifying was DAMS driver Alex Lynn. Last year’s GP3 winner qualified third on the grid ahead of the returning Arthur Pic, whilst Ferrari junior driver Raffaele Marciello could only finish fifth due to a technical problem on his car during the session.

Jordan King was unable to repeat his run to first place in practice during the qualifying session, but qualified sixth ahead of fellow debutant Norman Nato.

American hopeful Alexander Rossi will start his third season in GP2 from eighth place on the grid ahead of Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly and ex-Sauber reserve Sergey Sirotkin, who qualified ninth and tenth respectively.

Vandoorne has been tipped as the favorite for this year’s championship, and was pleased to have lived up to the hype during qualifying by extending his record run of pole positions.

“I’m feeling pretty good,” Vandoorne said. “We’ve had a good pre-season, although we were not always showing pace. It’s good to grab the first pole of the year. It’s my fifth in a row in GP2.

“I’m really happy. It’s also a really good team result because we’ve locked out the front row. Now we’re in the best position for tomorrow.”

Vandoorne managed to convert pole position into a race win at this round last year, but believes tire management will be key to a repeat result on Saturday.

“I’m starting from the best position, but we’ll see tomorrow,” the Belgian said. “Last year, as a rookie, I did pretty well here. It shows you can do a great job as a rookie.

“Tomorrow is going to be an interesting race especially with the medium and soft Compounds. I think degradation will be quite important for everybody so let’s see how this is going to pan out.”

F1: Max Verstappen provides late-lap thrills at U.S. Grand Prix

Getty Images
Leave a comment

AUSTIN, Texas — Leave it to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to provide some late-race thrills at the U.S. Grand Prix.

Verstappen’s key block on Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton late in Sunday’s race denied Hamilton a chance to maybe chase down Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to win. And it helped deny Hamilton’s bid for the season championship.

Verstappen’s defensive skills allowed the Red Bull driver to finish second, his best result yet at the U.S Grand Prix, his fourth podium in six races. By keeping Hamilton third, it kept the season championship alive, even if just another week to the Mexican Grand Prix.

Last season, Verstappen had surged past Raikkonen on a final-lap pass to finish third. It was the kind of aggressive move that earned him the “Mad Max” nickname. Before he could even reach the podium, race officials declared Verstappen’s move illegal and bumped an angry Verstappen down to fifth.

The Circuit of the Americas this week installed a new curb on the same corner, dubbed “Verstoppen,” to punish drivers who tried anything similar this year. It worked when Verstappen hit it hard enough in qualifying to knock his car out of the session with a damaged suspension and gear box. He started Sunday’s race 18th.

The Dutch driver launched a furious attack through the field and found himself in the thick of things late Sunday. His move to block Hamilton wasn’t on the same corner with the curbs, and it came with him playing defense instead of being the aggressor.

Verstappen had to make multiple moves to keep Hamilton behind him and finally drove the Mercedes wide, forcing Hamilton to finally concede the position and the race.

“I was trying to get close to Kimi but at the same time keeping an eye on Lewis in my mirror. It was close, but we managed to hang on,” Verstappen said. “It is safe to say today went a lot better than expected.”

Knowing Verstappen’s aggressive nature, Hamilton said there was too much at stake to risk a collision.

“The key to me was to make sure I finished ahead of Seb. I don’t care when you win a championship, just that you win,” Hamilton said. “”For Max, to come back from so far, he did a great job.”

Verstappen has been just as aggressive at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.

In 2016, race officials ruled he improperly left the track to gain an advantage on Vettel to finish third and he was bumped from the podium. Last season, Verstappen’s strong start sent him into the lead out of the first turn, while Hamilton and Vettel bumped each other. The collision ruptured one of Hamilton’s tires.

Verstappen won the race while Hamilton limped home in ninth place, but still won the season championship.