GP2: Vandoorne continues pole position streak in Bahrain

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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.”

INDYCAR: Patricio O’Ward turns heads in Carlin debut

Chris Jones / IndyCar
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While the top story coming out of Sunday’s IndyCar Classic at Circuit of the Americas is undoubtedly 18-year-old Colton Herta’s victory in only his third IndyCar start, another teenager made quite some noise during the first IndyCar race at the facility.

19-year-old Patricio O’Ward made an impressive start to his 2019 IndyCar campaign by starting and finishing in eighth position. It was the first of his 13 races this season for Carlin Racing.

“I think it was a pretty good race for us. We ended exactly where we started and didn’t go backwards, so I’d say that was a successful day” O’Ward said. “I know the No. 31 Carlin Chevrolet had a top-five finish in it today and even though we couldn’t make it happen, it’s nice to know that we have the pace and can be fighting up front with the veteran drivers.”

O’Ward, the 2018 Indy Lights champ, made his series debut for Harding Steinbrenner Racing at last year’s season finale at Sonoma Raceway, where he made it to the Firestone Fast Six in qualifying and finished ninth. O’Ward was scheduled to race for the team full-time in 2019, but left in early February to pursue other options due to a lack of sponsorship.

Pato found a new home with Carlin, and despite missing preseason testing, he proved to be competitive from the get go and pressured some of IndyCar’s more tenured drivers, including Graham Rahal.

In what was undoubtedly the most daring move of the race, O’Ward ended a great battle with Rahal by hitting a superb outside pass on Lap 15.

O’Ward may have likely earned a better result on Sunday, if he didn’t have to save fuel in order to make the finish.

But with only two IndyCar starts to his credit, he is already racing like a seasoned veteran. Sunday’s IndyCar Classic may be the first of many successful outings for him this year.

After the race, he tweeted to his team: “Well done gentlemen … This is only the beginning.”

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