Rosberg claims first pole of 2015 in Spanish GP qualifying

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MONTMELO – Nico Rosberg claimed his first pole position of the 2015 Formula 1 season during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday, edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by two-tenths of a second in Q3 on Saturday at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

The German driver ended Hamilton’s 100% pole record in 2015 with a fine performance, topping Q2 and Q3 ahead of his teammate as Mercedes once again locked out the front row of the grid.

In spite of its numerous upgrades in Spain, Ferrari was unable to challenge Mercedes for pole position, finishing half a second adrift with Sebastian Vettel in third place, whilst Kimi Raikkonen faded in the final part of the session to qualify down in seventh place.

Hamilton started as he had hoped to go on in the first part of qualifying, finishing fastest ahead of Rosberg on his first prime tire run. The Briton lapped three-tenths quicker despite reporting a lack of grip, and went faster still with a second hard tire run towards the end of Q1, finding another nine-tenths of a second to secure top spot.

Ferrari opted to send Kimi Raikkonen out for a second run on the medium compound tire, but the Finn could only finish the session in third place behind the Mercedes drivers despite the pace advantage it offered. Most of the field opted to follow suit given the pace difference between the two tires, resulting in a flurry of times and position changes towards the end of the session.

McLaren managed to get both of its drivers through to Q2 for the first time in 2015, with Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso finishing 13th and 15th respectively. However, this came at the expense of Marcus Ericsson, who finished 16th ahead Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez. Manor’s Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi filled out the back row of the grid once again.

In response to the pace shown by his teammate, Rosberg laid down the early benchmark in Q2, going half a second faster than Hamilton with his first run on the medium tire. Mercedes’ pace was such that the team opted not to send its drivers out again, whilst Ferrari also believed that Vettel and Raikkonen had done enough to avoid using a second set of tires.

Their decision was justified as none of the five drivers in the dropzone after their first runs managed to improve by enough to get through to Q3. Romain Grosjean finished half a second adrift Daniil Kvyat in P10 to suffer his first Q2 elimination of the year, and was joined by Lotus teammate Pastor Maldonado. McLaren’s run came to an end with Alonso and Button in P13 and P14 respectively, whilst Felipe Nasr qualified 15th for Sauber.

Hamilton looked to send out a warning shot to Rosberg by getting in an early lap in Q3, and he appeared to do exactly that by becoming the first driver to dip below the 1m25s mark all weekend long with his first flying lap. However, Rosberg dug deep to find a further three-tenths of a second on his teammate and put himself on provisional pole with just one flying lap remaining in qualifying.

However, Hamilton could not get his final lap together and failed to improve his time, handing pole position to Rosberg by three-tenths of a second. The German driver was quick to thank his team over the radio after securing his first pole of the season, whilst Hamilton was left to think of what could have been.

Sebastian Vettel continued his fine start to life with Ferrari by qualifying third, albeit half a second behind the Mercedes duo. Valtteri Bottas finished an excellent fourth for Williams ahead of the Toro Rosso duo of Carlos Sainz Jr – the highest qualifying Spanish driver – and Max Verstappen in P5 and P6. Tomorrow will be the first time that the team has ever started from inside the top ten at Barcelona.

Kimi Raikkonen was unable to hook up his final lap in Q3, leaving him seventh on the grid ahead Daniil Kvyat in P8, who finished in the top ten of qualifying for just the second time all season. His teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, rounded out the top ten behind Felipe Massa, who qualified ninth for Williams.

The intra-team battle at Mercedes so far this season has been incredibly one-sided, but Rosberg has now fought back and ended Hamilton’s pole position record. However, he will know all too well that it is the race which matters more, and putting an end to his losing streak tomorrow is crucial if he is to revive his championship hopes.

How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).