Spanish GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

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MONTMELO – Just when you thought Nico Rosberg was out of form and perhaps already out of the title fight, he has pulled himself right back in by claiming his first pole position of the season in Spain on Saturday.

Naturally, points are won on Sunday, and Lewis Hamilton’s starts have been particularly strong in 2015. However, the Briton was clearly second best in qualifying at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, even admitting himself that he simply lacked the pace to beat his teammate to pole position.

Qualifying went largely as expected, with those lacking updates – Force India and Sauber – struggling whilst the top five teams managed to pull away and gap the rest of the field. Once again though, it was Mercedes who ruled the roost, locking out the front row and claiming its 17th consecutive pole position.

Rounding up all of the news and action from Barcelona on Saturday, here is the Paddock Notebook.

SESSION REPORTS

PADDOCK NEWS

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Right place, right time for Nico

Nico Rosberg’s charge to pole position in Spain on Saturday could not have come at a better time. The German driver has looked weak for much of the opening part of the 2015 season, and despite showing some flickers of a revival in Bahrain, few would have seriously tipped him to take pole in Spain. However, he controlled qualifying, getting into a rhythm in Q2 before finding his sweet spot in the final part of qualifying, posting two lap times that would have been good enough for pole. On Saturday, Hamilton was second best. Rosberg’s big strength in 2014 was his qualifying form. If he can kick-start from here, then the title fight may be back on.

Different directions at Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen’s weekend has been a difficult one. After running with a number of new parts on Friday, the Finn opted to revert to the Bahrain-specification SF15-T on Saturday, only to finish seventh in qualifying and one second down on teammate Sebastian Vettel. Kimi remained unflustered though, saying “it is what it is” and focusing on the race. Vettel was surprised by the size of the gap to Mercedes – half a second – and it will be interesting to see just how serious a threat he can pose to the Silver Arrows on Sunday. Like Malaysia, it all depends on his strategy.

Toro Rosso’s Saturday surprise

When Max Verstappen told me on Friday that he thought he could fight with Williams and qualify on the second row, I thought he was being way too ambitious. Like he has with many people in 2015 though, he proved me wrong. Toro Rosso enjoyed its best qualifying of the season in Spain, and will line up fifth and sixth on the grid tomorrow with Carlos Sainz Jr ahead of Verstappen. The STR10 car is low on updates, but is particularly strong here. Points are most certainly on the cards, and taking down both Williams and parent team Red Bull would be a huge victory for the rookies.

McLaren targets points, but needs some luck

Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button had differing views on McLaren’s chances of points in Barcelona following qualifying. Alonso said a top ten finish was possible, whilst Button was less optimistic. P13 and P14 on the grid will mark the team’s highest starts of the season, and although progress has been made, the big gap between the top ten and the rest is a cause for concern. A few retirements could give Button and/or Alonso points, but McLaren needs a few more weeks before being there on merit.

A lack of upgrades hits Force India and Sauber hard

Heading into this weekend, Force India and Sauber both wanted to keep the other midfield teams within their reach despite not bringing a sizeable upgrade package to Spain. Despite suggesting that they just might during practice, this optimism soon faded. Sauber fill out positions 15 and 16, Force India is 17th and 18th with only Manor behind them. Points are out of the question for both teams, and the alarm bells regarding the next few races may well be ringing.

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That’s all for Saturday in the paddock. Be sure to join us on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7:30am ET on Sunday for the Spanish Grand Prix.

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
Jeff Robinson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.