Formula E: Senna upbeat in spite of difficult first season

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Mahindra Racing’s Bruno Senna is remaining upbeat in spite of a difficult first season in the FIA Formula E championship that has seen him finish no higher than fifth in the opening eight rounds.

Senna joined Mahindra alongside former Hispania F1 teammate Karun Chandhok for the inaugural season of the electric-powered series, and has led the team’s charge to rank tenth in the drivers’ standings.

Speaking to the official Formula E website, Senna admitted that his first year in the championship had not gone entirely to plan and that the title was out of reach, but he feels that the underlying pace shown by Mahindra has been impressive.

“Well, it’s mathematically possible,” Senna said when asked about his title aspirations. “It’s a bit too far from us unfortunately.

“We’ve had a few too many losses not through our fault. Whenever we had a race that we actually competed in, we were very competitive.

“So we did some good comeback races and drives through the field, so I think in that sense we’re looking good, but we need to put everything together to be able to be on the podium and on the top step of the podium in the future.”

Senna also said that he hoped to see a round in Brazil join the Formula E calendar in the not-too-distant future following the success of compatriots Nelson Piquet Jr and Lucas di Grassi at the top of the standings.

“We need a few Brazilian drivers who are winning, which we already have,” Senna said. “Obviously we need a race in Brazil, so let’s work for that.”

The penultimate round of the Formula E season takes place next weekend in Moscow, Russia, ahead of the final double-header round in London at the end of June.

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.