Alonso, Ricciardo hit with grid penalties in Austria

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Fernando Alonso and Daniel Ricciardo have both been hit with a grid penalty for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix following changes made to their power units ahead of practice in Spielberg.

Both McLaren and Red Bull have been struggling with their engines at the start of the 2015 Formula 1 season, leaving both teams no choice but to exceed the limit of four power units and components for the season after just seven rounds.

McLaren’s newly rekindled partnership with Honda has gotten off to a rough start in 2015 thanks to the lack of reliability offered by the Japanese manufacturer’s power units.

This forced Jenson Button into take a 15-place grid penalty in Canada, which turned into an in-race penalty after the engine problem prevented him from taking any part in qualifying.

Now, Alonso has been hit with a similar penalty, amounting to 20 places: ten for the internal combustion engine change (ICE), five for the turbocharger change and five for the MGU-H change.

“In accordance with Article 28.4 c) a 10 grid position penalty is imposed, as this is the first time a 5th power unit element has been used, and two further 5 grid position penalties are imposed for the TC and MGU-H as this is the first time a 5th of any of the remaining elements have been used,” a statement from the FIA stewards read.

Daniel Ricciardo is also set to take a ten-place grid drop after taking a fifth ICE, with the stewards confirming his penalty on Friday.

“A 5th ICE has been used by car 3, this is a breach of Article 28.4 a) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations,” a statement read. “In accordance with Article 28.4 c) a 10 grid position penalty is imposed, as this is the first time a 5th power unit element has been used.”

In Ricciardo’s case, it is possible that he will be able to fulfil the entirety of his penalty by qualifying inside the top ten on Saturday.

However, Alonso is guaranteed to also have some kind of in-race penalty, depending on where he qualifies. Even if he started on pole, he would receive a five second time penalty, but is likely to need to serve a stop/go during the race just as Button did in Canada.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Combined speeds