GP2: Vandoorne claims record-breaking Austria pole

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Championship leader Stoffel Vandoorne continued his sensational start to the 2015 GP2 Series season by claiming a record-breaking pole position in Austria on Friday.

Vandoorne managed to edge out ART Grand Prix teammate Nobuharu Matsushita by 0.089 seconds at the end of the qualifying session with a fine final lap that left the rest of the field reeling.

The result marked the Belgian driver’s seventh pole position in GP2, which now stands as a new all-time record in the series.

Seven poles is impressive enough, but it is made all the more stunning by the fact that they have come in the last eight races. Vandoorne’s first GP2 pole was in Belgium last year, and he has started on pole at every race since then with the exception of Monaco last month.

“Today was another good day for us,” Vandoorne said. “It’s good to be back on pole position after missing it out in Monaco. Practice was quite good this morning. I felt I had a good pace. I had a bit of bad luck with traffic and we tried different setups as well.

“We knew the direction to take in qualifying this afternoon. Everything played out pretty well. On the first run, it was about learning about the super-soft tres. It’s the first time we have them here. It was a bit new for everybody.

“We could do more push laps than expected. For the second run, we tried to put everything in place and it was good enough for another pole position”

Vandoorne will now be looking to extend his sizeable championship lead in the feature race on Saturday, but will have to remain wary of Matsushita just behind. Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly qualified third ahead of Rapax’s Sergey Sirotkin, whilst Rio Haryanto rounded out the top five.

American driver Alexander Rossi struggled to find any pace due to a brake problem, leaving him 12th on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

F1 aggressive on COVID-19 testing, social distancing enforcement

F1 COVID-19 testing
Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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With big hugs and wide smiles, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown exuberantly celebrated the first podium finish of Lando Norris’ Formula One career. His exuberance earned a warning from Formula One and FIA officials during the era of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent F1 testing.

“Obviously I got excited with Lando on the podium and embraced him after the race,” Brown said with a laugh during a news conference Friday. “You get caught up in the emotion and excitement of the event, but it was suggested maybe I don’t do that again if we get a podium anytime soon.”

MASK WARNING: NASCAR tells teams to avoid ‘complacency’

Now in its second race weekend of 2020, F1 has taken an aggressive approach to maintain a paddock free of COVID-19. Before teams hit the track last week for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, F1 and FIA officials said more than 4,000 tests were conducted over a week with no positive tests.

In order to enter the track, any F1 personnel (which includes drivers and team members) must have a negative COVID-19 test. Private testing was used ahead of those traveling to Austria. After entering the track, personnel are tested every five days with private medical teams at events along with extra screening.

The results of F1 COVID-19 testing also will be made public every seven days. More than 8,000 tests were conducted through Saturday.

It’s a much different tack from NASCAR and IndyCar, neither of which is conducting COVID-19 testing (and with NASCAR recently distributing that warned teams of “complacency with protocols).

Though Brown, who also oversees Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports in IndyCar, demurred when asked whether the U.S.-based series should be taking a cue, he praised F1 COVID-19 testing for being a best-in-class example.

“I don’t know exactly what every other racing series is doing, so it would be difficult for me to say they’re doing it right or wrong,” Brown said from Austria. “All I can really do is speak to what Formula One is doing, and they’re doing an unbelievable job with 5,000 tests, and people flying in from different parts of the world. The minute that someone — and there’s not been many instances – has taken a mask off, you’re getting a letter or a phone call saying put your mask back on.

“I think all sports should be looking at all sports and seeing who’s doing what and what are our best practices, but I’ve got nothing but great things to say about how the FIA and Formula One and the countries they’re racing in are executing because it feels extremely safe here.”

Brown said it’s unlikely the European-based circuit will do F1 COVID-19 testing at races in the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Canada because the events likely will be scrubbed. Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, was scheduled to play host to F1 on the Oct. 23-25 race weekend but just canceled its MotoGP race.

“We’d very much like to race at all those circuits,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, my opinion is it’s probably unlikely we’ll race at any of those venues this year. That’s obviously due to the COVID situation. … Let’s see what happens, but certainly it seems like the spikes in Texas are pretty severe and Brazil and Mexico and Canada a little less so. But if we miss them this year, we certainly look forward to going back to those venues next year.”