Starting grid for the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix

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After spending much of Friday lamenting a lack of rhythm, Lewis Hamilton bounced back on Saturday at the Red Bull Ring by capturing pole position for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Hamilton shot to the top of the timesheets during his second flying lap of Q3, but appeared to have blown his chance of starting from first place on the grid when he spun at the end of the session.

However, Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg surprisingly made the same error, sliding off the track at the final corner to scupper his own hopes of a second pole of the season.

The end result was that Hamilton had pole position number 45 of his career ahead of Rosberg, whilst Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished as the best of the rest in third place.

You can read our full report of qualifying here.

The biggest talking point after the session was the variety of grid penalties that needed to be applied on what has been a busy weekend for the FIA race stewards.

FROM THE STEWARDS’ OFFICE

Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo were both handed a ten-place grid drop for making changes to their power unit. Kvyat drops from P8 to P18, but gains three positions thanks to other penalties being applied after his. As a result, he will start the Austrian Grand Prix from 15th place.

Ricciardo qualified 14th on Saturday, so can only theoretically take six places of his penalty to drop to P20. As he cannot serve all of his sanction, he will enter the race with a five-second time penalty to his name, and, like Kvyat, gains places thanks to McLaren’s penalties.

Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button incurred the biggest penalties – 25 places – following a variety of changes that were made to their cars. Both will therefore start from the back row: Alonso in P19 with a drive-through penalty to serve; Button in P20 with a stop/go penalty.

STARTING GRID FOR THE 2015 AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX

1. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
3. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
4. Felipe Massa Williams
5. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
6. Valtteri Bottas Williams
7. Max Verstappen Toro Rosso
8. Felipe Nasr Sauber
9. Romain Grosjean Lotus
10. Pastor Maldonado Lotus
11. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
12. Carlos Sainz Jr Toro Rosso
13. Sergio Perez Force India
14. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
15. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull
16. Roberto Merhi Manor
17. Will Stevens Manor
18. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
19. Fernando Alonso McLaren
20. Jenson Button McLaren

The Austrian Grand Prix is live from 7:30am ET on Sunday on NBCSN and Live Extra.

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.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

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)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds