Seven drivers share 168 places worth of grid penalties for Italian GP

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In what is becoming a recurring story in Formula 1, more than a third of the grid has been hit with a grid penalty for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix.

Six of the seven were penalized for making changes to their power unit and exceeding the limit of four of each component per season.

Although none of the teams were able to outdo McLaren’s record 105 grid drop in Belgium, some were hit with multiple penalties, resulting in a very jumbled rear end of the grid.

So, without further ado, here is the driver-by-driver penalty run-down.

Marcus Ericsson – qualified P9, starts P12

Ericsson is the only driver whose grid drop is not the result of a power unit change. The Swede was penalized three grid positions for blocking Nico Hulkenberg in Q1 on Saturday, leaving him 12th for the start of the race.

Jenson Button – qualified P16, starts P15

Yes – Button actually gains a position from his qualifying result despite having a five-place grid penalty for taking an additional ninth power unit element.

Fernando Alonso – qualified P17, starts P16

The same is true for Fernando Alonso, who has a ten-place penalty for taking a ninth power unit element for the first time.

Carlos Sainz Jr – qualified P13, starts P17

Sainz drops down the grid after racking up 35 places worth of penalties over the Monza weekend. The Spaniard’s car has taken fifth and sixth sets of elements, resulting in the grid drop.

Daniil Kvyat – qualified P14, starts P18

Red Bull has been the biggest offender when it comes to power unit changes at Monza. Kvyat racks up 30 places worth of grid drop due to changes made to his power unit, with another five coming thanks to a gearbox change. All in all, he serves just four places.

Daniel Ricciardo – qualified P15, starts P19

Ricciardo’s weekend has been nothing short of a nightmare thanks to problems with his power unit. After fitting a new one and giving himself a 25-place grid penalty, said power unit failed during FP3, forcing Red Bull into fitting another one. So all in all, it’s a 50-place grid drop.

Max Verstappen – failed to qualify, starts P20

Verstappen’s problems were such that he was unable to get out during qualifying, and therefore technically failed to qualify. Of course, the stewards have given him permission to race, albeit with a 30-place grid penalty and a drive-through for the race after he was unsafely released in FP3.

Although Ricciardo should start 65th and Verstappen should only be 50th on an infinite grid, as Verstappen did not qualify, he automatically starts from the back.

So here’s what the provisional grid looks like for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix.

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

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

Rahal determined to regain winning touch in 2019 IndyCar season

Photo by Shawn Gritzmacher, INDYCAR
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AUSTIN, Texas – Graham Rahal entered the room with a smile on his face and a chip on his shoulder.

It was IndyCar “Media Day” and Rahal wasn’t happy with the way last season went at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He was less happy with the fact some aren’t considering him a serious threat in 2019. He playfully chided with one media outlet for failing to mention his team as one to watch in 2019.

“We use that as motivation to show everybody how we are viewed,” Rahal said. “We are here to win.”

Rahal just turned 30 in January but is entering his 13thseason in big-time Indy car racing. He entered the 2007 Champ Car Series season when he was just 17. He missed his high school prom because he was racing at Houston.

“That was the luckiest day of my life,” Rahal said. “I didn’t have to go to the prom. It doesn’t get any better than that.

“Plus, I got my second career podium that weekend.”

Rahal drove to victory in his very first race in the combined IndyCar Series in the 2008 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He was hailed as the “Poster Boy of Unification” and a future star. What followed was a seven-year drought before he captured his second-career win in a thrilling race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California.

He won two races in 2015, one in 2016 and two in 2017. He was expected to contend for victories and possibly the championship last year but struggled through a disappointing season and finished eighth in the standings.

“I’m looking forward for chance this year,” Rahal said. “Last year was a tough one for me and for the team. I’m looking forward to what my new engineer, Allen McDonald, has done so far. He is an accomplished engineer and brings a different mindset to our program this year from what we had last year. He and (fellow engineer) Eddie Jones are very close friends and that will help us from the standpoint they are on the same page.

“We needed a bit of life brought back to the team.”

Rahal believes his challenges are to get everything in order before the season starts. The team has defined the areas where it was lacking in 2019. The team needed to improve in research and development after starting behind last season.

“I’m excited for what I see, and I know in the end it will all pay off,” Rahal said. “It’s just a matter of when.

“There is a lot to be excited about for us. We are in a great position as a team. We have great sponsorship and that will allow us to push forward and do the things we need to do.”

Rahal believes at 30, he has a long time ahead of him to win races and championships and maybe even the Indianapolis 500. In order to reach those goals, however, Rahal’s team needs to regain the competitive level he displayed prior to last year.

“We’ve been fortunate to win six times,” Rahal said. “A lot of people come into this sport and never win. I fully recognize there is no reason we can’t win a lot. I don’t care what anybody writes, what anybody thinks – I really feel that when it comes to race day, we perform better than 99 percent of the other people out there.

“As a team and for myself, we have to qualify better. If we can qualify better, we’ll be a thorn in everybody’s side. We know the rear of our cars just aren’t good enough. When we need to find that extra tenth or two, it’s just not there but absolutely, we want to win.

“I don’t come here year after year to just drive around. Our sponsors don’t invest in us year after year to not see us win. We feel that. But our cars aren’t good enough and we know that.”

Rahal believes the team has identified the problems with the setup of its car. It has a deep engineering staff but hasn’t had a chance to develop the damper program and other important areas that provide a competition setup.

Takuma Sato, the winner of the 101stIndianapolis 500 when he was with Andretti Autosport, scored the team’s only victory in 2018 with a win in the Portland Grand Prix. The two are back this year and have built a respect for each other.

“He’s a good guy,” Rahal said of Sato. “Other than Helio Castroneves, Takuma is probably the happiest man on the planet. He’s a great guy and fits in well with our organization. We pride ourselves on being a family and he fits in extremely well to that.

“We need to do a better job for him as a team. He won a race last year, but we can both do better to win with both cars.

“The Andretti cars are the best right now and the Penske cars will be good. We have a lot of space to close up on those two teams but hopefully, we can do it.”