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Sebastian Vettel quickest again on day two of Barcelona F1 test

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BARCELONA – Sebastian Vettel once again took Ferrari to the top of the timesheets on day two of the first Formula 1 pre-season test of 2016.

Vettel led the way in the new Ferrari SF16-H on the first day of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and continued to lay down an impressive pace as the entire field racked up plenty of mileage on Tuesday.

Vettel recorded a fastest time of 1:22.810 in the final hour of the morning session after enjoying his first run on Pirelli’s new ultra-soft tire, which made its first appearance.

The lap was enough to give Vettel a buffer of seven-tenths of a second at the top of the timesheets ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who also posted his best time on the ultra-soft tire. Both drivers completed over 100 laps, record 125 and 112 respectively.

High mileage was common throughout the field, with Force India’s Sergio Perez breaking the century barrier with just five minutes remaining in the session. The Mexican driver ended the day third in the standings.

Nico Rosberg led the way in terms of mileage for Mercedes, following the example set by teammate Lewis Hamilton on Monday. Rosberg racked up a mammoth 172 laps en route to fourth place in the final standings, finishing just over two seconds off Vettel’s time.

Marcus Ericsson finished an impressive fifth for Sauber, while Esteban Gutierrez enjoyed a solid first day for Haas to finish sixth, putting in 79 laps behind the wheel of the VF-16.

Valtteri Bottas ended up seventh for Williams ahead of Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein, while Fernando Alonso’s first run in the new McLaren saw him put in 119 laps without any major issues – a good early sign for McLaren.

Jolyon Palmer was less fortunate, though, completing just 42 laps in the Renault before a power unit failure brought his day to an early end and sparked one of three red flag periods. Max Verstappen also caused one due to an issue in the morning, leaving him to prop up the timesheets in P11 for Toro Rosso.

Testing resumes on Wednesday morning in Barcelona from 9am local time (3am ET).

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

A few observations from the track in Barcelona on Tuesday:

  • Mercedes may not have topped the timesheets for the second day in a row, but it unquestionably has the edge once again. The W07 car looks more planted than the rest of the field through corners and particularly strong on turn in. The mileage Nico Rosberg racked up today was – as was Lewis Hamilton’s on Monday – ominous for the chasing pack.
  • Let’s not discount Ferrari just yet though. Vettel’s time on the ultra-soft tire was massively impressive, showing the pace advantage it will offer. The fact he gapped Daniel Ricciardo by such a great amount just minutes after the Australian had posted his time shows that the Ferrari is genuinely strong. The repackaged power unit may offer that extra edge that is needed to give Mercedes more of a fight this year.
  • Like its parent team, Haas enjoyed a very good day in Barcelona. Esteban Gutierrez was the happiest man in the paddock after his first run in the VF-16, speaking to the media after the session with a huge smile on his face. The car looks a bit ragged on exit of corners, but the traction mid-turn is strong. P6 in the standings continues the best start for a new F1 team in 17 years.
  • Toro Rosso is due to get more parts for the STR11 next week at the beginning of the second test. The late change in engine supplier meant not everything could be readied for the start of testing on Monday, so more is due. Regardless, the early signs are good, with the 2015-spec Ferrari power unit giving the team a boost for the start of the season.
  • It proved to be another day to forget for Renault as a power unit failure sidelined Jolyon Palmer just after lunch. The Briton has completed just 79 laps over his two days of running, marking a poor start for the French manufacturer in its comeback year. Kevin Magnussen will assume driving duties in the morning and hope for a better day.
  • Fernando Alonso seemed happy with the McLaren after his first run on Tuesday, completing almost two race distances – a far cry from last year’s struggles. The Spaniard once again had to insist that he will not be leaving the team this year, saying that he felt proud of what all at Woking had achieved over the winter.
  • All in all, what stood out most today was the mileage the teams managed. Just three red flags all day prove how far the current era of F1 cars have come in terms of reliability. A year ago, it was a far higher number. Good progress is being made by all of the teams.

Scott McLaughlin will make IndyCar debut for Team Penske at St. Pete

Scott McLaughlin IndyCar debut
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Two-time defending Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will make his NTT IndyCar Series debut with Team Penske in the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

McLaughlin, 27, drove for Penske in preseason IndyCar testing at Circuit of the Americas, Sebring International Raceway (in a rookie evaluation) and Texas Motor Speedway, and he was announced Feb. 5 as making his debut with the team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic delayed the start of the season.

Travel restrictions also made it difficult for the New Zealand native to leave Australia, where he leads the points for DJR Team Penske in the Virgin Australia Supercars series with three races remaining. He set a Supercars record last season with 18 victories.

The Supercars season will conclude Oct. 18 with the prestigious 24 Hours of Bathurst. McLaughlin then will head directly to the States to drive the No. 3 Dallara-Chevrolet at St. Pete as a teammate of Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” McLaughlin, who also has won at Barber and Indianapolis while unofficially finishing first in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, said in a release. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my IndyCar debut.”

McLaughlin, whose wife, Karly, is from New York, said he has discussed racing in America with car owner Roger Penske since he was hired by the team for the 2017 season.

“I’ve always said I’d love to have a crack at something else,” McLaughlin told reporters in February during the preseason test at Austin, Texas. “My goal was always to win the championship in Bathurst and Australia. I ticked those boxes, and then opportunities arise over time. The conversation between me and Roger was pretty short. ‘Would you be interested in IndyCar?’ I’d literally drive a wheelbarrow with a Team Penske sticker on it. I’d race anything that comes with the opportunity.

“I’ve always intended I’d love to get America one day potentially if I’ve done my goals in Australia. I’ve always said whether it’s now or 30 years down the track, I’d love to finish up (in America). I’ve promised Karly that we would come back here eventually. She’s not pushing me by any means, but I’ve always had a passion for American motorsport and certainly would love the opportunity.”

McLaughlin also has indicated a desire to try racing in NASCAR for Team Penske. He discussed his comfort with stock cars during a 2017 episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast (click on the link below to hear it).

Here’s the release from Team Penske:

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (September 17, 2020) – Team Penske announced today that Scott McLaughlin, the current Virgin Australia Supercars Championship points leader, is scheduled to make his long-awaited NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in the series’ 2020 season finale on the Streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday, October 25.

The two-time and defending Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP) was set to compete in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race earlier this year on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the COVID-19 global pandemic forced several delays and postponements on racing schedules, along with international travel restrictions. Before the pandemic shutdown, McLaughlin participated in the INDYCAR SERIES preseason open test at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, where he ran consistently well and posted the third-fastest time of the test session. The 27-year-old native of New Zealand also competed in separate tests at the Sebring International Raceway road course and the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” said McLaughlin. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my INDYCAR debut. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”

McLaughlin currently leads the Supercars point standings with just three rounds of competition remaining on the 2020 schedule. McLaughlin has produced a series-best 10 wins and 10 poles and holds a 143-point lead over Jamie Whincup entering this weekend’s race at The Bend. Over the course of his Supercars career, McLaughlin has won an impressive 53 races and 71 poles, while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019 and winning the driver’s title in each of the last two seasons. He also earned his first win in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in 2019 with co-driver Alex Premat. Though he is in just his fourth season competing for Team Penske, McLaughlin already ranks third on the organization’s all-time wins list, trailing only Brad Keselowski and Mark Donohue.

Earlier this year, McLaughlin made his “virtual” INDYCAR debut, competing in the series’ iRacing Challenge and winning two races among the full field of current NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers that were competing against each other while traditional racing was put on hold.

“Our plan has always been for Scott to run a race in the INDYCAR SERIES this season, but we never wanted to take the focus away from the main goal, which is winning another Supercars Championship,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric. “COVID-19 certainly altered those plans early on, but with the way the schedules have lined up at the end of this season, St. Pete became an available option and we remain committed to getting him some INDYCAR seat time. We know Scott is ready for this challenge and this should add even more excitement to the 2020 season finale in St. Petersburg.”

McLaughlin will pilot the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Dallara/Chevrolet at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was postponed from its original date in March and will now take place on Sunday, October 25. The race on the 1.8-mile street circuit will be seen live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, with radio coverage on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network and SIRIUS XM.