Expectations high for Hulkenberg, Force India in China

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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg is heading into this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix will high expectations despite enduring a mixed start to the 2016 Formula 1 season.

Hulkenberg ran to seventh in Australia last month, but spent the majority of the race toiling behind Romain Grosjean of the new Haas team in P6.

Force India suffered from a distinct lack of pace throughout the Bahrain Grand Prix two weeks ago, leaving Hulkenberg to drop from eighth on the grid to struggle home in 15th place.

Nevertheless, Hulkenberg has high hopes for this weekend’s race in Shanghai, believing that his run to Q3 on Saturday in Bahrain shows the inherent pace of the VJM09 car is good.

“My expectations for this weekend are high and, after the disappointment of Bahrain, I hope we can have a clean race in China,” Hulkenberg said.

“There’s good pace in the car and reaching Q3 in Bahrain was proof of that. We had to work very hard with the car set-up to find the sweet spot, but we learned a lot of things that will carry over into this weekend.”

Force India team owner Vijay Mallya echoed Hulkenberg’s comments, believing that the team is yet to truly show what it can do this season.

“It feels as though we’ve yet to unleash our true potential this season,” Mallya said.

“Both the races so far have been heavily compromised, either by our own mistakes or outside circumstances, so I’d like to see what we can achieve with a clean, trouble-free race to the flag.

“When things go to plan, we know we can compete well inside the top ten and I expect everyone in the team to be pushing hard to reverse our recent fortunes.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live across NBCSN and Live Extra this weekend.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III