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Vergne: Victory out of reach for DS Virgin Racing in Berlin

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BERLIN, Germany – Jean-Eric Vergne felt content with fifth place in the Berlin ePrix despite starting the race from pole position, deeming that victory was out of reach for DS Virgin Racing on Saturday.

Vergne stormed to his first Formula E pole position in almost a year in qualifying, but lost out to eventual winner Sebastien Buemi in the early stages of the race.

Despite losing the majority of his front wing towards the end of the first stint, Vergne managed to battle his way to fifth place at the flag.

Vergne said that he was pleased with his result given the pace of the Renault e.dams and ABT cars as the title-fighting teams locked out the top four positions in Berlin.

“No it was not a missed opportunity. I think it was a great day,” Vergne told NBC Sports after the race.

“Obviously you start from pole, you want to be winning the race. But Paris to here, the track was more or less the same length, but you had four more laps. With our car, race energy was way too difficult.

“I tried to attack as much as I could today. I was extremely aggressive, even sometimes a bit too much. The two DAMS and the two ABTs were way too quick today.

“There was nothing I could have done to stop them. I tried as much as I could, but I couldn’t do any more. The pace was simply not there compared to those guys today. Maybe if there had been less laps it would have been a different story like in qualifying.”

Vergne said that the whole DS Virgin Racing team was happy with the weekend despite going from first and fourth on the grid to only bring home 10 points after an unplanned pit stop resigned Sam Bird to an 11th-place finish.

“The whole team was really happy with the weekend, especially qualifying,” Vergne said.

“I think we outperformed, so that was amazing, amazing feeling, really nice. P5 is the best we could have done.

“Considering the two teams ahead have two good drivers, I think today in the race they clearly had a better day. I did the job. I tried my max to block them. I was really aggressive in trying to do so.

“Therefore I’m really happy with fifth position. If we had the car to win and we don’t win, clearly we’re going to be disappointed, but today there is no reason to be disappointed.”

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.