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Michael Andretti: Surfers Paradise could follow Road America’s success with IndyCar comeback

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Michael Andretti supports IndyCar’s possible return to Surfers Paradise in Australia, believing it could enjoy similar success to Road America after its comeback earlier this year.

Verizon IndyCar Series officials confirmed reports last month that a return to Australia’s Gold Coast was being evaluated.

Surfers Paradise last played host to a non-championship race in 2008 after the Champ Car-IndyCar merger.

Andretti won the inaugural race at Surfers Paradise back in 1994, and is supportive of a possible return for IndyCar in the near future.

“It would be great,” Andretti told NBC Sports.

“I don’t know how real that is, but if it is real, I would definitely support it.”

Andretti thinks a race in Australia could mirror the success enjoyed at Elkhart Lake earlier this year, when Road America played host to a record crowd last month after an eight-year absence.

“From an event standpoint and feel-good for the series and support, it’s a fantastic event going down there,” Andretti said of Surfers Paradise.

“It would be cool to go back there because you look at what happened at Elkhart Lake – to come back that, it was overwhelming the support and everything that you felt there.

“It was actually a record crowd for that track. It could happen that way in Australia as well.”

When asked if Road America’s success reflected the strength of IndyCar at the moment, Andretti said: “I think so. We have support.

“You look at our events. Our oval races, some of them we have a bit of a problem getting fans, but man, when you get to the street races and some of the natural road courses, we get tons of people.

“There are still a lot of IndyCar fans out there.”

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.