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Ericsson upbeat as Sauber makes Q2 breakthrough in Singapore

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Marcus Ericsson felt upbeat following qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday after securing his first Q2 berth since the Chinese Grand Prix back in April.

The Sauber Formula 1 Team brought its first raft of upgrades for the C35 car to Singapore after being forced to wait on receiving a financial boost before developing them.

The Swiss operation was taken over by Longbow Finance over the summer, securing the long-term future of the team and allowing it to hire a number of key personnel.

Ericsson put the updates on his car to good use by qualifying 16th on Saturday in Singapore, making it through to Q2 ahead of the Renault pair of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer.

While Ericsson was pleased with the result, he admitted that the team was still struggling for pace in comparison to the midfield runners.

“It is positive that I reached Q2 today,” Ericsson said.

“Overall it has been a difficult weekend for me, as I haven’t been able to get a good feeling for the car during the practice sessions.

“Therefore it makes it even nicer that we managed to make it into the second qualifying session.

“It is a good effort, but we need to keep pushing to close the gap to the midfield.”

Ericsson’s Sauber teammate Felipe Nasr was less pleased after finishing 18th, citing a drop-off in pace following practice.

“It was a disappointing qualifying for me,” Nasr conceded.

“I was surprised by the drop of performance in qualifying, as I felt comfortable in the car during the free practice sessions.

“We went in the right direction in regards to the car’s balance, then in qualifying I struggled with the rear grip on my first try.

“On the second set of tires I felt that my tire temperatures were not in the right working window.

“Anything can happen here in Singapore, so we keep fighting.”

The Singapore Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

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