Friday proved to be a day for the championship underdogs in Abu Dhabi.
Not only did Lewis Hamilton top both Formula 1 practice sessions ahead of Nico Rosberg, but the trailing drivers in GP2 and GP3 took pole position for their respective series to shake up the title race.
In GP2, Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly entered the Abu Dhabi weekend trailing Prema Racing teammate Antonio Giovinazzi by seven points in the drivers’ standings.
However, the gap was reduced to just three after a stunning lap of 1:47.476 was enough to give Gasly pole position and the four bonus points on offer in qualifying.
Giovinazzi was unable to respond, finishing eight-tenths of a second adrift in sixth place, putting him on the back foot heading into Saturday’s feature race at the Yas Marina Circuit.
The GP3 qualifying session offered a similar narrative as the trailing Alexander Albon captured pole position, while title favorite Charles Leclerc lagged behind.
ART racer Albon took pole by over two-tenths of a second on Friday, picking up the four bonus points on offer to whittle Leclerc’s lead down to just 25 heading into the opening race of the weekend.
The opening GP2 and GP3 races of the weekend will take place on Saturday following F1 qualifying, with their season finales preceding the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday.
Ed Carpenter Racing has signed 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay to drive the full 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, the team announced Wednesday.
VeeKay will drive the No. 21 Chevrolet previously occupied by Spencer Pigot.
“I’m so happy!” the 19-year-old driver from the Netherlands said in a press release. “It’s a dream come true and something we have worked extremely hard for over the last couple of years. To step up from USF2000 to the NTT IndyCar Series in three years is really special.”
In his maiden Indy Lights season this year, VeeKay collected six race victories and seven pole potions. VeeKay previously won the 2018 Indy Pro 2000 championship, and finished second in the 2017 USF2000 standings.
VeeKay’s success in the ladder series caught the attention of Carpenter, who gave VeeKay the opportunity to first test for the team at Portland International Raceway in August.
“I have been following Rinus’s path through the Road to Indy, especially the past two years,” Carpenter said. “It was clear to me that he deserves to be in an Indy car. After his first day in a car at Portland this past season, that feeling became even more apparent. His pace, feedback and demeanor inside the car was very impressive for such a young driver.”
As a driver, Carpenter will be VeeKay’s teammate during the five oval races in 2020, once again returning to the team’s No. 20 entry. An announcement on which driver will pilot the No. 20 on the road and street circuits will be made at a later time.
Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter