Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Leist (Carlin), Piedrahita (Pelfrey) added to Indy Lights field

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Two more names have been confirmed to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires lineup for the 2017 season, with one driver back for his fourth season and another coming over for his first one.

The BRDC British F3 champion, 19-year-old Brazilian driver Matheus Leist, will come Stateside for Carlin after winning four races and edging Ricky Collard for last year’s title. He’s also tested in GP3.

Photo: Carlin Media
Photo: Carlin Media

“I’m very excited to be joining Carlin in Indy Lights” said Leist.  “I had quite a few options open to me in 2017, but a combination of things, including the opportunities in the US and on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, made Indy Lights a great option for me.   I have raced against Carlin before so I know how hard they push as a team to win.  I’m incredibly excited to get out on track in the car and get the season underway.”

Juan Piedrahita, meanwhile, will be back for a full-time campaign with Team Pelfrey. Piedrahita ran the full 2014 and 2015 seasons and most of 2016 before withdrawing with a few races remaining.

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

“We are extremely happy to welcome Juan back to Team Pelfrey IL for the 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires,” said Pelfrey team manager, Gary Neal. “We built a lot of momentum in post 2016 season testing with Juan and I am sure we will see some great results this season.”

Neil Alberico (Carlin) and Garett Grist (Pelfrey) have also tested for those teams in preparation for the season, and Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing) has also done a wealth of testing for that team. None of those three have been formally confirmed for 2017 as yet.

This brings the confirmed number of drivers to 11 with three to four more expected to be named, and an estimated 14-15 cars for the St. Petersburg season opener.

The Indy Lights grid so far:

  • Carlin: Garth Rickards, Matheus Leist
  • Andretti Autosport: Dalton Kellett, Nico Jamin, Ryan Norman
  • Andretti Steinbrenner Racing: Colton Herta
  • Belardi Auto Racing: Santiago Urrutia, Shelby Blackstock
  • Juncos Racing: Kyle Kaiser, Nicolas Dapero
  • Team Pelfrey: Juan Piedrahita

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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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.