Renault banks first double Q3 run since return as works team

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The signs of Renault Sport F1 Team’s improvement were evident in Saturday night’s qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix (Sunday, 10:30 a.m. ET, CNBC), with the team getting both its R.S.17 chassis into Q3.

Nico Hulkenberg qualified seventh, ahead of Felipe Massa’s Williams and Romain Grosjean’s Haas, while Jolyon Palmer made it into Q3 for the first time in 24 races thus far in his Formula 1 career, and will start a career-best 10th.

The result is the best in qualifying for the Enstone-based team since Renault came back in as a full works constructor prior to 2016.

The last time this team in a previous guise got both cars into Q3 was at the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix. On that day, Grosjean qualified fourth and Pastor Maldonado eighth in what was then known as a Lotus-Mercedes, but with Grosjean incurring a five-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change. So Grosjean started ninth, Maldonado seventh, and Grosjean promptly delivered both his and Renault/Lotus’ most recent podium finish with a surprise but welcome third place finish after Sebastian Vettel incurred a late puncture.

A podium is likely out of hands for this team tomorrow; Hulkenberg remains in search of his elusive first podium of his career while Palmer has only scored one point thus far. That said, a chance for big points is on offer; Renault hasn’t got both cars in the points since the 2015 Brazilian Grand Prix, when Grosjean was eighth and Maldonado 10th.

For Renault’s scores last year, Palmer scored in Malaysia (10th place) while Kevin Magnussen scored in Russia (seventh) and Singapore (10th).

Renault is in search of its first points this season and Palmer estimated a chance for a good haul is there for the taking on Sunday.

“It’s been a much better day, yeah,” Palmer told NBCSN at the end of the session. “We’d had such a tough weekend. We sorted some balance issues and made it through.

“I made a bit of a hash in Q3 so had to put it into recharge mode. But I’m still happy. It’s good to be into Q3 and have a chance to get points.

“I think it was a competitive long run for us. If we keep it clean, we should get some points.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III