Photos: Louis Yio/Red Bull GRC

Scott Speed’s blog: Target on my back after Memphis win

Leave a comment

Editor’s note: Providing a behind the scenes take during his 2017 Red Bull Global Rallycross (GRC) season, Scott Speed, driver of the No. 41 Oberto Circle K Beetle GRC for Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross (VARX), will contribute to NBCSports.com, giving readers his view from behind the visor.

In his second blog installment, Speed looks back at winning the season opener at Memphis, while having the target on his back after winning the last two series championships. His first blog is linked here

Round 2 takes over Louisville May 20-21, with coverage of Global Rallycross’ Supercar Final airing live on NBC, Sunday, May 21, at 1 p.m. ET.

The first race is a big tell tale of how the offseason has gone. After the Memphis weekend is said and done, we’ve got the biggest advantage we’ve had yet, which is a great position to be in. That said, there’s added pressure for me. I know that the team has given me a superior car, we saw that at Memphis in Round 1. It’s my job not to mess it up when we’re running that good.

With the added pressure, I’m in a position to play defense now, staying out of trouble and keeping clean. That’s a lot different of an approach than pushing every single corner and attacking every single lap in the Oberto Circle K Beetle GRC. During the break, we’re analyzing what risks we can take where, including the rough track sections or corners.

Where we’re at, it’s different but it’s a good mindset to be in.

Leaving Memphis, I definitely feel the target on my back is growing. The competition’s gunning for us. I know every time I hit the track, everybody’s out there with stopwatches and video to try and pick up what we’re doing. We’re “that car.” Obviously being in that position, we’re doing something right.

Eventually they’re going to catch on and the things we’re doing right, they’re going to get noticed and others will improve. Everybody has a good idea about the cars around them, and other teams are going to work hard after the first race, just as we continue to do at Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross.

There’s no doubt that everyone’s going to get better and faster as the season progresses. We may see some changes to minimum weight requirements come from the series, and I expect the gap to be closed dramatically if it does. I’m anxious to see the gap close in the next race. We have to take that as it is, and hopefully we will still have an advantage over others.

Heading into Round 2, we have to have the mindset that we know it’s going to be more competitive. That the bar is raised. One mistake in a heat could cost us seven points, and we don’t have a lead in the points standings enough to afford the loss after one event. Survival is key, collecting points as much as we can. With the new format this year, you don’t have to be the fastest car to do that, which is unfortunate for us being in the position we’re in. We may have come away from Memphis with the win and leading the points championship, but it’s not a very big lead and it’s still extremely competitive.

Leaving Memphis though, it feels great to get the win. Starting off the season atop the podium with Oberto and Circle K on board is great. I’m now the winningest driving in GRC history, which is a cool stat to have. But, it’s also a championship and one race won’t make or break it.

Going forward, we have to focus on consistency and risk management, not necessarily just being the fastest car on the track. Being fast is important, but what’s more important is being consistently good and finishing well in heat races under the new format. We’re always working on the car, working to step up our game. Whether from a handling standpoint or something on-track, there’s always room for improvement. We’re going to Louisville business as usual, so every time the car comes off the track, there are ways we can make it better. That’s what we’re focused on.



Lewis Hamilton takes F1 pole in dramatic Russian GP qualifying

Russian pole Lewis Hamilton
Dan Istitene - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
1 Comment

SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton took a step closer to equaling the Formula One win record Saturday by clinching pole position at the Russian Grand Prix, after narrowly avoiding early elimination when Sebastian Vettel crashed.

Hamilton charged to a track-record time of 1 minute, 31.304 seconds, beating the Red Bull of Max Verstappen by 0.563 for his fifth straight pole position. Hamilton can achieve his 91st career win in the race on Sunday, matching the record held by Michael Schumacher.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was beaten into third by Verstappen’s fast run at the end of the session and was .652 off Hamilton’s time.

The long run from the grid to the first significant turn means Bottas could yet threaten to overtake Hamilton at the start Sunday using the slipstream from his teammate’s car.

“It’s nice being on pole but here is probably the worst place to be on pole,” Hamilton said.

“This year you’re seeing that our cars are more draggy and there’s more tow this year than we’ve seen in other years. So I generally expect one of (Verstappen and Bottas) to come flying by at some point. I think I’m just going to focus on my race and run the fastest race I can.”

Bottas earned his first win at the 2017 race in Russia after starting third and overtaking the two Ferraris ahead of him at the start.

Verstappen and Bottas both start the race on medium tires, which could give them an edge in terms of pit strategy over Hamilton, who is on soft tires, which wear much faster.

“I’m just going to have to nurse those tires for as far as I can. These guys, if they get by, they’re going to be pulling away,” Hamilton said.

Verstappen said he was delighted to start second.

“I wasn’t expecting that and of course it’s great for us. If we can get a good start tomorrow you never know what can happen,” he said.

Vettel lost control of his car over the kerb on the inside of the 90-degree, right-hand turn four and spun into the wall, before the Ferrari bounced back onto the track. Teammate Charles Leclerc was following closely behind and narrowly missed the wrecked car, driving over its discarded front wing.

“Oh my God, that was very, very close,” Leclerc told his team over the radio. Leclerc qualified 11th and Vettel 15th as Ferrari failed to reach the top-10 shootout with either car for the third time in four races.

Vettel’s crash meant the red flag was waved while Hamilton was trying to set his first valid lap time to make the third session – after his first attempt was earlier ruled out for going off the track.

After the track was cleared and the session restarted, Hamilton had to rush his out-lap to make it over the line in time for another flying lap with just a second to spare.

“It was horrible,” Hamilton said. “Heart in the mouth.”

Hamilton was also asked to report to race stewards over another incident in which he went off the track in the first part of qualifying. No further action was taken. It was found Hamilton didn’t gain an advantage because the lap time wasn’t counted.

Hamilton is the runaway championship leader with a 55-point advantage over second-place Bottas and 80 over Verstappen. If he can earn four more pole positions in the last seven races, he would be the first driver to 100 in F1 history.

Earlier in the third and final practice Saturday morning, Hamilton set the pace with a time of 1 minute, 33.279 seconds that was 0.776 better than his Mercedes teammate Bottas, who had been quickest in the first two sessions.