Bottas enters thick of F1 title fight after Austria win, ‘loving every moment’

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Valtteri Bottas entered the thick of the Formula 1 championship fight by taking his second win of the season on Sunday in Austria, giving the Finn the belief he can battle with Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas fended off Vettel in the dying stages at the Red Bull Ring to hold on and take victory for Mercedes, harking back to his maiden F1 win in Russia earlier this year.

Bottas had controlled the race and was more than eight seconds clear of Vettel at one stage, only for a bold strategy from Ferrari to bring the German driver back into contention.

“I had a bit of a déjà vu in the end with what happened in Russia, he was catching up. The problem in the last stint, I had a massive blister on the rear left since lap five of that stint, so that made it quite tricky,” Bottas explained on the podium.

“In the beginning I could control the pace, but in the end the backmarkers made it quite tricky. Really happy, it’s only my second win in my career. Thank you guys for the support. Massive thank you to the team for making this possible, so thank you guys.

“It’s still a long year ahead. We’re not even halfway. This makes good for the points, but it’s still early days and we’re still developing as a team.”

The result saw Bottas draw to within 35 points of Vettel at the front of the drivers’ championship, and is now just 15 back from Hamilton, who has been perceived to be leading Mercedes’ charge this season.

When asked about a title bid, Bottas said: “We’re not even in the halfway of the year, so definitely I believe and the team believes.

“Still a long year ahead. Like I said, we are still developing. I’m just loving every moment and it’s going to be good.”

Despite his jovial mood on the podium, Bottas could not be persuaded to be inducted into the ‘shoey’ club by Daniel Ricciardo, instead hurrying away with his trophy in hand.

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar unveils new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that was unveiled this morning ahead of Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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