Super-sub di Resta impresses on F1 comeback in Hungary qualifying

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At 5am, Paul di Resta was already wide awake, ironing his shirt ahead of his planned commentary duties on British TV for Formula 1 qualifying in Hungary.

Ten hours later, the Scot had emerged as an unlikely star of the very session he was due to be recapping after being drafted in to replace the unwell Felipe Massa at Williams.

When Massa came down sick midway through FP3 on Saturday morning, Williams was quick to call on reserve driver di Resta to step up and enter the rest of the race weekend, marking his first F1 appearance since the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Despite having never driven the 2017 Williams FW40 car before, di Resta put in an impressive display to not only finish well inside the 107 per cent time required but even qualify ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.

Di Resta lapped eight-tenths of a second off regular Williams racer Lance Stroll, completing a display that left the entire paddock impressed.

“I’m super happy with what we’ve accomplished as I never would have expected it, to be so close and equally be as comfortable with it,” di Resta told NBCSN.

“I’d only sat in a mockup until this morning, done an extraction test just to make sure I could get out of the car in time, and honestly everyone at Williams has been great. I’d been the test driver for the last year and a half hoping like something this arises.

“I was nervous, anxious, scared to get in the car this morning to be honest, because on a grand prix weekend before the summer break, everyone is on top of their game. There’s nowhere to hide.”

One of the biggest challenges di Resta faced was getting to grips with the 2017-spec F1 car, which is radically different from anything he has previously raced.

“I’d done 10 laps in a 2014 car earlier this year but by all means I’ve not driven a proper car since 2013. So nothing shocks me or scares me,” di Resta said.

“In the simulator at Barcelona, I thought: ‘These are a bit extreme’. It’s never easy to jump in straight away especially using Felipe’s settings, steering and position, but that’s the job. That’s the task.”

Di Resta will take the start in Hungary from 19th on the grid tomorrow, the race live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit

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Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.