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Hamilton downbeat after Singapore qualifying, F1 points lead at risk

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Lewis Hamilton was left downbeat after qualifying fifth for the Singapore Grand Prix on Saturday, while Formula 1 championship rival Sebastian Vettel swept to pole position.

Mercedes arrived in Singapore wary of its chances given the tight and twisting nature of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, better-suiting the rival cars from Ferrari and Red Bull.

Qualifying went largely as expected, with Vettel grabbing pole ahead of Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, with Kimi Raikkonen sat fourth.

Hamilton finished over six-tenths of a second off Vettel in Q3, and was disappointed – although not surprised – that Mercedes’ traditional struggles in Singapore were continuing.

“Every year it has been relatively difficult for us in Singapore, so we knew that we would come here and it would be tricky,” Hamilton said.

“I thought Red Bull would be as quick as they were, but I didn’t anticipate Ferrari to be that strong. I gave it everything today but I could not get any more out of the car, I squeezed it until it was dry.

“There are no points for today, so we will focus on doing the best job we can tomorrow and remain hopeful.”

To make matters worse for Hamilton, a lack of overtaking opportunities in Singapore will make progressing up the order a challenge, giving Vettel the chance to overturn the three-point deficit at the top of the drivers’ championship.

“This is a horrible track for overtaking. It will be a long race,” Hamilton said.

“I will have to try and see if I can get a good start to pick off at least one car.

“Sebastian has Verstappen next to him, so anything can happen at the start.”

The Singapore Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

Female racer makes history with record finishes in dirt national midget events

Photo courtesy Toyota Racing
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Holly Shelton is riding high after setting a milestone for a female driver in a national midget series feature event on dirt this past weekend.

The Sacramento, California-area resident recorded the highest finish ever for a female dirt national midget series driver with a runner-up finish last Friday at the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League double-header weekend at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley, Missouri.

Shelton broke her own national record for top finish by a woman in a national dirt event – she finished third in a USAC race at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, last year.

One night after setting her new national record, Shelton and her Keith Kunz Motorsports Toyota roared back Saturday to finish third (started on the outside pole) in the second half of the weekend double-header, making her the first female dirt driver ever on the national midget circuit to earn back-to-back podium finishes.

“It’s cool making history as a female, but my number one thing is I just want to win,” said Shelton, who will be graduating from Cal-State Sacramento with a B.A. in Criminal Justice this fall. “Truthfully, on the track I don’t even remember that I’m a girl. I’m just racing all the guys with the same goal they have – to win.”

Only one other woman has finished second in either a USAC or POWRi midget feature – Sarah McCune at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway in 1999 – but that was on pavement, not dirt.

The record-setting weekend was great consolation for Shelton, who missed three races earlier this season due to surgery and then sat out three other races last month after suffering a race-related concussion.

“It felt good,” she said of her back-to-back podium finishes. “It builds up my confidence. The car is fast and we keep getting better and we want to build on it.”

Shelton was one of four women that competed in midget competition this weekend. The others were 19-year-old Maria Cofer and 16-year-olds Holley Hollan and Presley Truedson.

“It’s awesome seeing all the little girls come up to me excited to see me at the track,” Shelton said. “Hopefully, it encourages them to pursue their dreams as well and, as the years go on, more girls will get into it.”

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