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Verstappen leads final Singapore F1 practice, Red Bull completes sweep

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Red Bull Racing will head into qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix fancying its chances of a first Formula 1 pole position in 2017 after completing a sweep of practice on Saturday afternoon courtesy of Max Verstappen.

Red Bull arrived in Singapore eager to make the most of the engine-limited track layout and take the fight to the front-runners, but was expected to struggle to match Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel.

However, Daniel Ricciardo was able to lead its charge throughout Friday, topping both FP1 and FP2, with Verstappen following in second place in the night-time session.

The Dutchman moved to the top of the timesheets in final practice on Saturday, posting a best lap time of 1:41.829 to edge out Ferrari’s Vettel come the checkered flag.

Verstappen had a late scare on his Red Bull car, appearing to slow and reporting it was “shifting by itself”, but got back out on-track a few minutes later with no further issues.

Vettel was left to settle for P2, 0.072 seconds behind Verstappen, but it nevertheless marked a solid improvement from Friday when he could only finish 11th-fastest. Lewis Hamilton was third for Mercedes, also recovering from a disappointing Friday.

McLaren enjoyed its best practice session so far this season as Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne took P4 and P5 respectively, also benefitting from the lack of engine power required at Marina Bay.

Friday pace-setter Ricciardo took sixth ahead of Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, with the Finnish pair of Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen slotting into eighth and ninth. Sergio Perez completed the top 10 for Force India.

Besides the late trading of lap times, the session’s other big incident of note came at the halfway point when Marcus Ericsson broke the rear wing of his Sauber by hitting the wall, causing a red flag period.

Qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix is live on CNBC and the NBC Sports app from 9am ET on Saturday.

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today 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 makes its debut today at 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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