Bottas edges Vettel for Brazilian GP pole after early Hamilton crash

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Valtteri Bottas pipped Sebastian Vettel in the final stage of qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix on Saturday at Interlagos to take the third pole position of his Formula 1 career in a day of mixed fortunes for Mercedes.

Early drama struck in Q1 when world champion Lewis Hamilton crashed out on his first flying lap, losing his car mid-way through Turn 6 and slamming into the barrier at high speed.

While Hamilton was unhurt, the crash marked the end of his session, as well as his resulting first Q1 exit since the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix, where he opted to take no part in the session due to a penalty.

The Mercedes driver will start P20 tomorrow, having technically failed to qualify for the race and therefore starting behind any drivers who have grid penalties.

Hamilton’s crash meant the battle for pole boiled down to Mercedes teammate Bottas and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with the pair going toe-to-toe in the final stage of qualifying.

Bottas laid down the first benchmark in Q3 to take provisional pole for Mercedes, only for Vettel to go eight-hundredths of a second faster and grab P1 for Ferrari after the opening runs.

After returning to the pits for a fresh set of tires, Bottas and Vettel ventured out in search of improvements despite light rain starting to fall.

A mistake under braking at Turn 1 saw Vettel fail to improve his time on his final flying lap, giving Bottas the chance to sneak in and go faster with a lap of 1:08.322, finishing 0.038 seconds clear at the checkered flag.

The result leaves Mercedes’ cars at either end of the grid, with the Ferrari duo of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen set to line up second and third on the grid.

Red Bull failed to enter the fight at the front as Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo qualified fourth and fifth respectively, with the latter set to drop 10 places on the grid due to an engine penalty.

Sergio Perez led the midfield runners in P6 for Force India ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, with the Renault duo of Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. following in eighth and ninth respectively.

Felipe Massa qualified 10th in his final home qualifying in F1, but will take to the grid from P9 by virtue of Ricciardo’s penalty.

While Perez led Force India’s charge by making it through to Q3, Esteban Ocon suffered his first Q2 elimination since Singapore after a scruffy final lap left him P11 overall.

Haas got both its drivers through to Q2, with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen taking 12th and 14th respectively, with the pair split by McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne. Brendon Hartley took 15th for Toro Rosso, and opted against setting a time in Q2 due to pending penalties.

Pascal Wehrlein narrowly missed out on Sauber’s first Q2 appearance since Baku, falling half a tenth shy of a berth in P16. Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly followed in 17th ahead of Lance Stroll and Marcus Ericsson, with Hamilton propping up the order in P20.

The Brazilian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 10am ET on Sunday.

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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