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Perez, Alonso lead midfield F1 runners onto third row in Brazil

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Sergio Perez and Fernando Alonso will fill out the third row of the grid for the start of Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix after leading Formula 1’s midfield runners in a dramatic qualifying session at Interlagos.

Following Lewis Hamilton’s shock exit in Q1 after crashing at Turn 6, Perez was able to break into the top six ordinarily filled out by the Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari runners, taking P6 for Force India.

Alonso was able to drag his McLaren-Honda to P7 overall despite being some 16 km/h off the pace in the speed trap, with straight-line speed being key at Interlagos.

Both drivers will gain a position by virtue of Red Bull racer Daniel Ricciardo’s grid penalty after an engine change earlier in the weekend, leaving them P5 and P6.

“I am very pleased with today’s result, especially given how difficult the last couple of weekends have been for me in qualifying,” Perez said.

“It was a good fight to get into Q3 because our rivals were pushing us really hard, but I managed a good lap in difficult conditions to be sixth – the maximum we could hope for today.

“I have to say ‘thank you’ to the team: we went through everything to understand how the latest upgrades on the car work because I seemed to struggle a bit in qualifying at the last few races. The engineers have worked so hard and today’s result proves our pace.

“I am pleased to be back on form and I am looking forward to the race.”

“I’m happy with P7 today, particularly because it was a difficult qualifying,” Alonso said, reflecting on his session.

“Conditions were very tricky: you see drops of rain on the visor, and that takes some confidence away even when the asphalt is completely dry. So you have to trust what the car is doing, and commit to the corner even though your mind is saying something different.

“Yesterday, we weren’t completely happy with the balance of the car and with the performance, but today the car stepped up and we were more competitive.

“P6 is a fantastic starting position for scoring points, but we know that Hamilton and Ricciardo will come back very strongly tomorrow. I’ll try to defend as much as I can even though tomorrow we expect a very sunny day and completely dry conditions, so it’s not going to be easy to hold on to our position.

“A little bit of rain is always welcome for us. We seem to be more competitive in damp conditions, but being in the top 10 tomorrow is our goal. Saturday has been great, let’s see what Sunday brings.”

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

Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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