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For most F1 teams, 4th place is as good as it gets

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SHANGHAI (AP) — A week ago, Toro Rosso driver Pierre Gasly came from nowhere to finish in fourth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

He and his team treated it like a victory.

“I must say, it’s been amazing,” Gasly said of his “success” as he prepares for Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix, the third race of the season.

Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost was just as thrilled, and credited engine maker Honda.

“I expected a place between eight and 10,” Tost said Friday in Shanghai. “And in the end it was fourth place. It was a big, positive surprise and I’m very happy.”

For seven of the 10 teams in Formula One, getting one of their drivers to finish in fourth place is about all they can hope for. Forget about first, second or third.

Three teams and their six drivers monopolize the top spots in Formula One almost every race. Last season, five different drivers won races, all from the top three teams: Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel has won both races so far this season.

It was much the same in practice Friday ahead of Saturday’s qualifying for the Chinese GP.

Defending champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes was quickest in both sessions, and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen was second quickest each time. Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, was third in both sessions, which stayed dry until a light rain began to fall in the final minutes of the second practice.

Hamilton will try to win his sixth race in China, and will be after his seventh pole position.

Rain is forecast for Saturday qualifying with a dry day predicted for Sunday.

“The battle for that fourth place in the championship is going to be extremely interesting through the year,” said Robert Fernley, the deputy team principal of Force India.

Last season, Force India finished fourth in the team standings, but light years behind the top three.

New series owner Liberty Media, which took over last season from long-time Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, hopes to give the small teams a chance to be more competitive when the current rules – called the Concorde Agreement – expire after the 2020 season.

The new owners are looking to cut costs and cap spending, but the richest teams, Mercedes and Ferrari, will have to agree – or cut a deal.

The smaller teams seem mostly on board.

“I support all the points that Liberty Media presented, and I hope that they will realize it,” said Tost, the Toro Rosso principal.

Though it runs in cycles, Formula One has traditionally been dominated by a few teams and drivers. The “also-ran” teams have taken to calling themselves “the midfield,” where competition is close for the spots behind the top three. But the gap is large.

Fernley, the Force India No. 2, was asked if he had ever seen the pack in the middle this tight.

“Not in recent years, no,” he replied. “I think it’s tremendous. The battle for that fourth place in the championship is going to be extremely interesting through the year.”

Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson was ninth in Bahrain, and just as excited as Gasly – the fourth-place winner.

Ninth place in Formula One is worth two points in the season standings, far behind the 25 the winner gets. But at least it’s something.

“It was a great race for us,” said the Swede, who praised the team’s new main sponsor, Alfa Romeo. “We’re coming from two very difficult years where we’ve been always at the back as a team. I was super happy to be back in the points. It’s been a long time.”

Chip Ganassi to be honored in Petersen Museum exhibit

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This Saturday, the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles will debut a new exhibit honoring one of the most successful teams in American motorsports.

Titled “Chip Ganassi Racing: Fast Tracks to Success | 30th Anniversary Tribute,” the exhibit will display several significant cars, trophies, and other artifacts from CGR’s storied racing history. Ganassi will formally be honored April 15, 2020 at the Petersen’s Annual Racers Night before the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Dario Franchitti’s 2010 Dallara IR-05. Photo Kahn Media

Vehicles displayed in the exhibit will include the 1983 Patrick Wildcat MK9B raced by Chip Ganassi to his best finish in the Indianapolis 500, the Lexus-powered Riley MK X1 raced by Scott Dixon in the 2006 24 Hours of Daytona, the Dallara IR-05 driven to victory by Dario Franchitti in the 2010 Indianapolis 500, the Ford GT that finished first in the LM GTE category at the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 driven by Kurt Busch in the 2019 NASCAR Cup Series.

“Chip Ganassi is an influential member of the automotive community, and his team’s penchant for success is a reflection of his raw skill and passion for the sport,” said Petersen Automotive Museum Executive Director Terry L. Karges. “Complemented by a visually dynamic and compelling 180-degree video, ‘Chip Ganassi Racing’ will celebrate the team’s victories and tell its story while taking visitors on a trip down memory lane.” 

“Chip Ganassi Racing: Fast Tracks to Success | 30th Anniversary Tribute” will run through January 31, 2021. The museum will host a ticketed opening reception on December 13. More information on the Petersen Museum can be found at www.petersen.org.

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