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F1: Hamilton hopes Spanish GP a turning point for Mercedes

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Lewis is hopeful that a Mercedes AMG Petronas 1-2 in the Spanish Grand Prix will be a sign of things to come for the team that has won every constructor’s and driver’s championship since 2014.

Scuderia Ferrari appeared to have an early-season edge, with Sebastian Vettel scoring a pair of victories and three-consecutive poles entering Spain.

While Hamilton took a fortuitous win at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, he knew that Ferrari still had somewhat of an upperhand.

And his victory also came at the expense of teammate Valtteri Bottas, who suffered a cut tire while leading in the final laps. Consequently, Hamilton was a bit muted in celebration.

The Spanish Grand Prix was a completely different story, however, as both Hamilton and Bottas started on the front row, and Hamilton dominated on the way to victory. Bottas, to his credit, finished second to give the team a 1-2.

“This is when we are going to start trying to continue to apply the pressure,” Hamilton said in the post-race press conference. “A 1-2 for the team. We have the Mercedes board here with us who have been supporting us from day one, so it’s great to have them all here and see that true force within the team – strength in depth. So I hope we can continue.”

Still, while he and the team are getting better with every race, and are developing a more thorough understanding of the W09, Hamilton is aware of how quickly things can change, and he isn’t putting the cart before the horse.

“I think it’s obviously a little bit early to say but I would like to hope that it could be part of a turning point,” he explained. “There is… race by race we’re understanding the tires more, which is a bit battle for everyone. We could just as easily go to the next race and struggle getting our tires working and be nowhere. So, it’s a little bit early to say. We do after the five races now have a much, much better understanding of the car, of what we need to do to get the car to be working – but we still have learning to do, improvements to be made. We still need to add performance to the car throughout the year, so that’s what we’re going to be continuing to be working on.”

Hamilton now leads Vettel by 17 points in the driver’s championship, while Mercedes leads Ferrari by 27 in the constructor’s.

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Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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