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Alfa Romeo’s Kubica fastest as F1 preseason testing resumes

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MONTMELO, Spain — Reserve Alfa Romeo driver Robert Kubica was fastest as Formula One preseason testing resumed Wednesday at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit.

Kubica had a time of 1 minute, 16.942 seconds in the morning session, becoming the first driver other than Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas to go faster than 1:17.000 this year.

“It has been a positive morning in the car for me,” Kubica said. “Times don’t matter … what really counts is finishing the day having completed your testing program, and we did that.”

Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen had led one of the tests sessions last week.

Mercedes continued to show good reliability, with Hamilton’s 89 laps being the most among all 10 drivers who went to the track in the morning. The defending champion was fourth-fastest, while Bottas finished ninth after 90 laps in the afternoon.

“It’s been a good session and a good start to the second week of testing,” Hamilton said. “The car didn’t quite feel as good as the first week, but I’m sure that will change as the test progresses and the track conditions improve.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen had the second-fastest time on Wednesday, four tenths of a second behind Kubica while using a slower tire compound. Sergio Perez was third with Racing Point, which also showed good pace last week.

Pierre Gasly of AlphaTauri was second in the morning and ended fifth for the day, behind teammate Daniil Kvyat.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was 10th after running 84 laps in the morning. Teammate Charles Leclerc finished 13th after 80 laps in the afternoon. Vettel caused the first red flag of the day after running wide.

Kubica also spun out early in the morning session, while Verstappen was among those to spin in the afternoon. One of Verstappen’s spins forced the late session to be cut short.

“We won’t know how good we are until we get to Melbourne (for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix),” Verstappen said. “Testing isn’t about setting lap times but trying new and different things. I stopped on track just before the end of the session but we’re not concerned and overall it was a positive day.”

Red Bull’s day was affected by some suspension issues, while Renault and Williams also were held back by problems.

Romain Grosjean drove both sessions for Haas, racking up 107 laps, the most of any driver.

Mercedes was dominant on the first three days of testing last week, setting the fastest times and running the most laps – 494. Bottas led the time charts with a lap of 1:15.732 seconds.

Mercedes also attracted attention last week by introducing a novel steering system in which drivers pull the steering wheel back and forth to adjust the angle of the front wheels on straights.

Some teams on Wednesday tested the prototype Pirelli tire which was being developed specifically for the banked corners that drivers will encounter at the Zandvoort track that will host the return of the Dutch GP in May.

The season begins with the Australian GP on March 15. It is the last before new regulations are put into place in 2021 to try to provide a more level playing field.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam GP and the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.

Steve Torrence takes NHRA points lead with Gatornationals victory

NHRA Gainesville Steve Torrence
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two-time defending NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence took the points lead Sunday in the AMALIE Motor Oil Gatornationals, beating his father, Billy, in the final round at Gainesville Raceway.

Torrence had a 3.809-second run at 322.11 mph to win for the third time this year and 39th overall. He is now on track for another championship despite missing the season opener.

“We’ve got some good momentum and to be in the points lead, it’s a testament to how hard these guys work,” Steve Torrence said after the NHRA Gainesville victory. “We’ve just got to stay focused and concentrate on what the task at hand is, and that’s trying to win a championship. These guys give me an unbelievable race car and you just try not to screw it up.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car, Alex Laughlin in Pro Stock and Matt Smith in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Capps raced to his second win this year and 66th overall, beating Tim Wilkerson with a 3.937 at 323.12 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

Laughlin topped Aaron Stanfield with a 7.068 at 204.76 in a Chevrolet Camaro for his first win this season and fourth in his career. Smith rode to his first victory in 2020 and 25th overall, topping Andrew Hines with a 6.843 at 196.99 on an EBR.