Alex Albon rebounds from practice crash to qualify fourth in Bahrain GP

Alex Albon crashed Bahrain
Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images
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Alex Albon rebounded quickly from a crash in Friday’s Practice 2 to qualify fourth Saturday for the Bahrain GP.

Albon crashed about halfway through the session exiting the final turn of the track after pushing wide off course. Albon was classified ninth at the time, 0.696 seconds off the pace set by teammate Max Verstappen.

The incident came moments after he overtook Pierre Gasly, and the pass might have caused him to take a less than optimum line through the corner.

The damage was enough to require the team to work late into the evening to roll out a new chassis.

It was the type of incident that could shake the confidence of a driver fighting hard to secure his spot with the team for 2021.

But Albon bounced back quickly with the fourth-best time in Practice 3 and a fourth-place qualification run. Albon will line up alongside his Red Bull teammate Verstappen. Meanwhile, their Mercedes rivals swept the front row with Lewis Hamilton earning his 98th career pole, and Valtteri Bottas securing the outside pole.

Alex Albon crashed Bahrain
(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

“You miss out a bit on track time, and of course a little bit of confidence in the beginning of FP3,” Albon said. “But actually the car was good straight away.

“Quali was a little bit more difficult, but just chipping away at it, doing little things throughout the session, and then by [Q3], it was okay. We went out on the softs just to be safe in Q2 which meant we only had one set in Q3, so just to perfect the lap, there’s things I would like to have done.

“But P4, we’re in the mix and hopefully we can have a good start and be in there being a thorn in Mercedes’ backside.”

How long Albon is able to be a thorn is an open question. He was 17 laps into the P2 session when he destroyed the primary car. With the repairs, Albon was unable to make a long run Saturday morning.

“I haven’t done a long run, so we’ll see how that goes tomorrow,” said Albon. “We’ve seen Max’s data and there’s huge deg [tire degradation], unbelievable deg. You already saw it in Q2 when no one wanted to do a lap on the softs, so it will be interesting. Hopefully we can get away from the mid-pack and try and do our own race and upset the Mercs up in front.”

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III