Lewis Hamilton takes pole position for Bahrain GP, his 98th in F1

Lewis Hamilton Bahrain pole
Photo by XPB - Pool/Getty Images
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SAKHIR, Bahrain — Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton set a track record at the Bahrain Grand Prix on his way to a record-extending 98th career pole position Saturday.

The seven-time F1 champion looked in total control as he set a time of 1 minute, 27.264 seconds under the floodlights.

“We did some really good work overnight. I was really happy with the car from the get-go,” the veteran British driver said. “I just didn’t make any mistakes.”

He finished about .3 seconds ahead of his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and around 0.4 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Bottas thought he was closer to Hamilton’s time.

“I was quite surprised when I saw the gap,” the Finnish driver said. “I definitely have the speed but I haven’t quite got it all together yet.”

Verstappen, however, is resigned to being in Mercedes’ shadow.

“You always want more, but it’s important to stay realistic,” Verstappen said. “I’m just pushing as hard as I can with the material I have. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow, it’s quite aggressive on the tires here.”

Alexander Albon, Verstappen’s teammate, qualified fourth, a full second behind Hamilton, who will bid for his record-extending 95th F1 victory Sunday.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took the first of his seven pole positions last season in Bahrain, but the team continued its seasonlong struggles in qualifying Saturday as neither Ferrari advanced to the final round. Leclerc will start from 12th place behind teammate Sebastian Vettel.

Former champion Kimi Raikkonen was among the five drivers eliminated from Q1 while Carlos Sainz Jr. went out of Q2 after his rear tires locked because of a mechanical problem, causing his McLaren stalled on the track.

Qualifying was halted for a few minutes while his car was removed.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes taking their time to negotiate new contract

Earlier, Verstappen beat Hamilton for fastest in the final practice. The Dutchman was 0.26 seconds ahead of Hamilton and 0.37 ahead of Bottas.

Hamilton was quickest in both practice runs Friday and looked set to make it a hat trick when he overtook Verstappen and then Bottas with about 10 minutes left in the hourlong session. But Verstappen came back out and returned to the top of the leaderboard.

Albon’s car was fitted with a new chassis after he crashed heavily following a mistake on the last turn in the second practice.

Hamilton and other drivers have been complaining about the new Pirelli tires, which they are testing ahead of 2021, saying they are too heavy, and Vettel calling them even worse than before.

“(It is) three kilos heavier and it’s about 1 second slower per lap,” Hamilton said. “If that’s the best they can do, (it’s) better we stick with this (current) tire.”

The four-time F1 champion Vettel agreed with Hamilton to keep the 2020 tire for next year, rather than switch to the unpopular 2021 model.

“It will make the problems we struggle with now worse,” he said.

Because of the lack of grip on the new range of tires, Verstappen joked that the championship could become “a drift challenge” if manufacturer Pirelli uses the 2021 tires as planned.

“I hope they listen a bit to the drivers,” Verstappen said. “I hope we will not use them.”

This is the 15th of 17 races in the coronavirus-shortened season, with another race to follow in Bahrain next Sunday before the campaign concludes in Abu Dhabi.

World of Outlaws release 2023 Sprint Car Series schedule

2023 Outlaws Sprint schedule
World of Outlaws
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The 2023 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series schedule features 87 races, almost identical to the last year’s number, to be contested at 36 venues across 19 states. With cancelations for mostly weather, they closed out this year’s calendar on November 5 with 69 events in the books. Carson Macedo won a series high 11 races.

In 2022, David Gravel chased Brad Sweet into the three-race finale on the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway in one of the most hotly contested championships in Outlaws history. Sweet emerged victorious for the fourth straight year.

For the 19th consecutive season, the Outlaws Sprints will begin their season at Volusia Speedway Park for the DIRTcar Nationals from Feb. 9-11 and will return March 5-6 for another two-day show before hitting the road with a three-track swing into Pennsylvania to take on the Posse.

MORE: 2023 World of Outlaws Late Model Schedule

“Every year we continue to build the best schedule we can for drivers and fans across the country,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter is a series release. “I’m excited for the journey we’ve put together, which includes the biggest races in Sprint Car racing, our new Spring Swing through Pennsylvania, the thrill of combining the World of Outlaws and ‘Bike Week’ and so much more.”

Some tracks returning from hiatus and one brand new course include 81 Speedway in Park City, Kans. in April and again in October, Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon City, Ill. in April, Ogilvie (Minn.) Raceway in June and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Penn.

BAPS hosts its first race in more than 30 years when the track was known as Susquehanna Speedway. This midweek show will give the local Pennsylvania Posse 14 attempts to beat the traveling Outlaws.

Ogilvie Speedway is completely new to the series and makes it the 224th different venue they will have challenged.

MORE: Brad Sweet protects his place in history

Notably missing from the calendar are Vado (N.M.) Speedway Park, Cotton Bowl Speedway in Paige, Texas, Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway and the Bristol Motor Speedway Dirt Track.

In addition to the new spring Pennsylvania Swing, the second date at Volusia Speedway will coincide with Daytona Beach’s Bike Week and bring new eyes to the sport.

Knoxville Raceway adds another multi-night show to the calendar in April, giving this track eight sanctioned events in 2023.

And of course, there are plenty of mainstays and high dollar events, such as the Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway, the 35th running of the Brad Doty Classic in July and the Labor Day Spectacular at Gray’s Harbor in Elma, Wash.

Several big paydays are on the line in 2023 including the 40th annual Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio paying $175,000 to the winner, the Huset’s High Bank Nationals’ $250,000-to-win finale and the grandaddy of them all, the 62nd Knoxville Nationals with a total purse exceeding $1 million.

2023 Outlaws Sprint Schedule

Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 9-11 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)

Sunday-Monday, March 5-6 – Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, FL)
Friday-Saturday, March 10-11 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, March 17 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday, March 18 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday, March 24 – Talladega Short Track (Eastaboga, AL)
Saturday, March 25 – Magnolia Motor Speedway (Columbus, MS)
Friday, March 31-Saturday, April 1 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway (Mesquite, TX)

Friday, April 7 – US-36 Raceway (Osborn, MO)
Saturday, April 8 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, April 14-15 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Friday-Saturday, April 21-22 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday, April 28 – Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL)
Saturday, April 29 – Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN)

Friday-Saturday, May 5-6 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, May 10 – Lincoln Speedway (Abbottstown, PA)
Friday-Saturday, May 12-13 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Friday, May 19 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Saturday, May 20 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, May 26-27 – Atomic Speedway (Chillicothe, OH)
Monday, May 29 – Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, IN)

Friday, June 2 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, June 3 – Ogilvie Raceway (Ogilvie, MN)
Friday-Saturday, June 9-10 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Friday-Saturday, June 16-17 – Beaver Dam Raceway (Beaver Dam, WI)
Wednesday-Saturday, June 21-24 – Huset’s Speedway (Brandon, SD)
Friday, June 30-Saturday, July 1 – Cedar Lake Speedway (New Richmond, WI)

Friday, July 7 – 34 Raceway (West Burlington, IA)
Saturday, July 8 – Wilmot Raceway (Wilmot, WI)
Tuesday, July 11 – Attica Raceway Park (Attica, OH)
Friday-Saturday, July 14-15 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Wednesday, July 19 – BAPS Motor Speedway (York Haven, PA)
Friday-Saturday, July 21-22 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)
Saturday-Sunday, July 29-30 – Weedsport Speedway (Weedsport, NY)

Friday-Saturday, Aug. 4-5 – Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 (Pevely, MO)
Wednesday-Saturday, Aug. 9-12 – Knoxville Raceway (Knoxville, IA)
Thursday-Saturday, Aug. 17-19 – Jackson Motorplex (Jackson, MN)
Friday, Aug. 25 – River Cities Speedway (Grand Forks, ND)
Saturday, Aug. 26 – Red River Valley Speedway (West Fargo, ND)
Thursday, Aug. 31-Saturday, September 2 – Skagit Speedway (Alger, WA)

Monday, Sept. 4 – Grays Harbor Raceway (Elma, WA)
Thursday-Saturday, Sept. 7-9 – Silver Dollar Speedway (Chico, CA)
Friday, Sept. 15 – Keller Auto Speedway (Hanford, CA)
Saturday, Sept. 16 – Placerville Speedway (Placerville, CA)
Friday, Sept. 22 – Eldora Speedway (Rossburg, OH)
Saturday, Sept. 23 – Sharon Speedway (Hartford, OH)
Friday-Saturday, Sept. 29-30 – Williams Grove Speedway (Mechanicsburg, PA)

Friday-Saturday, Oct. 6-7 – Port Royal Speedway (Port Royal, PA)
Friday, Oct. 13 – 81 Speedway (Park City, KS)
Saturday, Oct. 14 – Lakeside Speedway (Kansas City, KS)
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 20-21 – TBA

Wednesday-Saturday, Nov. 1-4 – The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Concord, NC)