Verstappen takes pole for Spanish Grand Prix

Verstappen takes pole for Spanish Grand Prix
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands waves after he clocked the fastest time during the Formula One qualifying session at the Barcelona Catalunya racetrack in Montmelo, just outside of Barcelona, on Jun. 3, 2023. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 03 June 2023

Verstappen takes pole for Spanish Grand Prix

Verstappen takes pole for Spanish Grand Prix
  • The championship leader took his fifth pole of a season already dominated by Red Bull to start ahead of Ferrari's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz
  • "Not bad," said Verstappen, with his customary understatement

MONTMELO, Spain: World champion Max Verstappen claimed his maiden pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix after leading qualifying Saturday on the Montmelo circuit outside Barcelona.
The championship leader took his fifth pole of a season already dominated by Red Bull to start ahead of Ferrari’s Spanish driver Carlos Sainz with Britain’s Lando Norris of McLaren in third.
“Not bad,” said Verstappen, with his customary understatement. “It’s very nice to come here and get my first pole. I like the circuit and I have a lot of good memories here.”
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton took fifth place on the grid, ahead of Canadian Lance Stroll of Aston Martin.
Local hero Fernando Alonso could only set the ninth fastest time after damaging his car when going off the track in the second qualifying period.
Frenchman Esteban Ocon of Alpine, who took third place in Monaco last weekend, will start in seventh, ahead of German Nico Huelkenberg of Haas, while Australian Oscar Piastri will complete the top 10 in a McLaren.
Qualifying was contested on a slippery track at the start of the session and it featured several big surprises.
First it was Monaco’s Charles Leclerc who was eliminated in Q1 and he will only start in 19th and penultimate place.
Then Verstappen’s Red Bull team-mate, Mexican Sergio Pérez, who made a mistake and took a lap in the gravel, was taken out in Q2 and will start in 11th, ahead of Briton George Russell, who also disappointed with the other Mercedes.

Al-Qubaisi sisters: ‘F1 Academy saved our careers’

Al-Qubaisi sisters: ‘F1 Academy saved our careers’
Updated 01 December 2023

Al-Qubaisi sisters: ‘F1 Academy saved our careers’

Al-Qubaisi sisters: ‘F1 Academy saved our careers’
  • Emirati history-makers Hamda and Amna reflect on their motorsport success

ABU DHABI: They have pulled off some impressive feats individually in the world of motorsport, but if you ask Amna and Hamda Al-Qubaisi what they consider to be the highlight of their careers, the Emirati sisters choose a moment in which they both got to shine.

“I would say Red Bull Ring, the first round in Austria, where we got to share a podium,” Amna, 23, told Arab News in Abu Dhabi last weekend.

“I shared the podium with my sister. It was an amazing feeling and I hope we can do the same again,” added Hamda, 21.

The older Al-Qubaisi sister is referring to the opening round of the inaugural F1 Academy all-female series, which saw Hamda finish second in race three and Amna take third place.

Earlier that day at Red Bull Ring, Amna claimed victory in race two, but stepping on the podium together with her sister in the next race ultimately proved more special to both of them.

From a young age, the Al-Qubaisi sisters have made a habit of making history.

At 18, Amna became the first Emirati female driver to race in single-seater competitions internationally when she joined the grid in Italian Formula 4.

In 2019, she became the first Arab woman to win a Formula 4 race when she topped the podium in the F4 UAE Trophy Round at Yas Marina Circuit during the F1 Grand Prix weekend, and in 2021, Amna took things further by becoming the UAE’s first female F3 driver.

Hamda made waves when she scooped six race wins across her first two full seasons in F4 UAE — 2020-2021 — but her big moment on the international stage came in June 2021 when she became the first woman in history to make the podium in the Italian F4 Championship, placing third in the first race at Misano World Circuit. She was just 18 years old at the time.

By the end of 2022, the careers of Amna and Hamda were in jeopardy as they struggled to find the necessary funding to keep racing. But then came the announcement of the launch of F1 Academy, an all-female racing series aimed at developing and preparing young female drivers to progress to higher levels of competition.

Both sisters were signed by Dutch team MP Motorsport for the inaugural season, which saw Hamda finish third in the F1 Academy championship and Amna secure P6.

“Honestly, it saved my career,” said Amna of the F1-supported initiative.

“I was about to stop racing and they saved my career by having the budget really low and the opportunity to race on extraordinary tracks. So a big thank you to Susie Wolff for creating the F1 Academy and giving me the opportunity to be back racing again.”

Hamda, who took four race victories in the inaugural championship, was also concerned either she or Amna would have to drop out of competing.

“For me, I think F1 Academy also saved my career. We were really low on budget and it was at a point we were choosing between us, who would race and who would stop,” said Hamda.

“So it wasn’t really a nice feeling and I’m happy we’re able to share the track together, as teammates as well, representing our country. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Since the start of their careers, Amna and Hamda had been competing in mixed competitions, side by side with male drivers, so switching their focus to an all-female series could have been considered a risky move. But Hamda feels her level has only gone higher, and her top-five finish in the F4 UAE Trophy Round with Yas Heat Racing in Abu Dhabi last weekend, which featured a competitive mixed grid, has helped her prove her point.

“F1 Academy has done great, I performed really well there, and it hasn’t done anything (negative) to the level I’m at,” said Hamda.

“Being an all-female series, people thought it would bring my level down but I’m here (at Yas Marina Circuit) competing in a mixed grid and I’m still at the top. So it goes to show how strong the grid was and how females can really perform in this category.”

But can an all-female series really be the right stepping stone for women looking to make it to Formula 1?

“Yes, I think for sure,” replied Hamda. “Because I’ve been through a lot of championships and to be honest F1 Academy has been one of the most competitive championships I’ve raced at. Considering I’ve raced on a 40-plus-car grid in F4 Italia, in F4 UAE, so to be in F1 Academy 15-car grid but still so competitive, it’s a really high level and I’m proud to be a part of it.”

Hamda’s F1 Academy campaign was all the more impressive considering she had surgery for a broken wrist just six weeks before the season started. The doctors told her she would need four months to recover but Hamda somehow managed to make it in time for pre-season testing in Barcelona and she stood on top of the podium, winning a race in Valencia, just 75 days after going under the knife.

“At one point I was already in the fight for the lead of the championship,” said Hamda, reflecting on her season. “So for me it was amazing. I was able to perform really well at such a high level; especially as an Emirati woman in the sport, I showed what we’re capable of and I’m sure a lot of women here in the region can do the same.”

Arguably the fastest sister act in all of motorsport, the Al-Qubaisis have successfully navigated what could have been a very tricky dynamic as siblings, teammates and competitors.

“In the beginning it was quite tough,” admitted Amna. “I mean, in karting we used to take each other out. But I think we’ve matured and in single-seaters we really have an advantage to everyone else, being sisters. We really help each other on track and off track. So it’s really good to have a teammate that’s your sister.”

Hamda explained their nuanced approach to how they manage races that bring them mixed fortunes.

“It happened a few times, when I’m mad and she’s happy, she tries not to be as happy, to not make me feel worse, and vice versa,” said Hamda. “But at the same time we celebrate each other’s wins despite what happens to each other. So if she won I’ll be there for her, I’ll celebrate no matter what happens to me.”

Still only 21, Hamda walked away from her first season in F1 Academy with many lessons learned.

“For sure it’s more about dealing with the pressure, trying to stay focused no matter what and forget about people or outsiders, whatever they have to say. I made a few mistakes on my side, driving-wise, but then again, I can’t look at the people who criticize me and I have to forget it and think tomorrow’s a new day, start fresh and learn from my mistakes,” she said.

“That’s one thing I struggled with; I would always let the past haunt me but I’ve learned a lot this season. I’ve learned to trust the process and see how things go.”

Five off-track takeaways from 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend

Five off-track takeaways from 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend
Updated 27 November 2023

Five off-track takeaways from 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend

Five off-track takeaways from 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend
  • Reem Abulleil sheds some light on paddock conversations and celebrity sightings at Yas Marina Circuit

ABU DHABI: The Formula One season came to a close in Abu Dhabi with one last Max Verstappen win of the year — his 19th in 2023 — and Mercedes edging Ferrari to P2 in the Constructors’ Championship by just three points.

It has been a busy four days at Yas Marina Circuit with lots of takeaways from the conversations we have had with the drivers and team principals, as well as numerous celebrity sightings around the paddock all weekend.

Here’s what you may have missed from some of the action off the track.

Tennis players rock the paddock

The F1 paddock is always a popular destination for celebrities and Abu Dhabi this year has been no exception with the likes of Chris and Liam Hemsworth, Priyanka Chopra, Naomi Campbell, and Jason Statham among the A-listers making an appearance at Yas Marina Circuit.

From the football world, Sergio Aguero rocked a custom-made Manchester City race suit and presented the DHL Fastest Lap award to Verstappen on Saturday, while Patrice Evra was in an all-white linen suit when he turned up to the paddock on Sunday.

However, what stood out the most was the number of tennis stars in the house this weekend. Tunisian Ons Jabeur attended both qualifying and the race as a guest of title sponsors Etihad Airways.

The three-time Grand Slam finalist got to catch up with retired Russian ace Maria Sharapova, who walked into the paddock with the Hemsworths, Chopra and Statham before going up to the stands to watch the race.



Poland’s world No. 9 Hubert Hurkacz is a big fan of the sport and came to the track from Friday to Sunday. A guest of F1, Hurkacz told me he has always loved cars and was thrilled to attend his first grand prix.

Danish world No. 8 Holger Rune was spotted at the Ferrari hospitality villa and had a quick catch-up with Charles Leclerc before the race, while tennis pair Denis Shapovalov and his fiancee Mirjam Bjorklund arrived just in time for the action as guests of Aston Martin.

“It’s that Canadian connection,” said Shapovalov with a laugh, referring to his compatriot Lance Stroll, who drives for Aston Martin.

Other tennis players in attendance included Hemsworth look-alike Karen Khachanov and Alexander Zverev.



Gasly not interested in entertainment and sport debate

The Las Vegas Grand Prix last weekend reopened the debate of how much of a spectacle a sport is allowed to be. Several drivers said the inaugural race in Vegas was more of a “show” than anything else, and many complained about the tough scheduling that made them see no sunlight for the whole weekend.

Sport, of course, is a business and is entertainment and it cannot survive without generating a great deal of interest from fans around the world.

Alpine driver Pierre Gasly was asked to weigh in on the debate and whether he felt F1 got the balance right between putting on a show and highlighting the sport.

“I love the sport and personally I’m quite fine with the entertainment side of things,” said Gasly.

“I think it’s very personal and it depends how you can cope with it. I know I’m not someone that is really disturbed with that side of the sport. Obviously the priority needs to always remain on the actual sport.

“What I’d like is to almost have more priority on the driver side of things, where I feel at the minute it’s too much driven by car performance. So that’s more something that I’ll be focusing on as a sport rather than entertainment, sport, blah, blah, blah. At the end of the day we survive and everyone is paid here because people are watching us, so it’s a balance you need to find.

“But what I care the most about is that all drivers will be given fair chances to fight for the best positions, where at the minute there’s clearly a sort of imbalance in the performance of all 10 teams. It’s always been the case in F1, I’m fine with it, but I do see a lot of talk of this entertainment versus sport balance kind of thing and I think it’s really personal how you deal with it.”

Toto Wolff: Sport is a meritocracy

Speaking of “fair chances,” Mercedes’ team principal Toto Wolff was asked about the massive gap between Red Bull and the rest of the field, and whether the Austrian team’s dominance is hurting F1.

“The numbers that we are seeing are strong. When we go on social we see races that are packed and sold out,” said Wolff on Sunday.

“But as a matter of fact it is all around the spectacle and if the spectacle is not good, fans are going to follow us less. What I always say is that the spectacle follows the sport. And the sport is a meritocracy; whoever is doing the best job wins and if somebody is doing a much better job than everybody else, then they’re winning 19 races.

“It is us and Ferrari and all the other teams that have to do a better job in order to compete with Red Bull Racing.”

Hamilton focused on growing his legacy

So much of Lewis Hamilton’s pre-race press conference was dominated by Christian Horner’s claims that the British driver had reached out to Red Bull to see if they had a seat for him.

As Hamilton clarified, it was in fact the Red Bull team principal who had contacted him and not the other way round, but something way more interesting caught my attention in what he said.

One of the journalists asked Hamilton — a seven-time world champion — if driving for Red Bull was an appealing prospect for him, given he would be racing in a winning car. The 38-year-old said building toward beating Red Bull with Mercedes would be much better for his legacy in the sport.

“Let’s be realistic. Every single driver that’s racing here dreams of being in a winning car. I think probably in my younger days when I hadn’t maybe had a lot of success, maybe in those McLaren days, it would have been a lot more attractive,” he explained.

“When I think about (it), just from a racing perspective and my viewpoint of things, when I moved to this team I enjoyed moving from a more successful team to a team that hadn’t had success, with the vision of growing and building on the team. Because when we did then win, it was such a better feeling.

“Whilst every driver here looks at the Red Bull and would love to drive that car, and I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to drive that car and experience how good that car (is), every driver would want to feel that. I feel that we’ve had two very difficult years and if we work towards beating that car that’s going to be a way better feeling than just stepping into the best car.

“It wouldn’t do much for me in the sense of just stepping into the car that’s been the most dominant car of all time. Working with my team to build, to be able to beat them, I think would be better for my legacy, for sure.”

It is fascinating to see how clear his perspective is on the matter.

Alonso welcomes added pressure in 2024

Fernando Alonso deemed his 2023 campaign a “dream season” for himself and his Aston Martin team after securing fourth in the Drivers’ Championship with an impressive eight podiums.

No one expected the 42-year-old could pull off a season like that at the start of the year, and the Spanish two-time world champion acknowledges the pressure will be much higher in 2024. It is something he is welcoming with open arms.

“It has been a historic season for Aston Martin and for myself. Eight podiums, 300 points nearly for the team. Twelve months ago this was unthinkable,” said Alonso on Sunday following his P7 finish in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“This is the best season ever for the team as well, with whatever name they had before. It’s an incredible year to remember. The expectations were low, so we exceeded the expectations this year. Maybe next year is the opposite, expectations will be very high, so we have some pressure on our shoulders.

“This is Formula One, this is not a charity event. We have to have the pressure, we have to deliver. Fifth in the constructors’ hurts a little bit because I think we were better than that. We were hoping for better than that at the beginning of the year.

“To finish fourth in the drivers’ is a little bit unreal. Fighting with the guys that we were fighting with, in fact, if we are fifth in the constructors’ you should be ninth or 10th.

“So, it’s a dream season for many people in Aston Martin, including myself.”

Max Verstappen completes majestic season with record-breaking triumph

Max Verstappen completes majestic season with record-breaking triumph
Updated 26 November 2023

Max Verstappen completes majestic season with record-breaking triumph

Max Verstappen completes majestic season with record-breaking triumph
  • The three-time world champion came home 17.993 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc

ABU DHABI: Max Verstappen completed a majestic and record-breaking season in familiar style on Sunday when he cruised to a record-increasing 19th win of the year for Red Bull at an action-packed Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The three-time world champion came home 17.993 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc whose bold drive was not enough for the Italian team to claim the runners-up place in the constructors’ championship.
That went, finally, to Mercedes by just three points as although Sergio Perez came home second behind Verstappen on the road he was relegated to fourth with a five-second penalty, for a mid-race clash with McLaren’s Lando Norris, which promoted George Russell to third.
Norris was fifth ahead of his McLaren team-mate Oscar Piastri, Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso, Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.
Verstappen ended the season as the only driver to complete every lap of the season, more than 1000 laps led, and also broke Jim Clark’s 1963 record for the highest percentage of laps led in a season.
“An incredible season,” said Verstappen, who also paid tribute to retirement-bound Alpha Tauri boss Franz Tost who nurtured his early F1 career. “I felt quite emotional on the in-lap as it’s the last time in this car that has given me such a lot.
Russell said: “It was really tense at the end as the tires were dropping off, but it’s a massive relief to bring the car home P3. It means a huge amount to so many people back at the factory.”
Leclerc, who slowed to allow Perez to pass him in the closing laps, said: “He had a penalty and we had to help him finish in front of George with the five seconds... but, unfortunately, it wasn’t enough... It’s a shame we finished third.”
The race began in hot conditions, with an air temperature of 27 degrees Celsius and the track cooling rapidly as the sun went down and the floodlights blazed on the Yas Marina Circuit. The top 12 cars started on medium compound tires.
The Dutchman led from pole and fended off three early challenges from Leclerc to open up a one second lead before Drag Reduction System (DRS) was enabled on lap three when Perez swept inside Hamilton for ninth and Norris passed Piastri for third, having already passed Russell.
As the leaders all pitted for hards, Yuki Tsunoda took over on lap 18, giving Alpha Tauri and Tost a memorable moment, only the second time a Japanese driver had led a Formula One race.
He stayed there as Verstappen weaved his way back to the front, finally taking control again on lap 23 when Tsunoda pitted, returning in 12th behind Hamilton, who survived an early bump into the rear of Pierre Gasly’s Alpine with front wing damage.
By lap 30, it was a familiar story. Verstappen led Leclerc by 6.5 seconds with Russell 2.1 behind in third and Norris fourth. Hamilton was eighth and Sainz 14th.
As the second stops began, Norris pitted again on lap 34, taking fresh hards. He re-joined 10th. Mercedes responded, bringing Russell in — and he came out in P9 while Hamilton battled Alonso for ninth and Sainz, on an aggressive strategy, rose to eighth.
As it stood, it was advantage Ferrari again while, at the front, Verstappen came in again on lap 44, retaining his lead to emerge with a 15-lap cruise to the flag before Hamilton passed Sainz for ninth with 10 laps to go.
It was advantage Mercedes again, but when Russell was passed by Perez, for third, the ‘silver arrows’ hopes hung on the five-second penalty the Mexican was given for an earlier clash with Norris as the flag came out for Verstappen.

F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP
Updated 25 November 2023

F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP
  • Victory on Sunday would take the Red Bull driver onto 54 career wins
  • The three-time F1 champion’s 12th pole of the season took him to 32 overall

ABU DHABI: Max Verstappen took pole position for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday and will look to finish a crushingly dominant year with a 19th win.
Victory on Sunday would take the Red Bull driver onto 54 career wins, past former Red Bull star Sebastian Vettel and into third place all time.
“It’s been a very special season and we’ve been enjoying it a lot,” Verstappen said. “Very proud of what we have achieved.”
The three-time F1 champion’s 12th pole of the season took him to 32 overall. He starts the race ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in second place and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in third.
“Never bet against me,” Verstappen said afterward, jokingly referring to a comment made by his Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
Horner informed Verstappen that he had won a bet for 500 euros ($547) made with Red Bull boss Helmut Marko as to where Verstappen would qualify.
“You’ve just won me 500 euros,” Horner told Verstappen over radio when he crossed the line.
With a few minutes left, Verstappen led from McLaren’s Lando Norris and Piastri under floodlights at the Yas Marina circuit.
Norris slid late while pushing too hard on his last timed lap and Piastri moved ahead of him, while Leclerc jumped up the leaderboard with an excellent lap to place .14 seconds behind Verstappen.
“Everything felt good, I’m very happy with that lap because I didn’t expect to be on the front row,” Leclerc said. “It’s a good surprise.”
Mercedes driver George Russell qualified in fourth ahead of Norris with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in sixth and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso seventh. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas), Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and Pierre Gasly (Alpine) completed the top 10.
It was a bad session for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (11th) and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (16th).
Sainz failed to make it into the second part of qualifying — known as Q2 — and complained of too much traffic near the end of Q1 with several drivers coming out of their garages late.
Still, for a leading driver — Sainz is the only driver other than Verstappen or Perez to win a race this season — it was a poor performance after he crashed early in Friday’s second practice session. Potentially costly, too, with second place in the constructors’ championship at stake.
Heading into Sunday’s race, Mercedes was in second and held a four-point lead over Ferrari. Teams get more money at the end of the season the higher they finish.
“I hope tomorrow goes well,” Leclerc said. “It is the target to beat Mercedes in the constructors’ championship. That is all that matters this weekend.”
But Mercedes is struggling for form, and Hamilton was knocked out of Q2. The seven-time F1 champion said there was “something not right with this car” and faces the strong likelihood of a second straight season without a win.
Williams driver Logan Sargeant goes from last on the grid with his F1 future still uncertain. The American has only one point this season with a best result of 10th place at the United States GP last month.
Earlier Saturday, Russell topped the third and final practice session ahead of Norris and Piastri with Verstappen in sixth.
“What a turnaround because in practice it was not looking good,” Verstappen said. “Around here on the tires you have little slides, it can cost you a lot of lap time and that is what was happening in practice. But then in qualifying it was a bit more connected.”
When his form picked up, Horner was happy to win a bet in a season where Red Bull has lost only one race out of 21.
Piastri, meanwhile, was pleased to bounce back from a difficult qualifying session last weekend at the Las Vegas GP. He started from 18th and finished the race in 10th.
“The car is very quick this weekend,” the 22-year-old Australian said. “Happy to be back in the top three.”

Albon, Sargeant confident of strong finish to season for Williams in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Albon, Sargeant confident of strong finish to season for Williams in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Updated 25 November 2023

Albon, Sargeant confident of strong finish to season for Williams in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Albon, Sargeant confident of strong finish to season for Williams in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
  • Alex Albon (L) and his teammate Logan Sargeant (R) are keen to end a Williams losing streak in Abu Dhabi and hold off AlphaTauri

ABU DHABI: Alex Albon is well aware that Yas Marina Circuit has not been a happy hunting ground for Williams, but the Thai-British driver is hoping his team can finish the season on a high and secure seventh place in the constructors’ championship this weekend.

A Williams car has not scored points in Abu Dhabi since Felipe Massa finished 10th in 2017, but Albon and his teammate Logan Sargeant are keen to end that streak and hold off AlphaTauri, who are seven points behind in the standings.

Seventh would be Williams’ highest finish in the championship since 2017 — when they placed fifth — and Albon, who has scored points on seven occasions this season, believes his team have been “one of the surprises” of 2023.

“I think I can speak for Logan and the whole team, we’re all burnt out massively. We’ve obviously just come from Vegas, but we’ve had a great season,” Albon said at a Q&A session organized by team sponsors Jumeirah ahead of the race weekend.

“For Williams, historically, we’ve had a few years now where we haven’t been where we want to be. We’ve been more towards the back of the field. But this season we’ve had some great results, we’ve been able to get some top 10s. I think we’ve been one of the surprises of the year, which has been a lot of fun.”

Albon’s best performances of the campaign were seventh-place finishes in Canada and Monza, while F1 rookie Sargeant became the first American driver to score a point since Michael Andretti in 1993, thanks to his 10th place showing in Austin.

“It’s been a great morale boost for everyone back in the UK, back where the team is. We’re on the up, we’re fully focused there into next year, but I think, at least from what I’ve seen, from speaking to people in the team, it’s been maybe the strongest (season) they’ve had in six or seven years. Things are going really well,” said Albon.

Sargeant is the only driver on the grid yet to secure a seat for next year but the 22-year-old does not sound too worried about his chances. He had the best qualifying result of his career last weekend in Las Vegas, and started the race in sixth place.

“We need to try and have a good weekend and beat AlphaTauri, which is the last goal of the season. I believe we both want to end out pretty strong, so hopefully we have a good weekend,” said Sargeant.

“Realistically, it’s not going to be the best track for us, however we have also thought that in the past and we’ve gone okay.

“We’re always optimistic that it’ll play in our favor, but it’s one of those things where you’re never completely sure until you put the car on the ground. Some weekends when you don’t expect it to be good it surprises you, and some weekends you expect it to be better and it’s not really there. You have to play it by ear and take it as it comes.”