Leclerc grabs pole position in Texas as Verstappen slips to sixth

Leclerc grabs pole position in Texas as Verstappen slips to sixth
Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, of Monaco, steers through a turn during a qualifying session for the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at Circuit of the Americas Friday in Austin, Texas. (AP)
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Updated 21 October 2023
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Leclerc grabs pole position in Texas as Verstappen slips to sixth

Leclerc grabs pole position in Texas as Verstappen slips to sixth
  • Leclerc: I am very happy with my qualifying and to take pole position
  • The Ferrari driver showed commanding pace as he clocked a fastest lap in one minute and 34.723 seconds to outpace McLaren’s Lando Norris by a tenth

AUSTIN, TEXAS: Charles Leclerc claimed his third pole position of the season on Friday as Max Verstappen had his best lap deleted and slipped to sixth on the grid in a dramatic qualifying at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver showed commanding pace as he clocked a fastest lap in one minute and 34.723 seconds to outpace McLaren’s Lando Norris by a tenth, with resurgent seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes taking third.

Carlos Sainz was fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of George Russell in the second Williams and Verstappen, whose late best lap was quick enough for pole before it was rubbed out after he exceeded track limits at Turn 19.

It was the 21st pole position of Leclerc’s career and gives him a chance of frustrating newly-crowned three-time champion Verstappen’s bid for a 50th career victory in Sunday’s race.

“I am very happy with my qualifying and to take pole position,” said Leclerc.

“It was a really good lap and the team did a great job. We had a very clean FP1, which is so important on these sprint weekends.”

Norris described his front-row start as a “bonus for the team.”

He said: “I think I was quick enough to get pole position. I know Charles said he made a few mistakes, but so did I! And anyway, I am happy with second nevertheless.”

Hamilton, who relished the performance of his car’s upgrades at one of his favorite circuits, said: “I love being here at this circuit and I love the country. This is such an incredibly challenging circuit and one of my favorites, up there with Silverstone.

“We’ve taken a step closer to these guys this weekend, thanks to everyone in the factory who have been pushing so hard. I will give it my best shot tomorrow.”

Behind a grumbling Verstappen, who complained on team radio, the Alpines of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon were seventh and eighth ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull and Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren.

The session began in glorious sunshine with a track temperature of 42 degrees Celsius and the air at 35, conditions to challenge tires and cars at the Circuit of the Americas.

Leclerc set an early fastest lap before Verstappen and then Nico Hulkenberg took command, the German making the most of a major upgrade package for his Haas on home soil.

Both Ferraris then swept to the top with Sainz leading Leclerc by two-tenths ahead of Gasly’s Alpine, with everyone running on softs, before they began their second Q1 runs.

Sainz chose to save tires and miss a second run as Verstappen went top by almost half a second only to be outpaced by Hamilton, on new tires, who beat him by two-tenths. Norris was second.

At the bottom end, it was bad news for Aston Martin, despite an upgrade package, as both two-time champion Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll failed to make the cut.

Alonso was 17th and eliminated from Q1 for the first time this year along with Hulkenberg, in his Haas, Stroll, 19th, and the Williams pair Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant.

Stroll had missed most of practice due to brake problems, which also afflicted Alonso. For the Canadian son of team owner Lawrence Stroll, it was a fifth consecutive Q1 flop.

In Q2, Mercedes set the pace until Verstappen seized the initiative in a close scrap that saw nine cars separated by less than four-tenths before their second runs saw Ferrari shine again.

Leclerc topped Verstappen ahead of Hamilton and Sainz while Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu and his Alfa Romeo team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Daniel Ricciardo, in the second Alpha Tauri, were knocked out.

All this left 10 cars from five teams in Q3’s shootout.

Leclerc topped the first runs ahead of Hamilton by 0.056 seconds with Verstappen third and Sainz fourth. Russell’s lap was deleted for exceeding track limits, leaving him 10th before the final showdown.


Da Costa reveals team talk after Diriyah Formula E races is behind recent success

Da Costa reveals team talk after Diriyah Formula E races is behind recent success
Updated 11 July 2024
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Da Costa reveals team talk after Diriyah Formula E races is behind recent success

Da Costa reveals team talk after Diriyah Formula E races is behind recent success
  • TAG Heuer Porsche driver sits fourth in the standings ahead of season-closing double-header in London

RIYADH: Formula E’s Antonio Felix da Costa has revealed he spoke with his team after the Diriyah races in Saudi Arabia, which has helped him to build momentum going into the season-finale races in London.

The TAG Heuer Porsche driver delivered a spectacular double victory in Portland, marking his third consecutive win amid a sea of enthusiastic fans at the Hankook Portland E-Prix last month, and will be searching for more victories in the last two races on July 20-21.

Having picked up no points in the first three rounds, the Portuguese driver has turned around his season to sit fourth in the standings after winning both races in Portland and the second Shanghai race. He revealed that discussions after the Diriyah race had been key to his impressive recent form.

“For every athlete, you need to build momentum,” said da Costa. “You don’t start winning and get to first place overnight. After the Riyadh race in the third round where we had zero points at that moment, it was then where I said that we need to starting building momentum slowly and I think we have done just that. In Sao Paulo, we finished sixth and been doing well since. We managed to win in Berlin and Shanghai and that set us up nicely mentally, but also worked on what worked for me and have been strong in races.”

With London set to host the final two races next weekend, da Costa is heading to the UK capital with an outside chance of winning the world championship. He is 34 points adrift of championship leader Nick Cassidy, however he will assess his options once the first qualifying session is over.

He said: “At the moment, we have been putting all our eggs in the basket to help our team win the championship and we still have a chance. We need to keep going with that mentality, but having said that, I would say let’s do the first qualifying in London and see where we stand and then take decision afterwards. We will prepare for London like as we do for every weekend.”


Three cheers for Brits: Russell beats Hamilton to take Silverstone F1 pole with Norris third

Three cheers for Brits: Russell beats Hamilton to take Silverstone F1 pole with Norris third
Updated 06 July 2024
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Three cheers for Brits: Russell beats Hamilton to take Silverstone F1 pole with Norris third

Three cheers for Brits: Russell beats Hamilton to take Silverstone F1 pole with Norris third
  • Russell is perfectly poised to aim for a second straight F1 win following his victory at the Austrian GP last weekend

SILVERSTONE, England: The home crowd had three reasons to cheer when George Russell narrowly beat Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position for the British Grand Prix, and Lando Norris was third quickest for McLaren on Saturday.
It was all about the Brits at Silverstone, with Formula 1 leader Max Verstappen taking a rare back seat and qualifying in fourth for Red Bull.
“The crowd gives us so much energy. I don’t think Silverstone could have dreamt of (this),” a jubilant Russell said. “Three Brits in the top three, we love the support and we can’t wait for the race tomorrow.”
Russell is perfectly poised to aim for a second straight F1 win following his victory at the Austrian GP last weekend. Mercedes is showing signs of closing the gap in terms of speed, and team principal Toto Wolff clenched his fist after his drivers secured a 1-2.
“What a feeling. This is just mega,” Russell said. “The car at the moment is feeling so, so good. We are riding this wave and absolutely buzzing.”
Russell arrived at the track wearing an England soccer shirt ahead of the national team’s European Championship quarterfinal against Switzerland later Saturday, and said his own nerves were on edge.
“Probably the most pressure I’ve ever felt in a qualifying session,” he said, praising the crowd for uplifting him. “I wasn’t feeling that confident with myself.”
Hamilton just missed out on a record-extending 105th F1 pole by .171 seconds while Norris was .211 seconds behind Russell, who secured his second pole of the season and third of his career.
“Three Brits in the top three is incredible,” said Hamilton, who has won at Silverstone a record eight times. “This is huge for us (Mercedes). The car felt great.”
Sergio Perez’s poor run of form for Red Bull continued. He went off track at Copse corner and into the gravel during Q1 — the first part of qualifying — prompting team principal Christian Horner to shake his head. Perez’s car was removed by a crane as the Mexican driver looked on.
Since being given a two-year contract extension last month, Perez has not finished higher than seventh in three races and faces a difficult task to score points from 19th spot.
When qualifying resumed dark clouds were forming over the six-kilometer (3.7-mile) circuit.
Verstappen uttered an expletive over the team radio after momentarily sliding off track and riding over some gravel. He was way off the pace in Q1, which was led by Hamilton, and again in Q2, which Norris led.
Verstappen missed out on a ninth pole of the season. But he praised his team for fixing damage to the car floor from going over the gravel.
“I gave it everything. Guys, thank you very much,” the Dutchman said on radio. “We’ll go at it tomorrow.”
It was a frustrating day for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who failed to make it into Q3, the top 10 shootout, and starts 11th.
“I had huge problems with balance,” said Leclerc, who won the Monaco GP from pole in May.
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri goes from fifth followed by Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, with Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari), Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), Alex Albon (Williams) and two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) rounding out the top 10.
French driver Esteban Ocon qualified in 18th and called qualifying “embarrassing” for the Alpine team. He is leaving at the end of the year and reportedly could join Haas.
Earlier Saturday, a rainy third session saw an early red flag when Alpine driver Pierre Gasly went into the gravel.
Russell led P3 narrowly ahead of Hamilton in a sign of things to come.
“To compete with the McLarens and Red Bulls is a great feeling, a massive boost,” said Hamilton, who won the last of his record 103 F1 races in the penultimate race of 2021.
Norris led the two practices on Friday with Verstappen finishing out of the top three both times.
In Sunday’s race, the start could prove crucial.
Norris has to get past two Mercedes and hold off Verstappen alongside him, one week after Verstappen and Norris crashed into each other late on in Austria.
“I can bring the fight to George and Lewis so I’m excited to put on a good show,” Norris said. “I’m confident we can execute a good race.”


Friends again: Norris, Verstappen make up after Spielberg drama

Friends again: Norris, Verstappen make up after Spielberg drama
Updated 05 July 2024
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Friends again: Norris, Verstappen make up after Spielberg drama

Friends again: Norris, Verstappen make up after Spielberg drama
  • The Red Bull driver said he and Norris had spoken last Monday, following their controversial collision in the Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg
  • The 64th lap collision came with Norris attempting to pass the three-time world champion and series leader for the race lead and resulted in both cars suffering punctures

SILVERSTONE, United Kingdom: Max Verstappen on Thursday welcomed the restoration of his friendship with Lando Norris after the Briton had said he did not expect any apology from the three-time champion following their crash last Sunday.

The Red Bull driver said he and Norris had spoken last Monday, following their controversial collision in the Austrian Grand Prix at Spielberg, and had quickly agreed that they should continue to race each other hard in the same way.

“I said after the race that there’s no point in discussing it now because emotions are running high,” said the Dutchman.

“And then I woke up early and immediately because I wanted to talk to Lando, of course, but he had already texted me in the morning on Monday.

“So on the day afterwards, your emotions are a bit lower so actually I respected that a lot — and we are great friends and he’s a very nice guy, honestly.

“So I was really upset and disappointed that we had got together because on the track we race each other hard, but as a friend you are disappointed that this could happen.

“But we very quickly said that we had to race each other hard because that is what we like to do and we have always done that not only in Formula One but also on-line and stuff and that’s what we enjoy with each other — battling hard and that is what we will continue to do.”

The 64th lap collision came with Norris attempting to pass the three-time world champion and series leader for the race lead and resulted in both cars suffering punctures.

Verstappen rejoined after a pit-stop and finished fifth after being given a 10-second penalty for causing the crash while Norris pitted and retired.

McLaren’s Norris, who trails Verstappen by 81 points in the drivers’ title race, had taken the sting out of their argument by admitting he had over-reacted.

But, he said, he still held reservations about the incident and how it was managed by the race stewards.

“Honestly, I don’t think he needed to apologize,” the 24-year-old Briton conceded.

“Some of the things I said in the pen after the race were more because I was frustrated at the time.

“(There was) a lot of adrenaline and emotions and I probably said some things I didn’t necessarily believe, especially later on in the week. It was tough. It was a pretty pathetic incident, in terms of it ended both of our races.

“It wasn’t like a hit. It wasn’t like an obvious bit of contact. It was probably one of the smallest bits of contact you can have, but with a pretty terrible consequence for both of us, especially for myself.”

“I don’t expect an apology from him,” said Norris.

“I don’t think he should apologize. I thought it was, as a review, good racing. At times, maybe, very close to the edge, but like I said, we’ve spoken about it, we’ve talked about it and we’re both happy to go racing again.”

Verstappen, asked by Sky Sports F1 if he was concerned by the reaction to the incident, Verstappen added: “No, the only thing I care about in my life is that I am getting on well with Lando.”

“Naturally, I always said to Lando, when you go for moves up the inside, outside, you can trust me that I’m not there to try and crash you out of the way.

“Same the other way around because we spoke about that as well. There’s always a human reaction when someone dives up the inside or outside that you have a bit of a reaction to it, but I felt everything that I did was nothing massively over the top.

“Like how you design a car, you try to go to the edge of the rules, maybe you find some grey areas here and there as a car — and that’s the same how you race, otherwise you will never be a top driver and you will never succeed in life anyway.”

Asked if he felt it was possible to remain friends with a rival driver, he said: “It depends a bit on your personalities.

“I know Lando. He’s a great guy, a really nice person who loves F1, very passionate about it. You have to realize he’s fighting for his second potential win, I’m fighting for my 62nd.

“I think naturally your emotions are a little bit different. I know that from myself, when I was fighting for these first wins in F1, but that’s fine.”


George Russell gifted Austrian Grand Prix victory after Max Verstappen in late collision

George Russell gifted Austrian Grand Prix victory after Max Verstappen in late collision
Updated 30 June 2024
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George Russell gifted Austrian Grand Prix victory after Max Verstappen in late collision

George Russell gifted Austrian Grand Prix victory after Max Verstappen in late collision
  • It was the British driver’s second career victory
  • Helped by late collision between series leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull and his nearest rival Lando Norris

SPIELBERG, Austria: George Russell claimed a dramatic victory for Mercedes on Sunday after a sensational late collision between series leader Max Verstappen of Red Bull and his nearest rival Lando Norris of McLaren in the closing laps of an action-packed Austrian Grand Prix.
It was the British driver’s second career victory, endorsing the improved form of the Mercedes team in recent races, as he made the most of Verstappen’s impulsive and aggressive move against Norris, to finish 1.9 seconds clear of Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren.
“Incredible!” said Russell, who had registered Mercedes’ last win in Brazil in 2022.
“I think it was a tough fight out there at the beginning of the race just to hold on to that third place and I saw on the TV that Max and Lando were getting pretty close — and I knew Lando would want to try to get that race win.
“The team has done an amazing job to put us in this fight and you’ve got to be there in the end to pick up the pieces.”
Carlos Sainz finished third for Ferrari ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes and Verstappen, who was fifth, despite collecting a 10-second penalty for causing the crash with Norris, who was forced to retire his damaged car.
On a hot day in the Styrian Alps, with air temperatures touching 29 degrees and the track at 49, Verstappen made his now customary flawless start from pole.
Russell also made a good start from third and fought Norris for second on the opening lap.
Verstappen pitted on lap 23, followed by Norris and the rest, passing the race lead to Piastri until he pitted on lap 25. Piastri rejoined sixth and order was restored with everyone on hards, except Russell who took a second set of mediums.
“He launched straight into me — I couldn’t turn right into the box,” said Norris, complaining about Verstappen’s alleged unsafe release by Red Bull.
“Yeah, we’re on it,” came the reply.
By lap 41 Verstappen was grumbling about his tires.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” said the champion who had only a fresh set of hards or used mediums left to run.
By lap 44, Verstappen’s lead was down to 6.4 seconds before Russell, also struggling, pitted for fresh hards, re-joining sixth. He swiftly set a fastest lap and passed Sainz for fifth behind Hamilton, who was behind the two McLarens.
With the leaders extending their stints to make a two-stop strategy work, back-markers like Leclerc in 12th on three stops were faster on track, but stuck behind Verstappen until he pitted again with Norris on lap 51.
The Dutchman suffered a slow stop due to a ‘sticky’ left rear and Norris on fresh mediums was only 2.2 behind as they rejoined in P1 and P2. Verstappen was on used mediums, delivering the prospect of a thrilling duel to the flag.
Norris was three-tenths adrift before passing him on lap 59, but ran wide and off-track. He gave the position back and received a warning for exceeding track limits before attacking again only for Verstappen to run wide and rejoin.
The battling pair eventually collided on lap 63 at Turn Three where Verstappen moved across to hit Norris’s car and both suffered punctures, gifting the lead to Russell as they limped back to the pits.
Verstappen’s front left was damaged and Norris’s right rear, with sufficient damage for the McLaren to retire as Verstappen rejoined in fifth, only to receive a 10-second penalty for causing the crash which led to a brief Virtual Safety Car.
Nico Hulkenberg came home sixth for Haas ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull, Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas, Daniel Ricciardo of RB and Pierre Gasly of Alpine.
Leclerc finished 11th in the second Ferrari after a race of four pit-stops following a first lap incident.


Imperious Max Verstappen takes pole for Austrian Grand Prix

Imperious Max Verstappen takes pole for Austrian Grand Prix
Updated 29 June 2024
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Imperious Max Verstappen takes pole for Austrian Grand Prix

Imperious Max Verstappen takes pole for Austrian Grand Prix
  • The series leader and three-time world champion clocked a best lap in 1 minute 4.314 seconds

SPIELBERG, Austria: Max Verstappen continued his imperious form in Red Bull’s homeland on Saturday when, after winning the sprint race, he claimed a convincing pole position for Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.
The series leader and three-time world champion clocked a best lap in 1 minute 4.314 seconds to outpace nearest rival Lando Norris of McLaren by 0.404sec for his fourth Austrian pole at the Red Bull Ring.
It also ended a run of three races where he was beaten in qualifying in Monaco, Canada and Spain and brought him his 40th career pole position.
“That went really well,” said Verstappen.
“We tried to adjust things a bit after this morning and it went well. It was warmer than yesterday and a bit tricky but the car felt good and I could attack the corners much more. It felt on point and really good out there.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been on pole and we have worked hard to be more competitive.’
Norris said: “I think that was the best we could do today and Max was in a league of his own — but I am happy and I’ll take that.”
George Russell took third for Mercedes ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes, Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari and Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren.
Piastri’s best flying lap was deleted for exceeding track limits in the closing minutes when he briefly went third.
Sergio Perez was eighth in the second Red Bull, continuing his struggles, ahead of Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon of Alpine.
Verstappen led the way out of the pit lane for the opening of Q1 with the Styrian Alps simmering in the heat with a track temperature of 47 degrees and the air at 32.
The conditions, however, did nothing to quell the enthusiasm of the Dutch champion’s ‘orange army’, massed in the grandstands.
With everyone on softs, Verstappen set the pace in 1min 6.054sec on his first lap — he took pole in 1min 04.686sec last year — before the Ferraris and McLarens made their opening forays, Leclerc emerging as the early pace-setter in 1min 05.901sec.
Mercedes left their first runs until later, but Russell temporarily took over top spot with Hamilton slotted in seventh.
Verstappen and Sainz both responded as the times tumbled. Only half a second separated the top nine drivers as Hamilton dropped to 16th and needed a new set of softs to avoid an early exit.
As he survived, Alex Albon of Williams, Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll, Valtteri Bottas of Sauber, Logan Sargeant of Williams and Zhou Guanyu in the second Sauber were eliminated.
The Q2 session began with Leclerc posting a best time to go top with a lead of just 0.050sec ahead of Ocon only for Verstappen, in imperious mood, sweeping to the top in 1min 04.577sec.
He took a fresh set of softs for a final run in 1min 04.469sec, half a second clear of the pack led by Sainz, Russell and Hamilton with two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin among those to drop out.
Norris and then Hulkenberg took command in Q3 before Verstappen flexed his muscles, clocking 1min 04.314sec to consolidate his position and take pole.