RACE DAY

Formula 1: United States Grand Prix qualifying results and race preview

Sebastian Vettel will start fifth. Charles Coates/Getty Images

The expected rain did not come so the teams were treated to their first dry running of the weekend. After the third free practice session Ferrari were at the top of the standings but given that all the teams were truly running test programs to gather data for the qualifying session later in the afternoon, it was impossible to know the true pecking order.

Sebastian Vettel set the early mark in Q1 showing that the speed Ferrari had shown in FP3 was real, however it was soon bettered by both Mercedes. A broken suspension that occurred by driving over the curbs ended Red Bull’s Max Verstappen’s session even though he had gone fast enough to make it to Q2.

During Q2 it became apparent that the top teams were taking a chance with race strategy by attempting to reach Q3 on the Super Soft as opposed to the Ultra Soft Tires. The rule is that for the 10 cars who reach Q3, their race will start on the set of tires used to set the fastest time in Q2. The advantage is that the Super Soft will last much longer than the Ultra Soft which will give those cars more strategic pit stop options. Ferrari decided to try a split strategy with Kimi Raikkonen setting his time on the Ultra Softs whereas Sebastian Vettel matched Mercedes strategy by setting his early hot lap on the Super Softs. Late in the session, both Mercedes, Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo all set out on a warm up lap on the Ultra Softs, preparing to ensure their matriculation to Q3 if the times set on the Super Softs failed to hold up, but they were all able to pit without needing to better their previous mark.

Hamilton set the initial fastest time on the first timed laps in Q3. He was soon bettered by Raikkonen with Vettel on the hunt in the second hot lap. On the third, Hamilton was able to put down the lap that Ferrari only just missed with the top three of Hamilton, Vettel, and Raikkonen separated by only 7 hundredths of a second. Bottas was fourth by a further three tenths with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo finishing 1.2 seconds back in 5th.

Hamilton scores his record setting 81st pole position, while Kimi Raikkonen will join him on the front row with Sebastian Vettel being moved to fifth on the grid after being forced to serve a three position grid penalty for failing to adequately slow during a red flag.  

Hamilton’s road to his fifth championship is now before him. Vettel must find a way to finish second if Hamilton retains first throughout the race. The Ferrari strategy is clear. Kimi will start in second on the grippier Ultra Soft tires. His job will be to get ahead of Hamilton going into the first turn and hold him up until Vettel can clear the competition. As Formula 1 begins the race with a standing start that has no benefit of any launch control or traction control or any driver aid of any kind, the starts can be unpredictable. Will Hamilton get a clean start in his bid to secure his fifth World Championship, or will Ferrari play spoiler and keep Vettel’s chances alive for another day?

 

NASCAR heads to Michigan for the FireKeepers 400

FireKeepers Casino 400 preview

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images


This week, NASCAR heads to Michigan for the FireKeepers 400. This is one of the biggest tracks on the circuit as it is exactly two miles in length and has wide 18 degree banking in the corners making it one of the fastest tracks on the circuit. With the track being as wide as it is, we should be able to see a lot of green flag runs that could very well bring for more pit road strategy.

Like last week at Pocono, it will be crucial for these drivers to make no mistakes in pit road if they want any chance at victory.

Of course the main point of intrigue this week is how these cars will respond to NASCAR's new rules package. It seems like every week, there is always a question about how these cars are going to run. Overall, it would appear that no one has any idea what's going to happen this week. We very well could see a big pack of cars that run together in a draft or we could see the field get spread out like we have been seeing at tracks like this. As important as this rules package is, many drivers and fans are growing tired of talking about it. When last week's winner Kyle Busch was asked how he would rate it, he responded by saying "STOP ASKING ME PACKAGE QUESTIONS! I'M DONE ANSWERING THEM!"

While many people didn't appreciate his attitude towards the question, I think that he is right for the most part about how difficult it is to race under these new guidelines on tracks like Pocono. Last week's race was not good as there was no passing. Kyle Busch lead a good majority of the laps and when it was all said and done the whole field was two or three seconds apart. Now in a 36 race season, I understand that there are going to be races like this, it has been like that since the sport began but NASCAR has continued to talk about how much closer the racing would be under these new rules and a lot of the time most people have been disappointed. It will be interesting to see how it works this week at a similar track in Michigan.

The driver that I have winning this week is Kevin Harvick. While it may sound like I am picking a favorite here, This season has been somewhat of a disappointment for these guys. While they are fifth in the standings and are doing a good job of collecting points, he has yet to win a race this season. While they have had the speed and have been able to run around the top five, they just have not been able to seal the deal. In his five years with Stewart-Haas Racing, this is the longest Harvick has gone without a win. By anyone else's standards, they would kill to have a season like this but for Harvick, I know that he is not happy with where they are right now so I look for them to come to Michigan and finally get their first win of 2019.

Another driver I see doing well this week is Austin Dillion. Despite his issues in the past couple of weeks at Charlotte and Pocono, he has shown good speed this season as he has been able to run around the top 15. Now if you look at the stat sheet, it would tell you that Dillion has struggled here but over the last couple of races at the track, he has steadily improved. In last year's Fall race here, he was able to finish fourth in one of his better races of 2018. It should be a bounce back week for Dillion as he looks to get back in the hunt to make the playoffs.

(All stats and information used in this article is brought to you by the good folks at driveraverages.com and Racing-Reference.com the best website for all NASCAR stats).

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