Will Power won the pole for Sunday's opening race of the IZOD IndyCar Series season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., with a lap of one minute, 1.2070 seconds, which translates into a speed of 105.870 miles an hour.
Takuma Sato finished second in qualifying, followed by Simona di Silvestro, James Hinchcliffe of Oakville and Helio Castroneves.
Tristan Vautier, the only rookie in the field, stunned observers by qualifying sixth, leaving such luminaries as defending champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (8th), Indy 500 champion Dario Franchitti (10th), Alex Tagliani of Montreal (17th) and five-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais (21st) in his dust.
Said Hinchcliffe: "It's behind us, which is good. I think we showed a lot of potential and we're obviously happy with starting inside the (Firestone) Fast Six but we're focusing on tomorrow's race."
Meantime, Canadian Scott Hargrove of Vancouver won the USF2000 race Saturday. The 18-year-old won the opening race of the series a week ago in Sebring.
Third place in Saturday's event went to Stefan Rzadzinski of Edmonton, while Jesse Lazare of Montreal was fourth.
Said Hargrove: “It may have looked easy but driving on the streets was not at all easy with the walls everywhere. It was a pretty big challenge. . . . It was really close in qualifying and we got through Turn One, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.”
Red Bull-Renault's Sebastien Vettel won the pole for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, ahead of Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.
Last week's winner, Kimi Raikkonen of Lotus-Renault, qualified seventh but was penalized three grid positions for blocking.
The lineup: Vettel, Massa; Alonso, Hamilton; Webber; Rosberg; Button; Sutil; Perez; Raikkonen; Grosjean; Hulkenberg; Ricciardo; Gutierrez; di Resta; Maldonado; Vergne; Bottas; Bianchi; Pic; Chilton; Van der Garde.
In off-track controversy, Toronto Star Wheels' Stephanie Wallcraft has done a great interview with Canadian legend Paul Tracy over his being snubbed in St. Petersburg, Fla., where a monument to the late Dan Wheldon doesn't have his name down as a race winner. Click here for details.
Earlier, observers of the IZOD IndyCar Series have said for years that if Simona de Silvestro ever had a decent car to drive, she’d be at the front of the pack instead of the back.
Well, how right they were. De Silvestro – a.k.a. the Swiss Miss – is driving a KV Racing Chevrolet-powered Dallara this season and after two practice sessions Friday for the opening race of the season Sunday on a street course in St. Petersburg, Fla., she’s a solid third fastest out of 25 drivers who took time.
Championship favourite (isn’t he always?) Will Power sits atop the time sheets, with defending national champion Ryan Hunter-Reay second. Then comes De Silvestro, followed by Oriol Servia and Takuma Sato.
Sato, incidentally, was the fastest Honda driver. The four chauffers in front of him were all shoeing Chevies.
Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe of Oakville sits in eighth place and veteran Alex Tagliani of Montreal is 20th. Slowest of all two-dozen-plus-one is Ana Beatriz in a Dale Coyne Racing entry.
Qualifying for Sunday’s race is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
The field, from first to last, is separated by a smidgen more than two seconds. Power turned a lap of 1:01:4667 (105:457 mph); Beatriz brought up the rear with a time of 1:03:9670.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon were both well down the list, in 17th and 19th places, respectively.
There was a report in the U.S. Friday that only four of the 2013 IndyCar races on Sportsnet would be live and the rest would be tape-delayed. Wrong. They will all be live, starting with the St. Pete race Sunday.
Meantime, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Denny Hamlin won the pole Friday evening for Sunday’s Sprint Cup race, with Greg Biffle second and Brad Keselowski third.
Biffle and Keselowski will go to the back of the pack for the start, however, because of engine changes.
Joey Logano, who had a beef with Hamlin last weekend at Bristol and vowed to hunt him down to even the score in this Sunday's race, qualified sixth but will move up to fourth.
Any bets on how long Logano will follow Hamlin around before turning him into the wall?
Sad News. Gord Hazlett, a long-time writer for the periodical Old Autos, died this week. He was 94. Visitation at the Heritage Funeral Centre, 50 Overlea Blvd., Toronto, will be held Sunday from 2 until 4 and then from 7 until 9. A funeral service will be held in the chapel there at noon on Monday, March 25. A reception will follow, with internment at Resthaven Memorial Gardens.
In Indianapolis, Tony George has been returned to his place on the board of directors of Hulman & Co. You’ll recall he resigned last year after news broke (or there was serious speculation) that he was seeking to put a group together to purchase the IndyCar Series from the Hulman firm. The appearance of a conflict of interest forced his hand. As it is apparent that the racing series is not for sale, and George no longer seems interested in purchasing it, he’s back in the saddle.
This item will be overtaken during the night by qualifying in Malaysia, but Kimi Raikkonen, winner of last weekend’s opening race of the Formula One season in Australia, set fastest time in second practice in his Lotus-Renault Friday before the rains came to slow everybody down.
Sebastien Vettel was second fastest in his Red Bull-Renault but complained that his Pirelli tires were going away really quickly. Felipe Massa was in third for Ferrari with teammate Fernando Alonso fourth and Red Bull No. 2 Mark Webber fifth.
Here’s an interesting nugget, though.
You’ll recall that Raikkonen got a leg up on everybody else at Melbourne last Sunday by managing his tires better. He only had to stop twice while all others were in the pits three times?
Well, during Friday practice, Mercedes focused on long runs rather than speed, with Nico Rosberg eventually ending up seventh and Lewis Hamilton ninth.
But being the investigative reporter that I am, I suggest Mercedes is stealing a page from the Lotus playbook and practicing for a two-stop strategy on Sunday.
Speaking of Mercedes, CEO Nick Frye resigned his position of Chief Executive Officer as of April 1 Friday, and pay manager Toto Wolfe, who bought 30 per cent of the team so he could get that job, will take over.
According to a statement from Mercedes, Wolfe will now run the team with Ross Brawn but I am willing to start a pool so we can gamble on how long that arrangement lasts.
Slowly but surely, Wolfe and Niki Lauda are taking over and Brawn’s days are obviously numbered, just as Frye’s were.
Frye will stay with the team as a consultant. This is code for, we don’t want to pay you millions of dollars in lump-sum severance so we are giving you your notice. You will draw a salary until the end of 2014 but you won’t have anything to do.
Now, get out of here. If we need you, we’ll call.
- Norris McDonald