WELCOME to our live coverage of all the Supercars action at the 2018 Coates Hire Melbourne 400 at the Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix.
The pursuit of the Larry Perkins Trophy begins on Thursday, a pair of practice sessions setting the form guide for a pair of quick-fire 10 minute qualifying sessions for the opening two races of the weekend.
The schedule for Thursday (all times AEDT): 12:50pm — Practice 1 (30 Min) 2:40pm — Practice 2 (30 Min) 4:20pm — Qualifying for Race 3 (10 Min) 4:40pm — Qualifying for Race 4 (10 Min)
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Scott McLaughlin appears set to make his IndyCar debut next month if he can secure a travel exemption from the Australian government.
Having completed a series of successful tests for Team Penske early in the year, McLaughlin’s initial 2020 IndyCar race plans were derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
But with the Supercars season now confirmed to conclude at the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 on October 18 – a week before the IndyCar season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida, that dream has been revived.
Both McLaughlin and Team Penske had already flagged an interest in combining for the street circuit; now it seems talks have advanced significantly.
Speaking on Wednesday morning, the 27-year-old indicated he will likely contest the IndyCar event as long as he’s allowed out of Australia.
“It’s basically up to the government if I can get out of the country or not,” he said.
“There’s a lot of things to go under the bridge in America as well, in regards to getting a team together and all that sort of stuff. But [Penske president] Tim [Cindric] has said they’re seriously looking at it, and if we can physically do it, we will.
“It’s up to me now and I’ve done the steps that I need to get across there. It’s in the process now.”
Elaborating further on the challenges faced with competing abroad – and getting back into Australia – he added: “They’re only letting a limited number of people in every week.
“I’m not really sure. Honestly, I haven’t done a huge amount of research on it. It’s all happened pretty quickly. We’ll see if we can get out of here first and worry about the rest later.”
Back in Supercars land, McLaughlin will look to tighten his grip on a third straight title this weekend at The Bend, with the Repco SuperSprint marking the first half of a doubleheader at the South Australian venue.
McLaughlin currently leads seven-time champion Jamie Whincup by 143 points in what is effectively a two-horse race.
Daniel Ricciardo has admitted there is “pain” behind his typical trademark smile at the moment after an agonising finish to Sunday’s thrilling Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello saw his match his best-ever finish for Renault in P4.
But the Australian’s goal has always been to score the team’s first podium since their return to the sport in 2016 and with Renault changing its name to Alpine next season and Ricciardo off to McLaren, time is starting to run out.
He also has a cheeky little side bet with Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul, who will have to get a tattoo of Ricciardo’s choice if he finishes on the podium this season.
But the 31-year-old admitted he was more thinking about the taste of champagne rather than a trip to the tattoo parlour when he jumped up to P2, only to see it snatched away as first Valtteri Bottas and then Alex Albon passed him in their Mercedes and Red Bull respectively.
“To be honest I wasn’t thinking of tattoo designs but I was thinking about a trophy and some champagne!” Ricciardo told Sky F1. “It was hot out there so I was certainly thirsty for that.
“I would love to be up there, so it certainly hurts.
“I’m smiling on the outside but there is obviously a bit of pain on the inside. It’s a little bit artificial because we know we had a great race.
“Strategy was awesome, we undercut [Lance] Stroll, the starts were great and we put ourselves there.
“I think if Albon passed me on the start, we could have said we lost it but we had it, he just had more pace than us. I didn’t really have an answer.”
“A bit of pain on the inside”
Despite his missed opportunity, Ricciardo is having his best season for Renault, with three fourth-placed finishes and out-qualifying his highly-rated teammate Esteban Ocon 8-1.
“If I look at the way Daniel is smiling and he’s behaving with the team, we feel he is gaining confidence with the car, so that’s good, there is a progression,” added Abiteboul.
“Everything’s pointing in the right direction but it’s so tight and it’s so competitive.”