St. Pete race aims to be a good neighbor

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While staging a major-league auto race on city streets will always cause some headaches for the locals, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is doing what it can to help out as track construction enters its final stages.

The 1.8-mile, 14-turn circuit is set up along the St. Pete waterfront and also encloses several local landmarks, including the Salvador Dali Museum. Visitors will have to buy a race ticket and a discounted museum ticket to visit the Dali this weekend, but the race has been working with the museum to try and boost its attendance.

“We have more signage to help our visitors this year,” museum deputy director Kathy White told Mark Puente of the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday. “We are looking forward to sending as many visitors to the Grand Prix and to the Dalí as possible.”

In addition, the Times reports that the City of St. Petersburg has plans in place to push track visitors toward other race events and local businesses with flashing signs for drivers in and around the course.

Everything won’t be business as usual, however – a Saturday morning farmer’s market at Al Lang Field, which is enclosed by the course, will not operate this weekend. And, of course, the running of the race will cause multiple roads to be closed near the waterfront.

But considering the race’s ability to provide a nationally-televised showcase for the city every spring, one could argue that the temporary annoyances are quite worth it.

St. Petersburg officials seem to think along those lines. The City Council approved an extension last summer to keep their Grand Prix rolling along through 2017.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”