Miami racing legend Ralph Sanchez passes away

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Ralph Sanchez, founder of the Homestead-Miami Speedway, passed away Monday after a long fight with cancer.

Sanchez, a Cuban immigrant, was born in 1948 and was a pioneer, innovator and legend within the greater Miami area. Sanchez’s history in Miami began with a sports car race in the streets of Miami in 1983; IndyCars later raced in the Tamiami Park area thanks to Sanchez’s efforts.

Sanchez earned his accounting degree from Florida Atlantic University and worked as a real estate salesman and land developer before getting involved with motorsports.

The track now known as Homestead-Miami began life as the Metro-Dade Homestad Motorsports Complex and hosted its first race in 1995, the NASCAR Nationwide (then Busch) Series.

The track itself went through three different configurations. It began as a four-corner squared oval similar to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, before the corners were curved before 1998, and later banked before 2003. Homestead annually hosts the final weekend of the NASCAR season and has also hosted IndyCar and sports car races.

Lewis Franck offers a touching tribute here for Autoweek; further reflections are here from RACER, veteran writer Anne Proffit, and below from American Le Mans Series President and CEO, Scott Atherton.

“We are all deeply saddened by the news of Ralph’s passing,” said Atherton. “He was a true motorsports promoter, an accomplished businessman, a family man and a visionary – all wrapped in designer suits and old-school gentleman’s etiquette.”

 

F1 2017 driver review: Sergio Perez

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Sergio Perez

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 11
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P4 (Spain)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 100
Championship Position: 7th

While failing to hit the podium as he did in both 2015 and 2016, Sergio Perez once again finished the year as Formula 1’s leading midfield team driver, but faced a greater fight from within Force India in the shape of Esteban Ocon.

Perez has long been knocking on the door of F1’s top teams should an opportunity come up, and 2017 saw him continue his solid if unspectacular form. The dominance of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari meant any finish higher than seventh was impressive, something he managed to do on five occasions.

But there were some missed opportunities along the way, most significantly in Baku. Force India had been quick all weekend, with Perez charging to sixth on the grid, and when drama struck at the front, he and teammate Ocon were eyeing a podium finish as a minimum.

Contact between the two forced Perez to retire and prompted Ocon to pit for repairs, leaving the team without the top-three finish it targeted heading into the season. With Lance Stroll taking P3 for Williams and Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, a maiden victory for Force India was not out of the realm of imagination.

Perez and Ocon came to blows on a number of occasions, with the final straw coming in Spa when they twice touched on-track, prompting Force India to introduce team orders. Perez finished the year 13 points clear of Ocon in the final standings, meeting his own pre-season target of 100 points, yet the Frenchman had arguably made the bigger impression at Force India through his first full season in F1.

Force India remains the top underdog in F1 with Perez spearheading its charge, but it is difficult to see either taking the final step to becoming true contenders at the front of the field anytime soon, as solid as their displays have been.

Season High: P4 in Spain after retirements for the ‘big three’.

Season Low: Losing a sure-fire podium, if not a win, in Baku after contact with Ocon.