NBC Sports Network’s Will Buxton sits down with Sebastian Vettel at the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend to talk about how he got through the rough period of weeks previous to Bahrain, and how being back on the track and a big stage can heal all wounds.
Nico Rosberg has set his sights on rounding out the 2015 Formula 1 season with a third consecutive victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
Despite failing to put up much of a challenge to Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton for this year’s world championship, Rosberg has been the man to beat in recent races, claiming the last five pole positions and winning in Mexico and Brazil.
Rosberg saw his hopes of winning a maiden world championship end in Abu Dhabi last year after a mechanical failure on his car, but the German is hoping to make up for this by continuing his good form and taking a third straight win.
“I’ve had two really great weekends now in Mexico and Brazil, so I’m heading into the final race on a massive high,” Rosberg said.
“Abu Dhabi hasn’t always been an easy one for me. Of course, last year was probably my biggest disappointment – losing the title at the last moment with a mechanical problem.
“But I showed my speed there with pole position and I have good momentum behind me right now, so I’m aiming to end the season on a big positive this time around.”
This weekend’s race will mark the final outing for the Mercedes W06 Hybrid, which has claimed 15 wins and 17 pole positions so far this season.
Rosberg is keen to make the most of his final run with the car, but remains wary of the threat from Ferrari behind after the Italian marque ran Mercedes close in Brazil two weeks ago.
“Of course, it’s also the last race for this incredible Silver Arrow – and it deserves a spectacular send off,” Rosberg said. “Everyone at the factories has done such a fantastic job one again this year.
“A car like this is something every driver dreams of having in their hands, so I’ll be pushing hard to make the most of it for one last time as a tribute to all their hard work.
“Of course, it will be close as always with Lewis and we saw a big push from Ferrari in São Paulo, so it won’t be straightforward. But I’m up for a battle and hopefully we can put on a great show for the fans to end the year.”
Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at MotorSportsTalk. Here’s some of the things we’re thankful for from the racing season, 2015. See more things we’re thankful across the board from NBCSports.com at the #WhyImThankful hashtag.
- The opportunity to crown a champion on U.S. soil. It hasn’t happened since 1982, and on October 25, 2015 it happened once again – the U.S. played host to the title-deciding round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas. Fittingly, Lewis Hamilton clinched his third title on his adopted “second home.”
- Sebastian Vettel starring at Ferrari. The German made his move at the right time to get out of Red Bull and into Ferrari. From a personal perspective, I don’t think I appreciated him at Red Bull as much as I do now at Ferrari. He poked the bear that was the Mercedes AMG Petronas pairing of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg as much as possible in press conferences, and helped bring Ferrari back to the top of the podium after a challenging 2014 for the team.
- An American driver makes his debut. It was only five races, but getting to see Alexander Rossi finally make his debut after years of trying, and a few failed opportunities in 2014, was long overdue. Rossi completed a near perfect run of events, beating Manor teammate Will Stevens in four of five starts, and posting a near-points run to 12th at COTA. He also posted a series of guest blogs here on MST throughout the fall.
- Haas F1 Team confirms a solid first-year lineup. While neither Romain Grosjean nor Esteban Gutierrez was a surprise announcement once confirmed, both will be solid fits for Gene Haas and Guenther Steiner’s Haas F1 Team in 2016. Grosjean gives the team a proven podium finisher who’s made genuine strides over his career, and Gutierrez is an underrated driver with Ferrari ties, solid Mexican support, and more pace than you realize.
- #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe. In a year when nearly nothing has gone right for McLaren Honda, this did. Thank you, Internet, for once.
- A dramatic title finale. Blame double points all you want for perhaps altering the outcome, but you can’t deny the intensity and excitement was there as Scott Dixon toppled Juan Pablo Montoya in the season finale at Sonoma. There was little between the two throughout the year; either would have been a worthy champion but Dixon is a good one.
- A fantastic finish at Indy. Montoya lost the season-long war, but won the battle in a thrilling three-way bout with Dixon and Will Power at this year’s Indianapolis 500.
- Newgarden finally wins. It was a question of when, not if, rising American star Josef Newgarden would win his first race (or races) in the Verizon IndyCar Series. Courtesy of a dominant performance at Barber Motorsports Park, he finally did. A second win, at Toronto, joined for good measure.
- The racing family’s support for the Wilson family. In the most tragic moment of the IndyCar season, following the loss of Justin Wilson at Pocono Raceway, the community rallied together in the auction to raise more than $600,000 for the Wilson Children’s Fund.
Red Bull GRC
- A great comeback from Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross. Down but not out, Scott Speed, Tanner Foust and the entire Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team rallied from a nightmare start to the campaign to emerge as championship contenders, and ultimately champions, by year’s end.
- Increased IndyCar team presence. Veteran squads like Olsbergs MSE, Hoonigan Racing Division and Subaru WRT were joined by an onslaught of IndyCar squads in 2015. Andretti, Chip Ganassi Racing, SH Rallycross and Bryan Herta Rallysport brought seven cars to the Supercar grid in 2015, to make up more than half the lineup.
Around the rest of the non-NASCAR motorsports world
- Mazda Road to Indy: As usual, some young rising drivers stood out in 2015, even beyond champions Spencer Pigot, Santiago Urrutia and Nico Jamin.
- IMSA: Better racing, less kvetching, BoP not being as much of a storyline (it still was at times, but not all the time), improved processes and an increase in quality personnel – as well as new title sponsor WeatherTech for 2016 and beyond – contributed to a vastly improved 2015 second season of the-then TUDOR United SportsCar Championship compared to a rocky first season in 2014.
- Pirelli World Challenge: The influx of quality GT3 cars and teams made what was already a strong top GT class even better; a management shakeup at year’s end also seems to have pleased most of the paddock as PWC prepares for 2016.
- FIA World Endurance Championship: Great racing at most events, the emergence of Porsche’s newest factory aces Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber as overall winners at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Patrick Dempsey winning a race, Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler scoring a podium on Le Mans debut, and other bits and pieces throughout the year made the WEC campaign an enjoyable one.
- NHRA: Antron Brown and Erica Enders-Stevens proving how badass they are en route to Top Fuel and Pro Stock titles. Also, thanks to Gary Gerould for his incredible 37-year-run on the mic – my colleague Daniel McFadin’s interview with the retiring Gerould is linked here.
Two-year Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series veteran Zach Veach will return to the series in 2016 following a year’s hiatus. At the moment, it’s for the start of the season only but with the intended plan of making it a full-season effort.
The young American joins the Belardi Auto Racing team, which he narrowly lost out to in his last full-time campaign in 2014 when he finished third in the points.
Veach, who turns 21 next month, is Brian Belardi’s first confirmed driver for the 2016 season. Perhaps one of the single most experienced drivers in the Mazda Road to Indy, Veach has been on all three rungs (Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000) since 2010 and spent 2015 as a color commentator for the IndyCar Radio Network.
He tested for the team last month at Sebring, and will have several other tests before the St. Petersburg season opening weekend March 11-13.
“I’m very thankful for this opportunity that Brian Belardi has given me,” Veach said. “After racing against his team for so many years, I’ve always had a ton of respect for him, his crew, and of course, his cars. Belardi Auto Racing competes to win championships and I would love to give them their second Indy Lights title.
“Right now, we only have a partial program in place, but with a great amount of effort on both sides. We will be doing everything possible to try to get funding together for an entire season, so we can put a championship fight in place. I look towards winter testing, and 2016, with a lot of hope and excitement.”
“We’re really happy to have Zach confirmed with us for next year, and we’ll work closely with him to make sure that we can get the funding we need to run him all season,” Belardi added.
“He’s a supreme talent both in and out of the car, and his initial test outings in the car were just as we expected. Zach was on-pace very early in Sebring after familiarizing himself with the new Indy Lights car, and I know that we’ll challenge for race wins and the championship next year.”
The ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards will have only minor changes to the 2016 season, the sanctioning body said Wednesday after revealing next season’s schedule.
The biggest change is Mobile, Alabama is off the schedule, to be replaced by a return to Madison, Wisconsin.
As ARCA enters its 64th consecutive year of racing, the schedule will once again feature 20 races for the third consecutive year, starting at Daytona International Speedway on February 13 and ending on Oct. 14 at Kansas Speedway.
All told, there will be nine races on short tracks, eight on superspeedways, two on dirt and one on a road course.
“We are pleased to announce our full and complete schedule,” ARCA President Ron Drager said. “We feel we have once again put together a schedule that highlights the diversity of the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards. We are excited for the start of the new season.”
Other changes include:
* The annual Chicagoland Speedway race will be moved to Thursday night, Sept. 15, kicking off the opening weekend of NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup.
* The road course race at New Jersey will be moved to Saturday, May 28, rather than its previous Sunday afternoon date.
* The annual dirt race at DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in Illinois will shift from an afternoon to an evening race.
* The series will mark milestone events with the 75th series event at Toledo Speedway and the 99th and 100th races at southern Indiana’s Salem Speedway.
* The series will have companion races with all three of NASCAR’s pro touring series, as well as one weekend as the undercard for the Verizon IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway in July.
* As for the return to Madison, Drager said, “It was important for us to schedule a race in the Menards market. Last year, we did not have a race in either Minnesota or Wisconsin and this year, we decided to go back. We are definitely looking forward to racing again at Madison and the upper Midwest.”
* The annual awards banquet takes place Dec. 12 in Indianapolis.