Sebastian Vettel

Untouchable Vettel cruises to Canadian GP victory

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Sebastian Vettel has won the Canadian Grand Prix in emphatic style, only losing the lead during the first round of pit stops as he eased home to claim his first victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve by 13 seconds.

The defending world champion cruised home ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, with the battle between Ferrari and Mercedes being the main source of action in the race. Mark Webber could not maintain his early pace and only finished 4th, whilst Nico Rosberg came home 5th ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne and Paul di Resta, both of whom will be delighted with their results. Kimi Raikkonen’s championship charge continued to falter as he could only finish P9 behind Felipe Massa.

The start saw Vettel hold onto his lead without coming under pressure from Hamilton, but Bottas was the big loser, falling behind Rosberg and Webber with Alonso following at the end of the lap. Kimi Raikkonen also struggled off the start, whilst Giedo van der Garde made up four positions on the first lap. The majority of the field elected to start on the supersoft tire, with di Resta, Grosjean, Bianchi and Chilton opting for mediums. Jean-Eric Vergne became the next driver to pass Bottas, but Adrian Sutil could not follow after making a mistake that saw him spin. Vettel continued to extend his lead at the front until the first round of stops with Hamilton and Rosberg unable to match the pace of the Red Bull. Further back, Pastor Maldonado received a drive-through penalty for an incident involving Sutil, dropping him out of the points.

Some of the drivers tried to make a one-stop strategy work, squeezing the life out of their tires and creating some action in the midfield. Jenson Button lost out to Sutil and Massa whilst Raikkonen was informed that he had to save fuel, pitting to release Vergne into 6th place. Webber continued to pressurize Rosberg, but he could not make it through and was soon fending off Alonso for 4th place. Eventually, with the aid of DRS, Webber and Alonso both passed Rosberg to sit 3rd and 4th respectively, with the Mercedes pitting for fresh tires soon after. Bottas continued to fall backwards, losing out to Perez but he did manage to keep 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen at bay for a few more laps until the Lotus passed under DRS. When lapping van der Garde, Webber made contact with the Caterham which had ignored blue flags, losing part of his front wing endplate in a clumsy incident for which van der Garde received a stop/go penalty. Alonso closed on Webber after the Red Bull made a mistake and passed him for P3 heading into turn one, maintaining his lead over the Red Bull into the second rounds of stops.

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There was no change of position at the front during the pit stops, with Vettel rejoining the race in the lead on the harder compound. Paul di Resta and Romain Grosjean ran deep into the race, optimizing their one stop strategies – something Mercedes failed to do with Hamilton, and he was soon losing time to Alonso in 3rd. After many laps of DRS and some great defence from Hamilton, the Ferrari finally made it through into second place. Hamilton was quick to get back on Alonso’s tail though, but the Mercedes just couldn’t quite find a way past. di Resta finally pitted on lap 57, with Rosberg and Vergne making a third stop to cover the Force India. For Sutil though, his weekend took another turn for the worse after receiving a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags, leaving him with a late battle with the McLarens, eventually finishing 10th. DRS was disabled late on which hindered Hamilton’s charge on Alonso, but Massa was able to make a late move on Raikkonen for 8th.

The win sees Vettel extend his championship lead over Fernando Alonso, and it hands Red Bull their first win in North America since they entered the sport in 2005. Alonso will be pleased to have finished 2nd after starting in 6th, but for Valtteri Bottas, 14th place will be a very disappointing result.

Wehrlein “feels ready” for job of replacing Rosberg, if he gets seat

MONTMELO, SPAIN - FEBRUARY 20:  (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes GP poses for a portrait during day three of Formula One Winter Testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 21, 2015 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Pascal Wehrlein is the potential lynchpin in the race to replace Nico Rosberg, now fully underway after the shock news of the 2016 World Champion’s decision to retire has come down and now set in.

The Mercedes AMG Petronas reserve driver and Manor race driver from this season did a thoroughly good – if not outstanding – job in his first full season in Formula 1 and could well be the pick to replace Rosberg alongside Lewis Hamilton next season.

Wehrlein is confident in his ability and expressed his candidacy for the job while accepting rookie-of-the-year honors at last night’s Autosport Awards.

“One season in Formula 1 of course is not a lot, but I feel ready for the job,” Wehrlein said. “I feel confident enough.

“Now the decision is on the bosses. I guess Toto’s (Wolff) phone is overheating since Friday! I respect that process and that they want to go to the best option.”

Pushed a bit further, Wehrlein also offered a sneaky sense of humor in noting how much testing he’s already done on a modified chassis with Pirelli’s new-for-2017 tires.

“I’ve done the most days with 2017 tires. It’s very important to have that experience,” he laughed.

Wehrlein could well get the nod by way of his availability. However if Mercedes opts to buy out another tied-down driver’s contract, it could well end up that Wehrlein might be placed elsewhere on the grid.

Despite losing out on the Force India seat to fellow Mercedes junior Esteban Ocon, Wehrlein’s stock has never been higher.

Ryan Norman confirmed for Andretti Indy Lights program

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As NBC Sports reported over the weekend, Ryan Norman has been confirmed as third driver for Andretti Autosport’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires program in 2017.

Norman joins the previously announced Dalton Kellett (No. 28 K-LINE Insulators, USA Mazda) and Nico Jamin (No. 27 Synova Mazda). Norman, out of Cleveland, won this year’s Atlantic Championship and will drive the No. 48 Flip Side Mazda. He’s tested for the team this winter.

“I’m very excited to join Andretti Autosport for the 2017 Indy Lights Season,” said Norman. “With their great success in IndyCar and Indy Lights, it is the perfect environment for me to learn and grow as a driver. I want to thank Michael Andretti and the rest of the team for this wonderful opportunity and I hope to bring great results to the team this coming year.”

“We have been following Ryan’s achievements in Formula Atlantic and feel he will do equally well, if not better, in Indy Lights,” J-F Thormann, President of Andretti Autosport, added. “Ryan has tested for the team several times this offseason and has impressed us with how quickly he has adapted to the car. We are looking forward to seeing what the 2017 season has in store for us and are thrilled to have three of our four Indy Lights entries announced.”

As noted by Thormann above, the team has confirmed four Indy Lights entries for 2017. From what we’ve heard, the fourth driver could well be an intriguing young American.

Rainguard Water Sealers signs on as Texas IndyCar title sponsor

FORT WORTH, TX - AUGUST 27: Alexander Rossi driver of the #98 Castrol Edge/Curb Honda leads Helio Castroneves driver of the #3 AAA Insurance Team Penske Chevrolet during the Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on August 27, 2016 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)
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Cue the jokes about how Texas Motor Speedway’s new Verizon IndyCar Series race title sponsor, Rainguard Water Sealers, was a year late, as track drying delays from rain helped postpone this year’s race from June to August.

But the new title sponsor is on board for the next three years, through whatever weather exists at TMS. Which is a good thing, because it confirms both the race and the sponsor through 2019.

“We extremely pleased to have Texas Motor Speedway and ‘America’s Original Nighttime IndyCar Race’ serve as the initial sponsorship venture into motorsports and sports in general for Rainguard Water Sealers,” Eddie Gossage, Texas Motor Speedway president, said in a release. “We look forward to providing Rainguard with an exceptional first experience as an entitlement sponsor and help the company attain their goals through this sponsorship agreement.”

Firestone has been the race’s title sponsor of what is now the Rainguard Water Sealers 600 since 2010. Prior to that, Bombardier Learjet sponsored the race from 2005 to 2009, when Texas dropped from having two races on the annual IndyCar calendar down to one.

Rainguard was founded in 1969 as a manufacturer of architectural grade coatings used in the construction industry, and developed speciality sealer products starting in 2010.

French Grand Prix return made official for 2018

Ivan Capelli driver of the #16 Leyton House Racing Leyton House CG901 Judd celebrates his and the teams second place finish at the French Grand Prix on 8 July 1990 at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France (Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)
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After a decade off the Formula 1 calendar, the French Grand Prix has been formally confirmed to return in 2018. The race was confirmed at a press conference in France on Monday, after reports emerged late last week it was coming back.

The race, which was at Circuit de Nevers in Magny-Cours from the 1990s through to the most recent race there in 2008, will be held at Circuit Paul Ricard (Le Castellet) instead. Paul Ricard though was the site host for 14 races between 1971 and 1990.

Christian Estrosi, the president of the regional authority of Provence and the Cote d’Azur, announced the deal for the race which is likely to be held in late July. That time frame had featured the German Grand Prix along withe Hungarian Grand Prix.

“Losing the grand prix was a true scar for our country,” Estrosi said at the Automobile Club de France, via the ACO. “I can today make the firm and definitive announcement that the Grand Prix de France will return at the Paul Ricard circuit as soon as the 2018 summer.”

Estrosi paid tribute to the late driver Jules Bianchi, who died last year following a long battle to recover from major head injuries sustained at the Japanese GP in October 2014.

“I’m dedicating this big return to my friend Jules,” Estrosi said. “My thoughts are with his family.”

Jean Todt, the president of motorsports’ world governing body, said the return of the French GP is an “enormous satisfaction” for FIA.

The 2017 calendar was only just confirmed following the latest meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council last week, with a drop to 20 races following the German race’s departure.

With the French Grand Prix back on, that would kick the number of races back up to 21 for 2018 unless another shoe drops and another race falls back off the calendar instead. Provided Germany would come back in 2018 at Hockenheim, that could add another wrinkle to the 2018 calendar planning.

Associated Press contributed to this report