Le Mans: F1, American drivers of note to watch

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A mix of ex-Formula One stars, names known to an American audience, and rising sports car talents are part of the 168 drivers that will compete in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

  • The ex-F1 contingent: Those counting at least one Grand Prix start on their resume and competing at Le Mans include: Allan McNish, Marc Gene, Lucas di Grassi (Audi), Alexander Wurz, Kaz Nakajima, Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi, Stephane Sarrazin (Toyota), Nick Heidfeld (Rebellion Lola Toyota), Shinji Nakano (G-Drive/Delta-ADR Oreca Nissan), Gianmaria Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella, Kamui Kobayashi, Olivier Beretta (AF Corse Ferrari), Jan Magnussen (Corvette), Pedro Lamy (pictured right, with Bill Auberlen) and Bruno Senna (Aston Martin).
  • Those with an IndyCar connection: Ryan Briscoe (Level 5 HPD) and Mike Conway (G-Drive/Delta-ADR) are the only current IndyCar drivers making a start at Le Mans, owing to their lack of a full-time ride. Some other names with past IndyCar experience or connection include Dario Franchitti’s brother Marino (Briscoe’s Level 5 teammate), and recent IndyCar starters Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman (OAK Morgan Nissan) and Ho-Pin Tung (KCMG Morgan Nissan).
  • The American crowd: The “Yanks” in this year’s field race in all classes except LMP1. They include: Kevin Weeda (Lotus), Scott Tucker (Level 5), Matt Downs, Rodin Younessi (Boutsen Ginion Oreca Nissan), Alexander Rossi, Eric Lux (Caterham Greaves Zytek Nissan), and Mark Patterson (Murphy Oreca Nissan) in LMP2, with Jordan Taylor, Tommy Milner (Corvette), Jonathan Bomarito, Tommy Kendall (SRT Viper), Paul Dalla Lana, Bill Auberlen (Aston Martin), Ricky Taylor, Cooper MacNeil (Larbre Corvette), Howard Blank (AF Corse), Tracy Krohn (Krohn Ferrari), and Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster, and Patrick Long (Dempsey Del Piero) split between the GTE Pro and Am classes.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”