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Ferrari president has “total confidence” in Massa

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Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has said that he has total confidence in Felipe Massa, claiming that the team will not rush into making a decision about his future.

Massa has failed to match the form of his teammate, Fernando Alonso, so far this season, and with his contract expiring at the end of the season, many believe that he could be dropped for 2014. However, di Montezemolo is happy with the Brazilian’s work for the team.

“Felipe is fully aware he can count on our total confidence in him,” di Montezemolo said on the team’s website. “I hope he will soon secure the results that will show his talent to the full, such as the great starts he pulled off at the last two Grands Prix.

“The future? We will talk about that further down the line as there’s no hurry.”

Massa’s recent form has failed to impress many, having failed to finish on the podium since the Spanish Grand Prix back in May. Last time out in Germany, the Brazilian driver retired after just three laps following a gearbox failure.

The driver market is finely poised for next season with Red Bull set to take on a new driver when Mark Webber retires. Should Ferrari wish to release Massa after eight seasons with the team, it would cause an even greater reshuffle on the 2014 grid.

Simon Pagenaud puts his French chef skills to the test

PagenaudPlate.TPistoia
(Photos courtesy Sonoma Raceway)
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Verizon IndyCar Series points leader Simon Pagenaud is a Renaissance man of sorts.

Not only is he an outstanding race car driver, he’s also a well-known food and wine connoisseur.

Pagenaud and Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Dana Vollmer put their culinary skills to the test Monday when they took food preparation lessons from two of the top chefs in the Bay Area.

Pagenaud was in town to promote the season-ending Verizon IndyCar Series race, the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway on Sept. 18. Vollmer, who is coming off her third consecutive Summer Olympics and is a seven-time medalist (including five golds), was Pagenaud’s cooking partner.

The duo visited the renowned Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland and took lessons from award-winning chefs Tanya Holland and Victor Scargle.

HollandVollmerScarglePagenaud.TPistoia
From left, chef Tanya Holland, Olympic swimmer Dana Vollmer, chef Victor Scargle and IndyCar driver Simon Pagenaud.

Pagenaud took the stove to prepare a longtime family recipe passed down by his grandmother: bistro beef tenderloin wrapped in pork belly with French green beans and charred tomatoes.

“This was a really fun event,” Pagenaud said in a media release. “We get to do a lot of fun things as IndyCar drivers, but to come and cook with Tanya and Victor was really something special.

“It felt really good to make something that reminded me of my hometown, and now I can tell my grandma I have some adjustments for one of her recipes.”

Vollmer, who follows a gluten- and egg-free diet, prepared handmade corn tortillas for lamb tacos, as well as a red quinoa salad with figs and apples.

Pagenaud has won four races and has earned nine top-fives this season, and hopes to hold on to his points lead in the final two races to win the 2016 IndyCar championship.

Vollmer, meanwhile, had an exceptional performance at the recently completed Rio Games. She was on the Gold Medal-winning 4x100m Medley Relay team and the Silver Medal 4×100 Free Relay, which broke the American record. She also won the Bronze Medal in individual 100m Butterfly.

“It was so fun to meet Simon and cook with him,” said Vollmer, who became the first American mother to win a swimming Gold Medal. “I loved the dishes I made and can’t wait to try them at home.

“Eating healthy and clean is really important for me. When I’m training, I can feel the difference after I put good food in my body, and now, with my son (born last year), it’s even more important because he eats what I eat.”

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Travis Pastrana back for Race of Champions in Miami

LONDON - DECEMBER 16:  Travis Pastrana of the USA in action during the Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium on December 16, 2007 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
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Action sports legend and Race of Champions veteran Travis Pastrana will be back in action at next year’s Race of Champions in Miami, to be held January 2017. It will be his eighth appearance in the event.

He’s the fourth announced driver, joining fellow Americans Ryan Hunter-Reay and Kurt Busch, and four-time Formula 1 World Champion Sebastian Vettel. Those three were announced with the race itself earlier this month.

“The greatest part about the Race Of Champions is that you take all these legends and the best in the world from Formula 1, IndyCar and NASCAR and put them all together, but not necessarily in their speciality,” Pastrana said in an RoC release.

“Anybody can win at any time. I took two wins against Sebastian Vettel, who was the Formula 1 champion at the time – in his home country Germany – in a Porsche and an Aston Martin. Then he beats me in Beijing in a rally car, which should have been my speciality. Everyone always has a shot because there are so many vehicles that no one’s ever driven or had experience in, so everyone makes a lot of mistakes.”

“The Race Of Champions is amazing and the atmosphere’s awesome. It’s usually after the season’s over or before the new one starts so the shenanigans going on in the hotel are pretty ridiculous. Some of the best memories of my life have been with these drivers at ROC. Everyone’s super competitive but it’s just about going out there and having fun. So I’m coming back to the Race Of Champions in Miami with a big smile on my face. Game on…”

Next batch of Indy Lights drivers set to test at Sonoma

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From L to R: Negrao, Urrutia and Veach have their first IndyCar tests. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Zach Veach, Santiago Urrutia and Andre Negrao are the next three Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires drivers who will have a chance to make their maiden IndyCar tests this year as part of an Indy Lights Driver Test day.

Belardi Auto Racing’s Veach will score a long-awaited first test in one of Ed Carpenter Racing’s Chevrolets (is listed in Josef Newgarden’s car), while Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian teammates Urrutia and Negrao are set to share James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin’s Hondas, respectively.

Veach told NBC Sports of the opportunity he “feels like a kid the night before Christmas,” while the SPM twins make a natural step up.

The test occurs September 8 at Sonoma Raceway, in preparation for the Verizon IndyCar Series season finale there September 18.

Meanwhile the three of them will complete their running at Sonoma and then head south to Monterey, where the Indy Lights finale takes place as part of an all-Mazda weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Urrutia currently leads that championship heading into the penultimate round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca from Sept. 9-11. The Uruguayan seeks his second straight title on the Mazda Road to Indy after winning the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires last year.

They also join this list of Indy Lights drivers or graduates, who’ve tested an IndyCar this year:

  • Jack Harvey (2015), Zachary Claman De Melo, SPM, Mid-Ohio
  • Felix Rosenqvist, Chip Ganassi Racing Teams, Mid-Ohio
  • RC Enerson, Dale Coyne Racing, Mid-Ohio (debuted for race team the next week)
  • Ed Jones, RLL Racing, Watkins Glen
  • Dean Stoneman, Dalton Kellett, Shelby Blackstock, Andretti Autosport, Watkins Glen
  • Santiago Urrutia, Andre Negrao, SPM, Sonoma
  • Zach Veach, ECR, Sonoma

It leaves only Felix Serralles, Kyle Kaiser and Neil Alberico as the only full-season drivers in Indy Lights this year who have not had a run in an IndyCar as yet.

Verstappen will be on hostile Ferrari territory in Monza

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 28: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing Red Bull-TAG Heuer RB12 TAG Heuer leads Kimi Raikkonen of Finland driving the (7) Scuderia Ferrari SF16-H Ferrari 059/5 turbo (Shell GP) on track during the Formula One Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 28, 2016 in Spa, Belgium  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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If Max Verstappen attempts any more jostling with the Ferrari cars this weekend, he’s going to get a rough reception from the crowd at the Italian Grand Prix.

Unlike last weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, which was the closest thing to a home race for the 18-year-old Dutch driver, Verstappen will be on hostile territory in Monza – which is effectively Ferrari’s home track.

There was a high-profile tangle between Verstappen and both Ferraris on the first turn in Spa, and Verstappen then infuriated Kimi Raikkonen with some aggressive blocking moves when the 36-year-old Finn tried to get past him at high speed later in the race. Raikkonen lost his cool and angrily berated Verstappen.

While Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg at Mercedes remain the drivers to beat, the developing rivalry between Verstappen – Formula One’s rising star – and Ferrari threatens to overshadow what happens at the front.

In May, Verstappen drove brilliantly to win the Spanish GP on his Red Bull debut – joining from feeder team Toro Rosso after just four races of this season – and he followed that up with three more podium finishes. In Belgium, he became the youngest driver ever to qualify on the front row, starting from second, only to finish a disappointing 11th.

Verstappen sits sixth in the drivers’ standings, just behind Ferrari’s Vettel and Raikkonen.

By winning in Belgium, Rosberg moved within nine points of Hamilton at the top of the standings. While Hamilton had to start from the back row in Spa as a result of too many engine-part changes this season, he should be free of penalties in Monza.

Here are some other things to know about the Italian GP:

CIRCUIT CONTRACT: Monza’s contract with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone expires this year but the Italian Automobile Club (ACI) is prepared to offer a new three-year deal worth 68 million euros ($76 million).

Ecclestone had requested 25 million euros ($28 million) per year.

No circuit has hosted more F1 racing than Monza, which was on the inaugural 1950 calendar and has been a mainstay ever since, only dropping off in 1980 when Imola hosted the Italian GP. The track located in a royal park outside of Milan will be hosting its 66th GP this weekend.

FULL THROTTLE: With parts of the Monza circuit still featuring long straight sections from an old oval track, it features the fastest speeds in F1.

Speeds can reach 370 kph (230 mph) on the approach to Turn 1 at the end of the start/finish straightaway.

Teams prepare low-drag configurations that are generally only seen in Italy.

While average speeds are high, cornering speeds are reasonably low, which minimizes tire wear.

Most teams will aim for a one pit-stop strategy. All the top-10 finishers in last year’s race stopped once.

DISTINCTLY DIFFERENT: “I love the notion of coming to a racetrack that’s distinctly different from the others,” McLaren Honda driver Jenson Button said. “People often think that Monza is all about the straights, with tight, small corners. But that’s not really true. Corners like the Lesmos, the Ascari chicane and Parabolica are big, fast corners that require precision and commitment. It’s a great track.”

HARD BRAKING: Much of the action in Monza occurs at the start. The track is very wide along the start-finish straight, which gives cars plenty of room to maneuver on the long run to Turn 1. Drivers accelerate up to 300 kph (185 mph) then brake hard entering the slowest corner on the track.

CHANGES PLANNED: Changes are planned for the Monza circuit for the 2017 race, with a new first corner bypassing the sweeping Curva Grande. So this should be the last race on the classic layout.

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf