Hunter-Reay wins ESPY for Best Driver, first for IndyCar since 1997

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Ryan Hunter-Reay’s 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series championship has netted him one last award later in 2013 – an ESPY award for Best Driver.

The Andretti Autosport driver’s comeback in the final two races of 2012 took him past Will Power to capture his first series title. He also took home RACER Magazine’s Racer of the Year and Road Racer of the Year awards earlier this year.

Furthermore, he’s the first open-wheel driver to win the Best Driver ESPY since Jimmy Vasser in 1997. Vasser took home the CART series title for Target Chip Ganassi Racing – that team’s first ever championship – in 1996.

Hunter-Reay beat out 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski and defending three-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel in a fan vote.

Danica Patrick, who’s unlikely to be nominated for the Best Driver ESPY anytime soon, was also on hand at the event at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles to present the Best Male Athlete award, won by LeBron James.

Jon Hamm hosted the show and Robin Roberts (Arthur Ashe Courage Award) and the father-and-son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt, veteran marathon runners from Boston, were also honored for their contributions that have transcended sports.

The ESPYs also recognized Dick Trickle, Jason Leffler and Chris Economaki in its “In Memoriam” tribute to those who have passed in the last year.

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.”