Tony Kanaan, Jimmy Vasser

Symbolism as Kanaan to set IndyCar’s record start streak in Baltimore

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He’s run Ironman triathlons before, but this week Tony Kanaan’s status as IndyCar’s “ironman” is cemented. He’ll set a series record for number of consecutive starts, with his 212th in a row eclipsing the mark set by his team principal and former rival Jimmy Vasser in this weekend’s Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT.

It’s a streak that has spanned more than 12 years, since the 2001 CART season. The last race Kanaan failed to start was at Detroit in 2001, when he suffered a concussion after a practice crash. He’ll break Vasser’s record driving “JV’s” No. 11 Hydroxycut KV Racing Technology-SH Chevrolet.

“It obviously proves that I’ve been around for a long time, that’s for sure. But obviously it’s a remarkable achievement,” Kanaan noted during a media teleconference on Wednesday. “I didn’t want to be beating one of my best friends in life and nowadays my boss, Jimmy.  But I guess I get to brag about that.  I guess I can’t brag as much until I get to Sunday’s race because Jimmy has the power not to let me start this race if he wants to!”

There’s been a couple times Kanaan has raced hurt, and after his serious accident in the 2009 Indianapolis 500 when he smacked a non-SAFER protected wall, he came close to missing Milwaukee the following week.

“The closest I think lately was that big crash I had at Indy, was that ’09, I lost the suspension,” Kanaan said. “The next weekend was Milwaukee. I was hurting. I had two broken ribs. I actually could barely walk to the car. That was the closest I got not to race.I had a concussion in Detroit, which I stayed out.  That’s when the streak started out after in Portland.  That concussion, back in the day, the technology and all the resources we have was not as accurate.  I still think I wasn’t right the week after that I went to Portland. I started the race, but I crashed three corners later and took (Alex) Zanardi out with me, my teammate.”

Vasser reflected on his driver’s achievement and noted the symbolism of Kanaan setting the record in Baltimore.

“It just goes to show how tough he is,” Vasser said. “He’s been driving through injuries, not only this year, but many times through the course of this streak. There’s nobody else better. It’s kind of ironic that he’s in the team and driving for us. I think it’s a pretty cool thing. And we’re doing it in Baltimore where the real Ironman Cal Ripken really built the house.”

Key: F1 technical rule changes for 2017 the biggest in 20 years

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26: Daniil Kvyat of Russia driving the (26) Scuderia Toro Rosso STR11 Ferrari 060/5 turbo on track  during final practice for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Scuderia Toro Rosso technical chief James Key believes that the changes to the regulations for the 2017 Formula 1 season are the biggest that the sport has seen in 20 years.

As part of a bid to make F1 cars look more radical and gain multiple seconds per lap, the technical regulations have been overhauled for 2017, with a particular focus on tires and bodywork.

Key discussed the challenge facing each team heading into 2017, believing the changes to be greater than any he has experienced through his F1 career.

“It’s a massive change. Honestly, from a bodywork and suspension and tire point of view, this is the biggest one that I’ve personally experienced in almost 19 years in F1,” Key said.

“From a chassis point of view, it’s the biggest change of the past two decades, even bigger than 2009 and certainly bigger than 2014. These are exciting times!

“Basically, there are two processes going on. Firstly, you’ve got the enormous amount of research you have to do to try and understand what makes a car with these new regulations tick, without any experience of them in reality, because for a long time, we can only operate in the virtual world. That process comes to an end in January.

“Secondly you hit the track for winter testing, after which you go and do a season with all this work that for a long time existed in your virtual world.

“We tentatively started the 2017 project in September 2015, so it’s been 14 months so far. Back then, the chassis regulations hadn’t been finalized but we thought that with any change of this nature, the sooner you start, the better.”

Force India gives Renault tips ahead of Hulkenberg’s arrival for 2017

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 11:  Nico Hulkenberg of Germany driving the (27) Sahara Force India F1 Team VJM09 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 11, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Force India has sent Renault an early Christmas present by giving tips on how to look after Nico Hulkenberg ahead of his arrival at the team for the 2017 Formula 1 season.

Hulkenberg announced back in October that he would be leaving Force India at the end of the 2016 season, joining Renault for its second year back in F1 as a constructor.

In a tongue-in-cheek post on Force India’s Twitter account, the team gave Renault some advice on how to look after Hulkenberg.

“He answers the name of ‘Nico’, but ‘Hulk’ will do in public,” it reads.

“He has been a beloved member of our family for longer than we can remember, but it is time for him to go and find his own feet.

“Nico is friendly and of good nature, but there are just a few, simple rules to follow to take care of him:

  • Do not feed him after midnight.
  • Do not get him wet. Actually, just kidding. He’s pretty good in the wet.
  • Even though the resemblance can be uncanny, do not refer to him as ‘Johnny Bravo’ (if you do, let us know how it goes.

“And most importantly, and we can’t stress this enough…

  • Do NOT make him angry.

“Best of luck for your life together, your friends at Sahara Force India.”

Force India had previously left Hulkenberg’s helmet and race suit under its Christmas tree as a gift for Renault.

Porsche was quick to chip in on the claim that you shouldn’t feed Hulkenberg after midnight, with the German having ran pretty well in the early hours at Le Mans en route to victory in 2015.

The F1 season may be over, but the Twitter fun between the teams will continue through the winter.

Ricciardo: Verstappen’s arrival at Red Bull pushed me on

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - OCTOBER 02:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing celebrates with Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing after their 1-2 finish during the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit on October 2, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Daniel Ricciardo says that Max Verstappen’s arrival at Red Bull four races in to the 2016 Formula 1 season helped him to raise his game as a driver.

Verstappen  swapped seats with Daniil Kvyat after the Russian Grand Prix in May, with Ricciardo’s former teammate moving back down to Red Bull’s feeder team, Toro Rosso.

Ricciardo and Verstappen enjoyed a strong 17-race stint as teammates through 2016, each taking one win and enough points to lift Red Bull up to second place in the constructors’ championship.

Reflecting on his season, Ricciardo admitted that he was unsure about how quickly Verstappen would fit in at Red Bull and get up to speed, but that he soon realized the quality of the Dutchman.

“It was a big thing. Especially that first weekend in Spain which was pretty crazy, and not just because he won,” Ricciardo said.

“I suspect the team didn’t know how good Max was and where he was going to fit. His win really gave us good energy and pushed us on to get stronger.

“In Spain everybody was watching, wondering if we’d made a mistake swapping Dany and Max around. I think his win was a relief more than anything. And it definitely pushed us on. Certainly it pushed me on.

“I think I’d been at the right level from the start of the season, which may have caused some of the commotion in the first place because I had a better start than Dany.

“With Max, I felt we were pushing each other from the off. He was closer to me in qualifying and so naturally that provides a spur because you’re looking at each other’s data and finding an extra bit here and there. It makes you better.”

Ricciardo conceded that the amicable relationship with Verstappen could become tense in 2017 should the pair become embroiled in a title fight, but hopes they can retain their mutual respect.

“Well, I’m not naïve. If we’re fighting for wins I’m sure the pressure and tension will rise,” Ricciardo said.

“But hopefully we’ll be able to look each other in the eye and say ‘good job’ afterwards.”

F1 2016 Driver Review: Lewis Hamilton

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates his win on the start finish straight after the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 10, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton

Team: Mercedes AMG Petronas
Car No.: 44
Races: 21
Wins: 10
Podiums (excluding wins): 7
Pole Positions: 12
Fastest Laps: 3
Points: 380
Laps Led: 566
Championship Position: 2nd

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Lewis Hamilton’s year was an odd one. While he was at his brilliant best on a number of occasions, racking up 10 wins – more than any driver not to win the championship in F1 history – there were a handful of costly errors that ultimately cost him the title.

Yes, the reliability woes with the Mercedes power unit through the year hurt his title bid enormously. But that’s racing; bad luck is part and parcel of it, just as Nico Rosberg found out at points in 2014 and 2015.

Instead, Hamilton needs to look at himself to see where he could have done better in 2015. Poor starts in Australia, Bahrain, Italy and Japan were all damaging to his title challenge, as were weekends he was off the boil in Singapore and Baku.

Hamilton proved once again that he has a good balance between his life outside of F1, which he continues to quite clearly enjoy, judging by his Snapchat escapades, and his efforts on-track. He remains the strongest driver in the field. But this year, his old, successful mind-games were unable to knock Rosberg down. Nico had the answer this time around. Let’s see what 2017 brings for the Briton as he searches for a fourth World Championship.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

The year of Lewis revolved as much around him off-track as it did on it. Sometimes, his on-track runs ended through a spate of Mercedes mechanical woes, which were as unexpected as they were frustrating after a flawless winter.

Then there were his spats with the press, his Snapchat antics in Suzuka and his otherwise nonchalant approach to some outside-the-car commitments. From the outside, it seemed Hamilton was less engaged this year until he needed to be, then made peace with the fact he’d done all he could do as the year went on.

The year was defined, performance-wise, by his starts – and how poor some of them were. A number of wins were lost as a result. Even so, he still beat Rosberg 10-9 in wins and 12-8 in poles. The area he beat Rosberg in a category he wouldn’t want is DNFs – that crushing engine failure in Malaysia joined with the pair’s clash in Spain.

Hamilton was his usual peerless self at times though, and his rally to end the season with four straight wins was admirable in the face of a roller coaster year up to that point. His drive at Abu Dhabi was tenacious and smart; he backed Rosberg into the field as his only shot of snatching the title. He remains F1’s most fascinating character and out-and-out fastest driver, if not its current World Champion.