F1 Grand Prix of Italy - Previews

2013 Italian Grand Prix Preview

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The European season comes to an end in Italy this weekend as the Formula One circus makes its annual visit to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza. Steeped in history, Monza has hosted the Italian Grand Prix every year since the championship’s inception in 1950 barring the 1984 race, which was held at Imola. The grand prix is the home race for Ferrari, whose loyal fans – the Tifosi – dominate the grandstands across the course of the weekend and the team boasts the best record at the circuit, having won the race eighteen times. However, quite whether the Scuderia can end its barren spell this weekend remains to be seen.

Italian Grand Prix Talking Points

Seb chases knock-out blow in championship…

Having won last time out in Belgium, Sebastian Vettel is currently sitting pretty with a forty-six point lead, and it is hard to see the German driver not winning a fourth consecutive title. At the site of his first win though, Vettel will be keen on surpassing the fifty point mark – equivalent to two race wins – heading into his favored Asian leg of the calendar.

…while Ferrari hope to impress at home

Fernando Alonso appears to be the only driver who can stop Vettel in 2013, and the Spanish driver has openly admitted that anything less than a win this weekend would probably end his title hopes. However, with Ferrari bouncing back to form in Belgium, the team could yet be on the cusp of a resurgence.

Ricciardo hopes to validate Red Bull selection

After the worst kept secret in F1 was finally confirmed on Monday, Daniel Ricciardo begins life at Monza knowing that he has just eight races remaining with Toro Rosso. In this time though, he must prove to his critics why Red Bull picked him to replace Mark Webber, and the Australian will be hoping to live up to the hype and not suffer a downturn in form à la Sergio Perez following his McLaren confirmation in 2012.

Questions surrounding Raikkonen’s future persist

Having missed out on the Red Bull seat, Kimi Raikkonen now appears to have two options in F1 for 2013: remain at Lotus, whose financials problems are becoming more and more apparent, or move back to Ferrari. The Iceman needs to think about what direction he wants the rest of his career to take, but for now the questions will remain.

Rain? Surely not!

Monza traditionally bathes in warm Italian sunshine across the course of the GP weekend, yet rain is forecast for the race on Sunday. Although it does not come close to the utter downpour that marred the race in 2008, the weather could yet play a part in the championship at Monza. Then again, we said the same at Spa…

Track: Autodromo Nazionale Monza
Laps: 53
Corners: 11
Lap Record: Rubens Barrichello 1:21.046 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2012 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
2012 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton 1:24.010
2012 Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:27.239
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T11 to T1); T7 to T8

Friday – Free Practice 1: 04:00am ET
Friday – Free Practice 2: 08:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Saturday – Free Practice 3: 05:00am ET
Saturday – Qualifying: 08:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)
Sunday – Race: 08:00am ET (LIVE on NBCSN)

McLaren releases audio of first MP4-31 fire-up

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 01:  Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren Honda drives during the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez  on November 1, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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As the countdown to the beginning of Formula 1 pre-season testing in Barcelona continues, McLaren has followed Ferrari’s lead by releasing an audio snippet of its 2016 car being fired up for the first time.

McLaren enters the new year hoping to bounce back from a miserable 2015 campaign that was marred by struggles with its Honda power unit, limiting drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button to just 27 points across the course of the season.

The crew at Woking has been working tirelessly over the winter to get the new car, the MP4-31, ready for the new season, and everything now appears set for the first pre-season test in Barcelona.

On Sunday, McLaren released a short audio snippet of the car being fired up at its base ahead of its official unveil on February 21.

Pre-season testing begins at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on February 22, with the eighth and final day of running taking place on March 4.

NHRA: Parachute fails on Gary Densham’s career-best Funny Car run (video)

Densham crash
(Photo courtesy NHRA's official Twitter account)
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Veteran NHRA Funny Car driver Gary Densham has been hurtling down drag strips for more than 30 years.

Saturday, the 69-year-old Densham had the best day of his career — and one of the worst, at the same time.

The Southern California native was making a qualifying run during the season-opening Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

The good news for Densham: he ran a career-best 4.050 seconds in his Dodge Charger, qualifying 11th in the 16-car field for Sunday’s eliminations.

The bad news: the parachutes on his Funny Car failed to deploy and Densham ran head-on into a catchfence at the end of Auto Club Raceway’s short runoff area. While Densham’s car was destroyed, he walked away uninjured.

And that’s the best news of all.

Check out the video and then some tweets about the incident and the day, including visits by former IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti and Tommy Lee of rock group Motley Crue:

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Haas confirms F1 pre-season testing running order

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 30:  Haas F1 Team logos during the press conference for their driver announcement on October 30, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images for Haas)
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Haas Formula 1 Team has confirmed its running order for the upcoming pre-season test sessions in Barcelona, Spain.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas’ new F1 team will grace the grid in 2016 after two years of preparation, with the covers being taken off its car on the morning of the first test on February 22 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Romain Grosjean will be the first driver to head out on-track in a Haas F1 car, completing all of the running on February 22.

Teammate Esteban Gutierrez will then get his first taste of the car the following day, with the two drivers then alternating duties for the final two days of the opening test.

Gutierrez will enjoy both of the first two days of running at the second test (March 1-2) before handing back over to Grosjean for days three and four in Barcelona.

“The first thing for the test is to get the car to run and to work well from there. Hopefully, we can get a lot of mileage,” Grosjean said.

“This is a new team, so we need to get everyone to work together, all the engineers, mechanics and the drivers. We need to get as much data and knowledge as we can.

“It’s important to get the reliability sorted as early as possible because we don’t get much testing and we’re going straight to Melbourne.”

Haas F1 Team driver line-up for first Barcelona test (February 22-25)

Monday February 22: Grosjean
Tuesday February 23: Gutiérrez
Wednesday February 24: Grosjean
Thursday February 25: Gutiérrez

Haas F1 Team driver line-up for second Barcelona test (March 1-4)

Tuesday March 1: Gutiérrez
Wednesday March 2: Gutiérrez
Thursday March 3: Grosjean
Friday March 4: Grosjean

Romain Grosjean pleased with initial Haas simulator feedback

KANNAPOLIS, NC - SEPTEMBER 29:  Romain Grosjean of France speaks during a press conference as Haas F1 Team announces Grosjean as their driver for the upcoming 2016 Formula 1 season on September 29, 2015 in Kannapolis, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Images)
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Romain Grosjean felt pleased with his first simulator run in the new Haas Formula 1 car ahead of its on-track debut in Barcelona on February 22.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas will take his F1 operation onto the grid this season after two years of preparation, with Grosjean joining ex-Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez at the team for its maiden campaign.

Ahead of the car’s first on-track run at the beginning of pre-season testing in Spain later this month, Grosjean has completed some laps in it using a simulator, and reported that the initial feedback was positive.

“The impressions were quite good, even if in the beginning it was necessary to resolve a lot of small technical problems such as turbo lag, the energy recovered under braking, etc,” Grosjean told L’Equipe.

“The morning was spent doing this. But once everything was settled we had the opportunity to run extensively in the afternoon.

“I think the car’s baseline appears to be good. We now know the simulator corresponds to the windtunnel, but the differences with what we find in reality are sometimes huge – at Lotus for example, the car changed dramatically between track and simulator.”

Haas will lift the covers off its first F1 car on Monday 22 February ahead of the initial on-track running later that day.