F1 Grand Prix of Korea - Race

Vettel claims fourth consecutive win with dominant display in Korea

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Sebastian Vettel has won the Korean Grand Prix ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean following an excellent display of control at the front of the field, persevering in the face of two safety car periods that brought the pack closer together.

Vettel held the lead from the start and enjoyed a healthy lead from Romain Grosjean for the first half of the race only for the safety car to make his job far more difficult. As a result, Raikkonen was able to recover from a fight in the midfield to finish second ahead of his teammate whilst Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton both spent most of the race staring at Nico Hulkenberg’s rear wing as the Sauber driver put in an incredible display to finish the race in fourth.

Off the start, Vettel made a good getaway to lead the field through the tight and twisty first two corners with Hamilton and Grosjean closely following. Fernando Alonso’s good start proved to be ineffective as he was boxed in by Rosberg and he was one of five drivers going side-by-side into turn three. Felipe Massa looked to re-gain some of the ground lost off the line, but his over-zealous move down the inside of his teammate saw him spin and force many drivers to take evasive action. Both Jenson Button and Adrian Sutil were forced to make an early stop for repairs, yet the incident did play into the hands of Grosjean who moved up to P2 ahead of both Mercedes and Pastor Maldonado also benefited, jumping from eighteenth to ninth. Mark Webber began a charge through the field after starting out of position, pulling off some great overtakes on Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo as he moved up into the points.

At the front, Vettel continued to lay down an impressive pace to enjoy a steady lead over Grosjean in second place. However, championship rival Alonso lost time stuck behind Nico Hulkenberg and was eventually passed by future teammate Kimi Raikkonen for sixth. Button’s times after his stop prompted the rest of the field to follow suit and pit with Hamilton closing on Grosjean, but some fine defensive driving meant that the Briton could not make it through. After pitting, Vettel found that his lead had shrunk to less than three seconds, requiring a fastest lap to re-establish the gap to Grosjean to stabilize the gap at around four seconds. Having passed Raikkonen in the first round of pit stops, Alonso once again found himself stuck behind Hulkenberg with the Finn also closing on the Sauber, whilst Mark Webber’s good pace meant that he was also a part of this train running from fifth to eighth.

Despite Pirelli believing that a two-stop race was possible, many drivers encountered problems with graining and general tire wear. In P3, Hamilton was losing as much as 2.5 seconds per lap to Vettel whilst Alonso and Webber were finally released following Hulkenberg’s pit stop. The Australian driver immediately pounced when he was given some free air, moving up to P5. Rosberg took advantage of his teammate’s tire woes to catch his teammate only to suffer from a front wing failure when passing Hamilton, forcing him to pit for a new nose cone. Having pitted earlier, Raikkonen undercut both Hulkenberg and Alonso and also found himself ahead of Hamilton when the Briton finally pitted.

Despite enjoying a healthy lead, Vettel’s dominance came under threat when the safety car was deployed to pick up debris on the straight between turn two and turn three after a tire failure on Sergio Perez’s McLaren. As a result, the field was bunched up, giving the likes of Raikkonen and Hamilton a second chance to catch Vettel at the front. Having run over some of the debris, Webber was forced to pit for the second time in three laps for fresh tires, dropping him out of the points.

Off the restart, Nico Hulkenberg made a great overtake on Hamilton for fourth but a mistake by Adrian Sutil saw him spin into Webber’s Red Bull, causing the Australian driver to pull over and retire from the race due to an engine fire. However, with the marshals failing to put the blaze out, the fire marshal’s Jeep was sent out ahead of the pack seemingly of its own accord, with the safety car being deployed slightly later and therefore coming out behind the pack. Eventually, the fire was put out but the FIA will undoubtedly be looking into the mix-up after the race in a rather embarrassing situation. Just before the incident, Kimi Raikkonen managed to pass his teammate for second place, setting his sights on Vettel at the front with the second safety car period allowing drivers to save their tires and plan to go to the end of the race.

On the restart, Alonso and Hamilton began to scrap over fifth place with the Mercedes driver defending his position valiantly to hang onto the position. Wary of Raikkonen in P2, Vettel immediately set a new fastest lap of the race and quickly set about creating a new gap. Further back, Maldonado, Gutierrez, Perez and Massa were fighting over P10 with some remarkable changes of position in the space of a few corners, with Massa eventually moving ahead as Maldonado lost four places in as many corners. Hamilton finally passed Hulkenberg for P4, only for the Sauber to take the position back in the second DRS zone as Alonso, Button and Rosberg also joined the battle as they looked to take advantage of any incidents.

In P3, Romain Grosjean was told to keep pushing in pursuit of Raikkonen thanks to his fresher tires with the Finn trailing Vettel by around four seconds with five laps to go. Ultimately, the German driver proved to be untouchable at the front of the field, controlling the race from start to finish. With Alonso down in P6, Vettel can now seal his fourth world championship at the Japanese Grand Prix next weekend should he win and the Spaniard retire.

Despite two safety cars, a Jeep leading the grand prix and concerns about tire wear, Vettel once again proved why he is a three-time world champion with a great display. He has now won four consecutive races in 2013 and looks set to clinch a fourth title within the next three weeks.

Gateway secures deal with Bommarito Auto for IndyCar race sponsorship

MADISON, IL - AUGUST 9:  Bryan Herta drives his #27 Andretti Green Racing Honda Dallara during practice for the IRL (Indy Racing League) IndyCar Series Emerson 250 at the Gateway International Raceway on August 9, 2003 in Madison, Illinois.  (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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Gateway Motorsports Park’s return to the Verizon IndyCar Series schedule will feature a two-year title sponsorship from Bommarito Automotive Group, it was confirmed on Thursday. The St. Louis Business Journal was first to report the news.

The largest auto dealer in St. Louis will see its name on the race, now titled the Bommarito Automotive Group 500. Gateway’s return comes on August 26 (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN), for its first IndyCar race since 2003.

“We are pleased to announce that Bommarito Automotive Group will join Gateway Motorsports Park in the production of our inaugural INDYCAR event as the title sponsor,” Curtis Francois, Owner and CEO of Gateway Motorsports Park, said in a release.

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Photo courtesy Gateway Motorsports Park

“This is a tremendous event for the St. Louis region and no one knows our town better than the folks at Bommarito. They are a progressive group, known for a high standard of quality and excellence. It’s the same standard of on-track action and family-friendly experience that we look forward to delivering with our landmark event.”

“We are excited to partner with Gateway Motorsports Park and the Verizon IndyCar Series,” said John Bommarito, President of the Bommarito Automotive Group. “When approached by Gateway about the return of INDYCAR to St. Louis, we felt it was important to have a major St. Louis company step forward and support the return of open wheel racing to the region.  We are extremely proud to be the title sponsor of the Bommarito Automotive Group 500.”

Gateway will be the sixth and last oval race of the season, following earlier races in Phoenix, Indianapolis, Texas, Iowa and Pocono.

Rahal wants to turn 2016’s unrealized potential into reality in 2017

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Graham Rahal likes to say “2016 was a year of tremendous potential.”

But it also was a year that some potential was not realized.

After a career season in 2015, when he finished fourth in the Verizon IndyCar Series and earning two wins and six podium finishes, Rahal slipped back slightly in 2016, finishing fifth with just one win and only four podiums.

So what does 2017 hold in store? If things go well for the son of 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal, the tremendous potential of 2016 will morph into potential not only realized, but could result in the younger Rahal’s best year ever.

Rahal has the power, the car, the equipment and the personnel to make some major upward moves this year.

“We just have to find going forward a way to keep that performance level, enhance it a little bit,” Rahal said. “Obviously the cars aren’t really going to change at all (major changes are planned for 2018).

“I felt like speed-wise, our performance (in 2016) was actually better than 2015, pretty considerably. We just did our season reviews about a month and a half ago, and it’s pretty clear to see performance-wise, the team performed a lot better.

“However, we had a lot of things that just didn’t quite go our way, whereas in 2015 we had bounces that certainly did. 2016 the bounces didn’t happen. We had to fight a lot harder, still managed to get a top-five finish in the championship.

“I think that I probably drove better last year than 2015. But hopefully the best is yet to come. As a driver you always have to be critical of where can you improve, where were mistakes, what did you kind of let go, you know, and where did you lose points.”

The 28-year-old Rahal is particularly focused on potentially following in his father’s footsteps of winning the biggest race of all, the Indianapolis 500.

In nine starts in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, the younger Rahal has just two top-10 finishes: third in 2011 and fifth in 2015. At the opposite end of the spectrum Rahal has four finishes of 25th or worse, including two last-place showings (2008 and 2014).

“We really need to improve at Indy,” he said. “That’s our main focus of everything this off-season. And also get a little bit of those breaks. You know, that’s kind of the goal. That’s what we feel like we need.”

The younger Rahal will also reunite for at least the Indianapolis 500 and probably more races with Oriol Servia, which should help upgrade Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s testing, race preparation and data sharing.

“Oriol is a clear plug-in for us,” Rahal said. “First of all, he’s a great guy. Second of all, he will help us. He’s going to help our performance at Indy. I can tell you that right now. And third, he’s been there so many times with the organization, he’s been in and out of the team a handful of times. He knows everybody. He’s been part of the team before. So it’s a clear fit.

“We need just a very experienced guy who can help lead us down the right path, and Oriol is going to be that guy.”

Interestingly, RLL had the opportunity to bring in a full-time second driver, but chose to go with the 42-year-old Servia in a limited number of races for now.

“There were several drivers who came to the team that wanted to run full season, had budgets to do it and everything else, and they were all turned away,” Rahal said. “The team is focused on making sure if there is the addition of a second car full-time, it has to fit the right environment.

“… We really are proud of the environment that we have, and so Oriol is a guy that fits that just perfectly and won’t upset the apple cart, so to speak. … He’s a great guy, and I think he’ll do a heck of a job for us. We’re looking forward to it.”

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Kimi Raikkonen becomes ambassador for sport in Finland

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 29:  Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari walks in the Paddock before practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 29, 2016 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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Ferrari Formula 1 driver Kimi Raikkonen was named as an ambassador for sport in Finland at a ceremony in Helsinki on Wednesday night.

Raikkonen won the F1 world championship with Ferrari in 2007, becoming the third Finn to achieve the feat following Keke Rosberg in 1982 and Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and 1999.

Raikkonen was honored by Finnish prime minister Juha Sipila at an award’s ceremony, with Ferrari reporting that his presence at the event was kept secret until the last moment.

“I’m not that used to making formal speeches,” Raikkonen said, referring to his reputation for his monosyllabic nature.

“But I would like to wish all the best to the winners in every category, as well as those who missed out on the prizes this year.

“I would stress how important it has been in my case to have the support of my family and help from trustworthy colleagues and the people within the Ferrari team, with whom I have worked for so many years now.”

Raikkonen will return for a 15th season in F1 in 2017 – his seventh with Ferrari – as he looks to build on his sixth-place finish in last year’s drivers’ championship.

Will Power looking for first Indy 500 win and second IndyCar title in 2017

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To say 2016 was a challenging season for Will Power is an understatement.

He began by being forced to sit out the first race in St. Petersburg, Florida, when it was thought he had suffered a concussion in a practice crash. As it turned out, Power had what was termed the potential effect of a lingering inner ear infection.

By earning only one point for pole – he was scored 23rd in the standings after St. Petersburg – Power was worried that his season might be over before it had even begun. Being so far back in the points, he was worried that he’d never catch up.

But the Australian indeed rebounded for finishes of third (Phoenix), seventh (Long Beach) and fourth (Barber), bringing him from 23rd to seventh in the standings.

After finishing 19th in the Indianapolis Grand Prix and 10th in the Indianapolis 500, he had one heck of a catharsis at Belle Isle, finishing 20th in the first race but then bounced back to win the second race the following day.

That win would put Power on a path where he’d go on an incredible tear, winning four races and earning two runner-up finishes in a six-race race stretch, leaving him second in the standings with three races to go and just 20 points out of the lead.

The final three races did him in, though. He lost points at Texas with eighth place, and then back-to-back 20th place results at Watkins Glen and the Sonoma season finale knocked Power out of the title race, leaving teammate Simon Pagenaud to capture his first career IndyCar championship.

“It was definitely an interesting season for me,” Power said during Wednesday’s Media Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “Normally I turn up to the year very fit and ready to go. That was definitely not the case last year.

“I just kind of wasn’t on top of my game, just struggling with some physical stuff like fatigue, and then missing the first race. But I think going into Phoenix, which was really my first race, was more about am I physically fit enough to do this whole race because it’s a very physical track.

“(I) kind of took that approach on a few races starting from there, which was a very different approach for me, kind of puts you in a position to be a little bit more conservative, and gave me insight into that can be a good thing. You know, and things really started to flow for me after Detroit.”

In turn, Power’s confidence climbed exponentially with each succeeding race after the win at Belle Isle. To fight his teammate with everything he had, Power would have to emulate the kind of run Pagenaud had to start the season, with three wins (Long Beach, Barber and Indy Grand Prix) and two runner-ups (St. Petersburg and Phoenix) in the first five races.

“I kind of thought at that point if I want to have a chance of winning the championship, I really need to have a run like Pagenaud had, which was an unbelievable run,” Power said. “I didn’t think that was possible. It actually happened, though, started flying well.

“But unfortunately the last two races were DNF’s. Literally three races’ worth of DNF’s there in the last three races, so that kind of ruined any chance.”

But that’s all in Power’s rearview mirror now. He’s looking ahead for 2017 with a number of goals in mind: a strong season start, to win the Indianapolis 500 for the first time (his best finish to date was second in 2015) and to win his second IndyCar championship.

In other words, to accomplish everything he didn’t or couldn’t in 2016 – particularly the 500.

“You’ve got to do all the homework and the hard work to be competitive and then put yourself in that position,” Power said. “I’ve won two 500-mile races in the last couple years, and I’ve just got to get this one. That’ll do it. Yeah, just one more.”

But at the same time, patience and attention to detail will be key not just at Indianapolis, but through all 17 races of the 2017 season. And not every one of his competitors is prone to having that patience or that attention to details, Power said.

“Everyone is antsy at the first race to just go out and charge,” Power said. “But I think you’ve still just got to know that it’s a 17-race series and every race counts the same amount of points apart from Indy and Sonoma.

“You’re turning up with very similar packages for everywhere this season. So I think it’s going to be about fine-tuning. That’s what happens in the situation where everyone has the same formula for a few years, for a couple years.

“It becomes more competitive because everyone has their good baseline setups. It becomes more about getting the little details right, and I think that’s the type of season that it will be.”

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