F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Qualifying

Thursday Austin press conference noteworthy by Kovalainen’s absence

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Thursday’s press conference for the United States Grand Prix was more notable for the one driver absent from the proceedings: new Lotus signing Heikki Kovalainen.

The Finn was meant to join the other five participants in Austin, but for the slight problem he hasn’t arrived in Austin yet. The team said he was en route to the facility in due course, before he replaces Kimi Raikkonen for the final two Grands Prix this Formula One season.

As it is, of the other five present, only Jules Bianchi (Marussia) has a contract in place for next year. The rest – Paul di Resta (Force India), Pastor Maldonado (Williams) and Mexicans Sergio Perez (McLaren) and Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) – are all figuring out plans for next season.

“I’m confident with the team as we try to do our best to finish this year,” said Bianchi. “It all started really well, but it has been difficult of late.”

Di Resta, who’s been back on form of late with back-to-back points scoring finishes in the last two races, is surprised by late the silly season is occurring.

“I think it’s very late, but what can you do really?” di Resta said.

Maldonado, who seemed optimistic about his future at last night’s FOTA Fan Forum, pretty much echoed those thoughts this morning.

“For sure I know (what I’ll be doing),” Maldonado said. “We have a couple options. I have a tough decision ahead.”

Perez and Gutierrez largely echoed the same thoughts as they did at the Fan Forum, although Perez had the line of the morning regarding the large Mexican contingent of fans expected to attend in Austin this weekend.

“The grandstands would be empty without the Mexicans,” he deadpanned.

Pippa Mann, breast cancer survivors paint IMS’ start/finish line pink

Photo: IndyCar
Photo: IndyCar
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We’ve written a fair bit on MotorSportsTalk about the efforts Pippa Mann has done in working with the Susan G. Komen Foundation for breast cancer awareness. Susan G. Komen has supported Mann’s last two runs at the Indianapolis 500, when she’s driven the No. 63 Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.

This being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the awareness hit a new level with Mann working alongside breast cancer survivors to paint the start/finish line at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s iconic Yard of Bricks pink for the day.

IMS president Doug Boles also joined in the opportunity.

View a selection of photos and social posts below. More is linked here, via IndyCar.com.

Mercedes set to clinch F1 constructors’ championship in Russia

SOCHI, RUSSIA - OCTOBER 08:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP speaks with members of the media in the paddock during previews to the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 8, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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For the second year in a row, Mercedes is poised to wrap up the Formula 1 constructors’ championship in Sochi at this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix.

Mercedes won its first F1 teams’ title in Russia last year, having returned to the sport as a works constructor in 2010. When it last enjoyed such status in the 1950s, there was no championship for the teams.

Just as it did in 2014, Mercedes has dominated proceedings in F1 this season, winning all but three races and sweeping to eight one-two finishes to leave drivers Lewis Hamilton (pictured) and Nico Rosberg battling for the drivers’ title for the second straight year.

Now, Mercedes seeks the knock-out blow in the constructors’ title race by officially wrapping it up in Sochi this weekend.

To do so, the team must simply outscore rivals Ferrari by three points this weekend. The lead currently stands at 169 points, with 215 still on offer. After Sochi, there will be 172 remaining.

“We return to Russia with positive memories from last season, when the team sealed the first constructors’ title for Mercedes-Benz with a one-two finish,” team boss Toto Wolff said.

“A repeat performance in Sochi would be fantastic and this is absolutely the target – but we are under no illusions that it will come easy. The job is not done yet.”

The tire allocation for this weekend’s race could pose problems to Mercedes just as it did in Singapore, potentially allowing Ferrari to spoil the party and delay the victory celebrations at Brackley.

However, if the form book is to be trusted, Sochi could be playing host to another Mercedes party on Sunday night with a second world title in the bag for the Silver Arrows.