NASCAR qualifying changes see crews allowed, road course shift

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NASCAR’s big qualifying overhaul for 2014 – one of many changes the sanctioning body is making ahead of the season – will have a slight alteration from the original plans as part of the first round of news revealed at today’s NASCAR Media Day in Daytona.

Road course qualifying was originally going to be run the same as tracks that are 1.25 miles or more in length, which is a three-step process: an opening 25-minute segment for all cars, a 10-minute segment for the fastest 24 vehicles, and a final five-minute segment for the fastest 12 drivers.

That changed Thursday to shift to the format used by tracks less than 1.25 miles. So qualifying at Sonoma and Watkins Glen will now feature a 30-minute first round and a 10-minute second round comprised of the fastest 12 cars with a 10-minute break in between. The long lap length at the two road courses necessitated the break.

Perhaps more interestingly, crewmembers will now be allowed over the wall to make adjustments during the session. One will be allowed over the wall while cars are on track to make adjustments, and up to three can in any of the breaks.

It’s a move that could see as much of a race in the pit lane to see how fast any adjustments are made, as much as there is on track.

Alonso would be ‘very happy’ to finish F1 career with McLaren

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Fernando Alonso says he would be “very happy” to see out his Formula 1 career with McLaren after signing a new multi-year contract with the British team, announced on Thursday.

Alonso, 36, ended speculation about his future by agreeing a new deal with McLaren, hopeful of returning to the front of the field next year when the team swaps Honda power for Renault engines.

Alonso admitted to considering options outside of F1 before agreeing to stay at McLaren, and was thought to only be chasing a one-year extension in order to be in a position to snap up a more attractive seat in the volatile 2019 market.

However, Alonso confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the deal with McLaren stretched beyond the end of next year, adding he would be content to see out his time in the sport with the team.

“I never talk about contracts, but one thing I can say is it is a long-term partnership,” Alonso said.

“I am very happy to finish my career at McLaren. So I don’t think it is going to be only one year.”

Alonso also revealed he had options with teams high up the field in F1 for 2018 just a couple of months ago, but was always leaning to staying at McLaren despite not scoring a podium with the team in almost three years.

“There were some other options in F1. In the summer there were still some options at the top teams, but my desire was to stay with McLaren,” Alonso said.

“But at that time they were in conversation with different engine suppliers, so I had to give them time to sort out their situation.

“Then McLaren opted for a Renault engine which delayed my decision, because I had to understand what Renault’s plans were for next years.

“But when I had everything on the table, everything was pretty clear.”