F1 2014 Primer: The Tracks

1 Comment

The calendar for the 2014 Formula 1 season has undergone many drastic changes over the past six or seven months. At one point, we were staring down the barrel of a 22 race season, set to be the longest ever. Ultimately, the final figure was 19, as it has been in recent years, but there have been a few changes made from 2013.

THE NEW ADDITIONS

There are two races on the 2014 calendar that were not held in 2013. Firstly, the Austrian Grand Prix makes a return to Formula 1 after ten years away. Once again, it will be held at the old A1 Ring which fell into disrepair after being dropped from the F1 calendar. However, following serious investment by Red Bull (it is now known as the Red Bull Ring), it is once again a world class racing facility, and is a welcome return to the fray.

The only ‘brand new’ event on the calendar is the Russian Grand Prix, with a circuit being constructed as part of the Sochi Winter Olympics complex. Although this is the first Russian GP to be part of a world championship, it will actually be the third race to be run under the ‘Russian Grand Prix’ moniker. In 1913 and 1914, races were held in St. Petersburg before the outbreak of World War One. It is a new and exciting market, and with Russian youngster Daniil Kvyat on the grid, it should be a well-attended event.

THE DROPPED EVENTS

With two races joining the calendar, two have made way, both of which are short-lived events in Asia. The Korean Grand Prix was first held in 2010, but with plans for significant development at the circuit shelved, and the fact that it is a four hour train journey from Seoul, it has never really taken off. The only person who may miss it is Sebastian Vettel, having won three of the four grands prix held at Yeongam.

In contrast, the Indian Grand Prix will certainly be missed. The nation is booming economically and has a rich and vibrant culture, but financial complications have caused the race to be dropped for 2014. The official line is that the promoters want an early slot on the 2015 calendar, and cannot hold two races within six months of each other. Sadly, it’s unlikely that we will return to Buddh International Circuit next year – again, a favorite of Vettel’s, having won three from three there.

THE CHANGES

There have been a few minor changes to the order of the races in 2014. Firstly, the Bahrain Grand Prix and the Chinese Grand Prix have swapped places, with the event at Sakhir now going back-to-back with the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Further to that, the Bahrain Grand Prix will become a night race for 2014 to mark ten years since its first event. It will start at 6pm local time and run under floodlights (pictured), following in the footsteps of Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

Controversially, the Brazilian Grand Prix will no longer be the season finale, swapping places with the less-popular Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. However, with Interlagos having quite outdated facilities, it is thought that a more modern venue is wanted for the final round of the year. Once the expected upgrades are put in place in Brazil for 2015, it should return to being the final round of the season (although that will only slightly soften the blow of double points).

Finally, there are less back-to-back races in 2014 due to the return of in-season testing. Tests will be held following the races in Bahrain, Spain, Great Britain and Abu Dhabi.

2014 FIA FORMULA 1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP CALENDAR

1. Australian Grand Prix 16th March 2014 – Albert Park
2. Malaysian Grand Prix 30th March 2014 – Sepang International Circuit
3. Bahrain Grand Prix 6th April 2014 – Bahrain International Circuit
4. Chinese Grand Prix 20th April 2014 – Shanghai International Circuit
5. Spanish Grand Prix 11th May 2014 – Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya
6. Monaco Grand Prix 25th May 2014 – Circuit de Monaco
7. Canadian Grand Prix 8th June 2014 – Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
8. Austrian Grand Prix 22nd June 2014 – Red Bull Ring
9. British Grand Prix 6th July 2014 – Silverstone Circuit
10. German Grand Prix 20th July 2014 – Hockenheimring
11. Hungarian Grand Prix 27th July 2014 – Hungaroring
12. Belgian Grand Prix 24th August 2014 – Circuit de Spa Francorchamps
13. Italian Grand Prix 7th September 2014 – Autodromo Nazionale Monza
14. Singapore Grand Prix 21st September 2014 – Marina Bay Street Circuit
15. Japanese Grand Prix 5th October 2014 – Suzuka Circuit
16. Russian Grand Prix 12th October 2014 – Sochi International Street Circuit
17. United States Grand Prix 2nd November 2014 – Circuit of the Americas
18. Brazilian Grand Prix 9th November 2014 – Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace
19. Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 23rd November 2014 – Yas Marina Circuit

IMSA: Dramatic finishes, popular winners at Mazda Raceway

Photo courtesy of IMSA
Leave a comment

The penultimate round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca featured three first-time winners this year in the Prototype, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes – all of whom boast fascinating stories.

In Prototype and overall, Renger van der Zande and Marc Goossens delivered the first overall win of the year for an LMP2-spec car versus a Daytona Prototype international (DPi), and after a dramatic week for the Troy Flis-led VISIT FLORIDA Racing team.

Van der Zande and Goossens were only in their second race start with the team’s new No. 90 Ligier JS P217 Gibson, which replaced the troublesome Riley Multimatic Mk. 30 chassis run through Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in July.

Running second into the final few minutes of the two-hour, 40-minute race, van der Zande unleashed his inner Alex Zanardi at Mazda Raceway’s iconic corner, the Corkscrew, going down the inside of Penske Acura-bound Dane Cameron in his second-to-last race with Action Express Racing aboard its No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R.

Cameron left the door open just enough for van der Zande to slide through, with his momentum carrying through the inside of the left-handed downhill apex and then back onto the right-handed second portion of the corner in line.

He pulled away from there en route to the team’s first victory of the year at a track where it had won before, as recently as two years ago with Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante in a Corvette DP.

The win comes after a week when the Florida-based team, with the likelihood of change to its partner portfolio if VISIT FLORIDA support doesn’t continue into 2018, incurred damage at its shop from Hurricane Irma. Van der Zande joked on the FOX Sports broadcast after the race he might get a tattoo of the Corkscrew after the win.

With third place in their No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R, Jordan and Ricky Taylor built their points lead to an unofficial gap of 29 points over Cameron and Eric Curran, the defending champions, with one race remaining. The Taylors will be set to clinch the Prototype title at Motul Petit Le Mans by starting the race, on October 7.

The GT classes featured two other cool stories and maiden 2017 winners.

In GT Le Mans, John Edwards broke a long winless drought sharing his No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM with Martin Tomczyk, in the revised black livery for the BMW Team RLL car. Edwards held off Toni Vilander in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE at the flag, on a fuel save run.

The No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR was third ahead of the No. 3 Corvette C7.R, with points leaders Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen set to carry a 19-point lead over Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe in their No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT heading to Motul Petit Le Mans.

GT Daytona points leaders Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen, in their anticipated second-to-last race together in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 this year (Nielsen told RACER over the weekend she’ll leave the team at year’s end, following the end of her two-year contract), finally got on the board this year after a wealth of podiums but no wins.

Balzan moved into the lead following Colin Braun’s late splash for fuel, which denied the No. 54 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 R lineup of Braun and Jon Bennett a potential first win in class.

Balzan and Nielsen have a 25-point lead over Jeroen Bleekemolen in GTD – Bleekemolen and Ben Keating finished eighth today in their No. 33 Riley Motorsports-Team AMG Mercedes AMG-GT3 – and are poised to wrap their second straight class title at Motul Petit Le Mans.

RESULTS

Gasly takes Sugo podium to stay in Super Formula title hunt

Red Bull Content Pool
Leave a comment

Red Bull junior Pierre Gasly will head into the final round of the 2017 Super Formula season just half a point off the lead after finishing second at Sugo on Sunday.

Gasly, 21, was placed in the Japanese Super Formula series for this season after winning the GP2 title last year, and vaulted into contention for the title with back-to-back wins at Motegi and Autopolis.

Gasly continued his good form by taking P2 at Sugo on Sunday, having narrowly lost out to Yuhi Sekiguchi following a race-long battle.

Gasly trailed Sekiguchi through the early part of the race before extending his opening stint longer than his rival in a bid to jump ahead, only to emerge from the pits second again.

Fresher tires allowed Gasly to make serious inroads through the closing stages, but Sekiguchi held on to take his second victory of the year by just 0.2 seconds.

Kazuki Nakajima completed the podium ahead of Yuji Kunimoto, while Formula E racer Felix Rosenqvist took P5 from Hiroaki Ishiura.

Ishiura heads into the season-ending double-header at Suzuka leading Gasly by just half a point in the drivers’ standings, with Rosenqvist sitting a further 4.5 points behind.

The Super Formula season rounds out on October 22 at Suzuka.

Norris made to wait for F3 title after final lap crash in Austria

FIA F3 Europe
Leave a comment

Rising British racer Lando Norris has been made to wait to secure the FIA European Formula 3 title after a crash on the final lap of Sunday’s race at the Red Bull Ring ensured the championship battle will go to the final round of the season.

Norris, 17, became part of Formula 1 team McLaren’s junior program earlier this year, and enjoyed his maiden test in a grand prix racer in Hungary over the summer, putting in an impressive display.

Norris has been racing in the highly-competitive FIA F3 series in Europe this year, a championship that has proved crucial in the careers for drivers such as Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi.

After finishing second earlier on Sunday, Norris needed to simply finish ahead of chief title rival Maximilian Günther in the final race of the weekend to clinch the championship with three races to spare.

Norris started second and retained his position throughout the race, only to come under pressure from Ralf Aron in the closing stages, the two drivers making contact on the last lap.

Norris was sent off the track and into the gravel, forcing him to retire from the race, and with Günther finishing fifth, the points gap was reduced to 72 with three races remaining at Hockenheim in three weeks’ time.

While a title win is still likely for Norris given just 75 are on offer, to have come so close to sealing it early will nevertheless come as a blow to the talented youngster.

Norris is set to be placed in Formula 2 by McLaren in 2018, but is poised to be a name that is spoken about for many years to come in F1.

Marquez fights to Aragon MotoGP win, opens up points lead

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Marc Marquez fought through to his fifth win of the 2017 MotoGP season in Sunday’s Aragon Grand Prix, extending his lead in the riders’ championship to 16 points over Andrea Dovizioso.

A fall in qualifying meant Marquez started only fifth at Motorland Aragon, and failed to make any inroads at the start of the race, running only fourth in the early stages as Ducati’s Jorge Lorenzo hit the front.

Marquez was able to slowly rise up the order, passing title rival Dovizioso, Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi and finally Lorenzo, taking the lead of the race on Lap 16.

Marquez ultimately crossed the line less than one second clear of teammate Dani Pedrosa, who continued his good record at Motorland Aragon to complete a one-two finish for Repsol Honda.

Lorenzo held on to take his second podium in Ducati colors in third, finishing ahead of Yamaha pole-sitter Maverick Viñales, who dropped to fifth on the opening lap and never recovered.

Rossi’s remarkable return to racing a little over three weeks since suffering a double leg break ended with a run to fifth at the checkered flag, having spent the early part of the race battling at the front before dropping back.

Aleix Espargaro finished sixth ahead of Dovizioso, who slipped to 16 points behind Marquez in the title race by only finishing seventh for Ducati.

Alvaro Bautista crossed the line eighth ahead of Tech3’s Johann Zarco, while Pol Espargaro completed the top 10.

MotoGP returns in three weeks’ time with the Japanese Grand Prix at Twin Ring Motegi.