F1 Testing in Bahrain - Day Four

F1 2014 Primer: The Tracks

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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

Yamaha, Ducati enjoy launches ahead of new MotoGP season

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MotoGP heavyweights Yamaha and Ducati geared up for the new season of motorcycle racing’s premier championship with launches this week.

Yamaha and Ducati both enter 2017 with a new line-up following Jorge Lorenzo’s decision to move from the former to the latter, acting as one of a number of shake-ups in the rider market.

Three-time MotoGP champion Lorenzo replaces Andrea Iannone at Ducati, who sought refuge at Suzuki after a seat was freed up by Maverick Viñales following his move to Yamaha in replace of – the man who started the merry-go-round all – Lorenzo.

Yamaha was the first to take the covers off its new bike at a launch in Madrid on Thursday, with Viñales being joined by nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi for the unveiling of the YZR-M1.

The new bike features a darker blue as its main livery color, as well as greater presence for title sponsor Movistar.

“I had the first test in Valencia after the race, but particularly after we moved to Sepang and we could have more kilometers and [do] more work on the new bike,” Rossi said.

“We discovered a very good potential. It looks like we can be stronger. For sure now it’s important to work in the three tests before the first race, and try to arrive ready in Qatar. But the first impression is very good.”

Ducati followed suit earlier today by unveiling its new livery for 2017, with Lorenzo making one of his first official appearances in the team’s colors following the expiration of his Yamaha contract on December 31.

The team presented its 2016 bike, the Desmosedici GP16, in ’17 colors, as well as removing the controversial – and now banned – winglets from its model.

The new MotoGP season begins in Qatar on March 26, with pre-season testing set to start at the end of January in Malaysia.

Neuville leads Ogier midway through Monte Carlo Rally

Thierry Neuville (BEL) competes during the FIA World Rally Championship 2017 in Monte Carlo, Monaco on January 20, 2017
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MONACO (AP) Belgian driver Thierry Neuville took a 45-second lead Friday over defending world rally champion Sebastien Ogier midway through the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally.

Overnight leader Neuville won three of Friday’s six special stages, while Ogier struggled early on before pegging Neuville back by winning the last two. Ott Tanak of Estonia is third.

Four-time champion Ogier is now driving for Ford M-Sport after switching from Volkswagen last month. The Frenchman was eight seconds behind Neuville’s Hyundai overnight and quickly under pressure.

Tanak, who also drives for M-Sport, won Friday’s first special stage – the third of 17 overall – ahead of Neuville, with Ogier in ninth.

Difficult morning conditions saw snow and sheet ice on the roads. With all the top drivers fitting studded winter tires, Ogier still went off into a ditch.

“It happened at a junction, it was very, very icy. I pulled the handbrake but the car never turned,” Ogier said. “I slipped into the ditch and became stuck.”

Neuville won the next three specials – with Ogier second on 4 and 5 – but Ogier finally found his best form to trim back the deficit from 1:12 to 45 seconds. He also overtook Tanak, who is a fraction of a second behind Ogier.

Conditions were slushy in the afternoon as the icy roads began melting.

“For me this was more tricky than this morning and difficult to know what rhythm to go,” Neuville said.

A spectator was killed on Thursday night after being hit by a car during the first stage.

Organizers said the spectator was struck by a car driven by New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon during the first of two night stages.

That stage was canceled but the second went ahead, with Neuville beating Ogier.

There are six specials Saturday with the race concluding Sunday lunchtime.

Last year, Ogier won by nearly two minutes ahead of then-teammate Andreas Mikkelsen of Norway.

Ogier announced last month that he was going to drive the Ford Fiesta for M-Sport this season. A fifth title would move him into outright second place on the all-time list behind countryman Sebastien Loeb, who won nine straight titles.

The 33-year-old Ogier, who has won 38 career races, is tied with Finnish drivers Tommi Makinen – who won four straight – and Juha Kankkunen.

The next event in the 13-race season is in Sweden in three weeks.

BRDC: Reports Silverstone will definitely drop British GP ‘speculative and wrong’

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 10:  The grid at the start of the race during the Formula One Grand Prix of Great Britain at Silverstone on July 10, 2016 in Northampton, England.  (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)
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The British Racing Drivers Club has issued a statement dismissing suggestions that Silverstone will definitely drop its Formula 1 race following the 2019 season.

Doubt was cast over the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone following a leaked letter from BRDC chairman John Grant, in which he admitted to concerns about the cost of hosting the race.

Grant admitted that BRDC officials were considering triggering a clause in Silverstone’s F1 contract that would allow it to end its commitment after 2019 due to “ruinous” costs.

In a statement issued on Friday, the BRDC stressed that no final decision had been made and that suggestions a final decision to drop the race had already been made were incorrect.

“The British Racing Drivers Club wishes to make clear that recent press reports suggesting that talks have been unsuccessful and that the British Grand Prix will definitely be dropped after 2019 are speculative and wrong,” the statement reads.

“Our objective is to preserve the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come but, of course, we can only do this if it makes economic sense,” Grant added.

“As I have said before, we will be considering over the next six months if we should give notice of our intention to exercise the break clause in our grand prix contract at the end of 2019. No decision has been made, or will be made, until mid-July.

“In the meantime, we will be using this period to explore all interested parties, hopefully in private, various ways in which we might work out a more sustainable proposition.”

Jacques Villeneuve: Indy 500 ‘the biggest, most important race in the world’

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 25: Jacques Villeneuve of Canada driver of the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara Honda during the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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1995 CART champion Jacques Villeneuve has called the Indianapolis 500 “the biggest, most important race in the world”, believing that its long-running traditions are key to its enduring appeal.

Villeneuve won the Indy 500 in 1995 en route to the CART title, having finished second at the Brickyard the previous year.

Villeneuve moved into Formula 1 following his CART title victory, becoming world champion with Williams in 1997 before ultimately leaving the series mid-way through the 2006 season.

Villeneuve appeared in his third ‘500 in 2014, finishing 14th for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (pictured above).

Speaking at Autosport International last week, Villeneuve spoke warmly of his experiences at the ‘500, saying it dwarfed any other race in motorsport.

“[You’re] running at an average speed of 230 mph in traffic, in a place where you’re still allowed to risk your life basically because it’s marginally safer than 20 years ago, and half a million people in the grandstands,” Villeneuve said.

“Back then it was an event that lasted three weeks. You would build on it so the energy was incredible. It felt like a big gladiatorial ring from the Roman Empire. It was very special.

“It is the biggest, most important race in the world. Obviously an F1 championship is bigger, but as a one single event, it’s the biggest one.”

Villeneuve said that he did not appreciate the enormity of the event until he finally raced at the ‘500, having followed F1 more closely as a child by virtue of his father, Gilles, who raced for Ferrari.

“The Indy 500, I didn’t grow up with it. I grew up with Formula 1, so I didn’t really know what it represented,” Villeneuve said

“I didn’t think about it until I raced in Atlantics and I thought ‘oh wow, there’s half a million people here, that’s cool’.

“I still didn’t really understand why there was one toilet where they didn’t put the door because one year there was a driver who didn’t close his door and they decided to keep it like that for the next 40 years.

“There’s lots of stuff in America that’s very important, the history of why things have happened. Why do you drink milk when you’ve won the Indy 500? It’s because – I don’t know which driver – in the past was thirsty and asked for a jug of milk. They gave it to him and it became tradition.

“All these little things keep it alive. To get a race where people come almost daily for three weeks, that takes a lot of passion. But when you’re in it, OK it’s just a race and there’s lots of people, great, but it’s a stepping stone to F1.

“When you’re out of it, you realize first of all I survived it, and then you’ve won it. And then you realize that it’s still present and alive.

“And then you realize that that win was 22 years ago, and then you understand the meaning of what you accomplished.”