F1 Flashback: Schumacher scores his first podium finish


Today marks the 22nd anniversary of Michael Schumacher’s first podium finish in Formula 1 at the 1992 Mexican Grand Prix – a feat that he would go on to repeat a further 154 times across the next twenty years of his illustrious career.

The seven time world champion remains in a medically-induced coma following a skiing accident in December 2013, and is still in the wake-up phase as his sedation is reduced. The last official statement from his management said that he was showing “encouraging signs” in his battle back to health.

Back in 1992, the fresh-faced 23-year-old driver was entering his first full season in Formula 1 following a handful of races with Benetton in 1991. The Italian team had retained him for 1992 alongside Britain’s Martin Brundle, and had high hopes for the new sensation.

At the opening round of the season in South Africa, Schumacher finished in fourth place behind the all-conquering Williams and McLaren’s Ayrton Senna, but he wasted little time in breaking into the top three.

At the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez – which is planning to make a return to Formula 1 in 2015 – Schumacher qualified in third place behind Nigel Mansell and Riccardo Patrese of Williams, but over 1.3 seconds ahead of Brundle in fourth.

As was customary in 1992, the Williams drivers romped to a 1-2 finish, but Schumacher held his own to finish just nine seconds behind Patrese and cross the line in third place, and was just one of three drivers to finish on the same lap as winner Nigel Mansell.

From this moment on, it was clear that a new star had arrived in Formula 1. In the rest of the year, he claimed a further six podium finishes and one race win (pictured) to finish the championship in third place, rocking the F1 establishment by outscoring triple champion Ayrton Senna by three points.

The rest, as they say, is history. He won his first two titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 before moving to Ferrari, with whom he dominated the sport between 2000 and 2004 to claim five consecutive championships. He then retired in 2006, but returned to the sport with Mercedes in 2010 before finally hanging up his driving gloves at the end of the 2012 season.

Formula E: Team Aguri confirms da Costa for second season

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Antonio Felix da Costa has been confirmed for a second season with Team Aguri for the 2015-2016 FIA Formula E Championship, which begins later this month in Beijing.

He won once this past year at Buenos Aires and finished eighth in the points despite missing both the season opener and season finale due to clashes with his DTM schedule.

Said the 24-year-old Portuguese driver, “I am really happy to continue with Team Aguri and Formula E for season two. This championship is earning its respect in the world of motorsport and I am honoured to be involved. Regarding the season, I am really looking forward to getting started.”

Team Aguri team principal Mark Preston added, “It is a great pleasure to have Antonio continuing with the team for season two of Formula E. Antonio brought us our maiden win in Buenos Aires and helped to develop the team from scratch, he will continue to build on that success for season two and beyond.”

The team that bares the name of ex-Formula 1 driver and team owner Aguri Suzuki has not yet confirmed its second driver, which is the last outstanding seat to be filled on the Formula E grid.

Amlin, which had partnered with Aguri last year, is now present with the Andretti Formula E team and its drivers, Robin Frijns and Simona de Silvestro.

Hulkenberg leads shorter than normal FP1 in Russia

Nico Hulkenberg
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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg posted a 1:44.355 lap of the of the Sochi Autodrom to lead a fairly abnormal, and shorter than usual, first free practice for the Russian Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg posted the time to conclude the usual 90-minute session, to pip Nico Rosberg at 1:44.407 on his final lap. The usual 90-minute session was shortened due to a track delay for cleanup of diesel fuel on course.

Sebastian Vettel, Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo completed the top five.

While the clock started on time for the full 90-minute session, track activity was halted for the opening 30 minutes to clean up diesel spillage on the track at Turn 8.

It left teams and drivers with just a 60-minute first free practice to tackle the Sochi Autodrom, but did not push the session later or affect the timetable for the rest of the day. However, with a damp if not entirely wet track, it made things difficult in FP1.

The delay also meant that teams weren’t able to use an extra set of Pirellis handed out at the start of FP1. Supersofts can be used for the first time in FP2.

During the delay, it did offer a chance for sarcasm, and Manor seized the opportunity following a comment from McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso noting that even with Mercedes engines next year, Manor wouldn’t move ahead of them.

NBC’s Will Buxton explained the track surface dilemma drivers would face in this session.

With just under one hour to go in the session, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was the first to head out on course, leading several others. Ericsson made the first laps of the weekend at the track where he made his final start for Caterham a year ago.

Both Williams drivers went on course on Pirelli’s wet weather tires for their installation laps. Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg tried the intermediates, and Alonso was first on course in slicks.

No official times were registered until there were less than 40 minutes remaining in the session, with Alonso registering a 2:00.736 time, while putting down a bevy of sparks. He quickly lowered the mark to 1:56.327, and 1:53.854 after that. Ericsson was next in at a 1:58.926, although dropped into the 1:54 range not long after.

Alonso’s teammate Jenson Button clocked in at 1:50.920 with just under 20 minutes remaining and for the first time this year, we could say we had a McLaren Honda 1-2 on track, albeit under abnormal circumstances.

The trsck got busy in the final 15 minutes, with Toro Rosso’s Max Verstappen posting a 1:50.870 to lead before Alonso clocked in a 1:49.240.

A 1:47.959 from Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, then a 1:45.987 from Hulkenberg followed in the final 10 minutes as times firmly began to drop. Vettel got down to a 1:45.491 shortly thereafter, and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton came up two tenths shy of the mark at a 1:45.691.

Ericsson reported a power cut near the end of the session down at Sauber but otherwise there were no issues through the field, other than a handful of spins, including one from Hamilton on his final flier at the second-to-last corner.

FP2 begins from 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra.