Chris Forsberg wins season-opening Formula DRIFT event in Long Beach

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Chris Forsberg took home top honors this weekend in the season-opening Formula DRIFT Round 1: Streets of Long Beach event.

Forsberg and his Hankook Tire Nissan 370Z paced the field, earning a stout 104.0 points.

“It feels amazing to be on top of the podium, especially here at the first round of the eleventh season of Formula DRIFT,” Forsberg said. “We will try to keep the momentum with our new changes and take the championship home.”

Norway’s Kenneth Moen was second in his Bridges Racing Nissan 240SX.

Top qualifier and 2013 series champion Michael Essa was third in his Essa Autosport/Yokohama BMW M3.

The event, held Friday and Saturday, kicked off the seven-round series, which is now in its 11th season. Race organizers said a sellout crowd of more than 20,000 attended.

Formula DRIFT will once again have all of its races televised on the NBC Sports Network. Airing time for this weekend’s event will be July 27 (2:30 pm ET), July 29 (4:30 pm), August 3 (1 pm) and August 5 (4:30). For the full NBCSN telecast of Formula DRIFT events, click here.

Round 2: Road to the Championship takes place in Braselton, Ga., on May 9 and 10.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

 

Round 1: Streets of Long Beach Event Results

1. Chris Forsberg, Hankook Tire Nissan 370Z Winner

2. Kenneth Moen, Bridges Racing Nissan 240SX 2nd Place

3. Michael Essa, Essa Autosport / Yokohama BMW M3 3rd Place

 

Formula DRIFT Professional Championship Presented by GoPro 2014 Standings After One Round

1. Chris Forsberg, Hankook Tire Nissan 370Z 104.50 Points

2. Kenneth Moen, Bridges Racing Nissan 240SX 84.50 Points

3. Michael Essa, Essa Autosport/Yokohama BMW M3 74.00 Points

4. Justin Pawlak, Falken Tire Ford Mustang 68.50 Points

5. Fredric Aasbo, Hankook Tire Scion Racing tC 52.50 Points

6. Forrest Wang, Get Nuts Lab / Hankook Tire / STR Racing Nissan S14 51.00 Points

7. Aurimas Bakchis, Feal Suspension / Nitto Tire Nissan 240SX 51.00 Points

8. Darren McNamara, Falken Tire Nissan S14 51.00 Points

9. Vaughn Gittin Jr., Monster Energy / Nitto Tire Ford Mustang RTR 39.50 Points

10. Tyler McQuarrie, GoPro Mobil 1Chevrolet Camaro 38.00 Points

11. Pat Goodin, Enjuku Racing Nissan 240SX 35.00 Points

12. Ryan Tuerck, Retaks Maxxis Tires Air Force PSI Scion FR-S 35.00 Points

12. Conrad Grunewald, Megan Racing / Top 1 Oil / BRE Chevrolet Camaro 35.00 Points

13. Kyle Mohan, GT Radial Energy-X Mazdatrix RX-8 35.00 Points

15. Mats Baribeau, Gold in the Net Toyota Mark II 33.50 Points

16. Dennis Mertzanis, Hyundai Genesis Legato AR1 33.50 Points

 

Manufacturers Championship Standings After One Round

1. Nissan      122.00 Points

2. Ford      108.00 Points

3. BMW      94.50 Points

4. Scion      87.50 Points

5. Chevrolet      73.00 Points

6. Lexus      35.00 Points

6. Mazda      35.00 Points

8. Toyota      33.50 Points

9. Hyundai      19.00 Points

10. Dodge      17.50 Points

 

Tire Championship Standings After One Round

1. Hankook      157.00 Points

2. Falken      119.50 Points

3. Achilles      102.00 Points

4. Nitto      90.50 Points

5. Yokohama      74.00 Points

6. Kenda      52.50 Points

7. GT Radial      35.00 Points

7. Maxxis      35.00 Points

Vettel, Ferrari strke back to dominate final Australia F1 practice

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Sebastian Vettel made up for a disappointing Friday by dominating proceedings in the final Formula 1 practice session ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix for Ferrari.

Vettel arrived in Australia as one of the favorites for victory following an impressive pre-season that saw Ferrari finish as the fastest team, concerning defending champion outfit Mercedes.

Ferrari’s winter pace was nowhere to be found during FP1 and FP2 on Friday in Melbourne, though, as Lewis Hamilton moved half a second clear at the front of the pack for Mercedes.

Both Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen insisted they had more pace in hand for qualifying and the race, and both drivers were able to display that in FP3 as times tumbled.

Vettel ran high up the order early on before turning in a lap of 1:23.380, marking the fastest time of the weekend so far, 0.240 seconds faster than Hamilton’s benchmark from Friday.

Both Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas fitted a set of ultra-soft tires in a bid to try and catch Vettel at the top, yet neither could get close.

Bottas finished the session P2, 0.479 seconds shy of Vettel’s time, while Hamilton was a further 0.011 seconds back in third place, leaving Mercedes’ advantage looking precarious ahead of qualifying.

Mercedes was unable to put together a late ultra-soft run after the session was red flagged with 10 minutes to go following a crash for Lance Stroll.

Stroll lost the rear-end of his Williams FW40 coming through the end of the second sector, damaging the right-hand side of his car and bringing his session to a premature end.

The session was otherwise devoid of major incident, the other stoppage coming courtesy of Kimi Raikkonen, although the Finn was able to get his car back going swiftly.

Raikkonen ended the session fourth-fastest in the second Ferrari, six-tenths off Vettel at the top, while Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top five.

Red Bull struggled for pace throughout the session, with Daniel Ricciardo finising up sixth ahead of Haas’ Romain Grosjean and the Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10.

Sauber’s Wehrlein rules himself out, Giovinazzi to sub at Australian GP

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After Friday’s practice sessions and after having been originally cleared to race for the Australian Grand Prix, it has been determined that Sauber F1 Team’s Pascal Wehrlein will not be able to continue in the rest of the weekend. He opted to rule himself out due to his fitness level.

“My fitness level is not as it should be for a full race distance because of my training deficit. I explained the situation to the team yesterday evening. Therefore, the Sauber F1 Team has decided not to take any risks. It is a pity, but the best decision for the team,” Wehrlein said in a release.

Wehrlein missed the opening test at Barcelona before resuming for the second test. He’d had a back injury sustained in an accident at the Race of Champions event in Miami in January.

As for that opening test, Antonio Giovinazzi, the Italian Ferrari reserve driver, will fill in for the German. This was meant to be Wehrlein’s first race with Sauber; instead, it will be Giovinazzi’s Grand Prix debut.

“We have great respect of Pascal’s openness and professionalism. This decision was definitely not an easy one for him, it underlines his qualities as a team player. The focus is now on his fitness level, and in such a situation we do not take any unnecessary risks. Pascal will be in China as planned,” team principal Monisha Kaltenborn added.

This isn’t the first injury fill-in to race in F1 in recent years; twice, Fernando Alonso has missed a race each of the last two years.

After a testing crash at Barcelona in 2015, Kevin Magnussen filled in in Alonso’s McLaren Honda, although was unable to start the race with a mechanical before the lights even went out. Meanwhile Alonso missed last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix after his accident at Melbourne, which opened the door for Stoffel Vandoorne to make his debut, and the Belgian promptly scored a point.

Giovinazzi has no prior experience at the Albert Park circuit and so will have to learn the track during FP3, which runs at 11 p.m. ET on the NBC Sports App. Qualifying takes place at 2 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

Here’s pics and notes from NBCSN pit reporter and insider Will Buxton, who is on the ground in Melbourne:

More races, more friction in the future for F1

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) The new owners of Formula One are planning to have more races and a greater presence in North America, and wouldn’t mind revving up the ratings with some extra friction among drivers.

Sean Bratches, the managing director of commercial operations for the Formula One Group – formerly Liberty Media – which took over the running of the sport in January, is already fielding offers from promotors wanting to buy in.

Lewis Hamilton has suggested Miami and Daniel Ricciardo picked Las Vegas as places they’d like to see new races, and Bratches told a news conference Friday that “there’s no dearth of interest in bringing Formula One to circuits, both track and street, around the world.”

Bratches said he’d had a “number of inquiries from cities, states, municipalities and countries around the world that are interested.”

There are 20 races on the 2017 calendar, starting with the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, and concluding with Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November. The debate over the number and location of races has been frequent over the last decade.

F1 racing returned in 2012 to the United States, where it is held at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, in October. While the bulk of the races remain in Europe and Asia, there are also GPs in Canada, Mexico and Brazil.

“Our interest is in expanding the number of circuits in that marketplace, leveraging Austin – our incumbent and the benchmark in terms of what we’re doing in the States,” said Bratches, adding there was clear demand for it in North America. “We’re excited about all markets around the world, but the United States is going to be a focus.”

Three-time world champion Lewis Hamilton and Ricciardo, an Australian who finished third on the season standings last year, are among the drivers who’d like to see more than 20 races in the F1 series. Veteran Fernando Alonso also doesn’t mind the idea of expansion, although maybe not for a few years.

Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, who has won four world drivers’ titles, thinks 16 to 20 would be enough. All agreed that expansion was pointless unless it increases the level of competition. Hamilton and Mercedes dominated the last three seasons, and Red Bull was dominant for the four seasons before that.

There’s always been driver tension in F1, usually between teams but also involving teammates vying for championships. Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who edged Hamilton for the title last year and then retired, had an openly strained rivalry at Mercedes since 2013.

That’s something former ESPN executive Bratches doesn’t mind.

Responding to a question about the drivers being overly-managed by public relations people, Bratches said: “There’s a number of sports where there’s big personalities that allow sports to punch above their respective pay grades.”

He said the drivers were a big part of the fan engagement.

“Candidly, I would love it if more of the drivers had big personalities, there was more controversy among the drivers – and you kind of unleash them a little bit,” he said. “I think that’s good for all of us.”

Jolyon Palmer on the back foot in Australia after F1 practice crash

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Renault’s Jolyon Palmer has admitted that he is “on the back foot” heading into the remainder of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix after completing just 10 laps in Friday’s Formula 1 practice sessions.

F1 sophomore Palmer arrived in Australia looking to impress after enjoying a bold drive on debut at Albert Park 12 months ago, narrowly missing out on a points finish.

The Briton was the first driver to fall victim of F1’s more challenging cars in an official 2017 race weekend session, losing control through the final corner and slamming into the wall to bring his FP2 running to an early end.

This followed a problem earlier in the day that had limited his FP1 mileage, leaving Palmer with just 10 laps to his name from three hours of Friday running.

“Sadly it was a pretty short day for me in terms of time in the car. We had a minor technical issue in the first session then I had an off in FP2, which unlike FP1 required more than one part replacing,” Palmer explained.

“I’m not sure exactly what happened and we’ll be having a close look at the data. I feel for my crew as they have a decent amount of work to do.

“I’m hopeful of more track time tomorrow, but we’ll be on the back foot heading into qualifying after only 10 laps today.”

Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports App from 2am ET on Saturday morning.